How to Store a Car: Tips for Long-Term and Seasonal Car Storage

Whether you’re planning a big cross-country move or a lengthy trip abroad, you can’t just leave your car exposed to the elements for an extended period of time. Long-term storage is a smart choice for ensuring your car remains in top condition, no matter how long it sits idle.

We know it can feel daunting if you’ve never stored a car long-term before, so moveBuddha has your back. In this guide, we’ll explore various storage options, share tips for choosing the best self-storage facility or full-service storage company, and answer all of your burning car storage questions.

When you should store your car

The most common reason people store their cars is seasonal storage. This is usually when people with classic cars or high-value vehicles store their assets in climate-controlled storage spaces in preparation for a harsh winter or summer. For example, if you live in snowy areas of New York or Canada, you might store your car in the winter to protect it from snow, ice, and road salt.

You might also need to know how to store a car if you’re traveling or relocating. Whether it’s a long trip or a temporary move, long-term storage keeps your car secure and well-maintained. It’s much better than leaving your car languishing in an outdoor parking space at your apartment.

You don’t need a special reason to store your vehicle, though. If you have an extra car, SUV, ATV, motorcycle, or pickup truck taking up space in your driveway, you can always opt to store it instead of selling it.

Types of car storage

There are so many ways to do auto storage, but using a storage facility is usually the safest and most reliable car storage option. Most facilities offer a range of vehicle storage options that cater to different needs, protecting your car without going over budget.

Some of the most common storage options include:

  • Indoor car storage: This is the most expensive option, but it’s ideal for classic cars and luxury vehicles. Most indoor units are climate-controlled, which protects your car from weather, dust, temperature fluctuations, and theft.
  • Outdoor car storage: Outdoor storage is an affordable option where you park your vehicle in an outdoor lot at a secure facility. The downside is that your car is still exposed to the elements. However, it’s still a good fit for larger vehicles like SUVs, RVs, and boats that might not fit in your driveway or indoor storage unit.
  • Covered car storage: With covered car storage, you park your vehicle underneath an outdoor awning at a storage facility. This option costs a little more than outdoor car storage but gives you some protection from the elements.
  • Self-storage units: Storage unit rentals are versatile and come in various sizes, which makes them perfect for either short-term or long-term storage. Some units even include drive-up access for easy access to your vehicle. However, storage units aren’t that big, so you might only be able to fit a sedan or midsize SUV in your unit.
  • Specialized vehicle storage: Does your vehicle need a little extra love and care? Some storage facilities offer specialized options for motorcycle storage, ATV storage, or boat storage.

How to store a car long-term

Sure, you could simply park your car in a parking garage and go about your business, but that isn’t the most secure way to prepare for long-term car storage. Follow these steps to keep your car in tip-top condition during storage.

Choose the right storage facility

Parking your car in a friend’s driveway or random parking space is just asking for trouble. Find a quality storage facility to look after your car while you’re gone.

For the most protection, go for indoor car storage with climate control. This can get pricey, though, so many people opt for covered outdoor storage instead.

Prepare your car

The better shape your car is in now, the better shape it’ll be in when you return. Prepare for storage by:

  • Getting an oil change
  • Doing necessary maintenance, like replacing brake pads, your car battery (if needed), and spark plugs
  • Filling up the gas tank and adding a fuel stabilizer: This keeps the gasoline “fresh” for as long as two years and prevents buildup in the engine.
  • Washing your car
  • Disconnecting the battery: This prevents battery drain while the vehicle isn’t in use. You can also use products like Battery Tender to protect your battery for long-term storage.
  • Cleaning the interior: It’s also good to add a few mothballs to the interior and trunk to prevent pests.
  • Checking your coolant, brake fluid, and engine oil: Every car is different, so check the owner’s manual for proper fluid levels
  • Inflating the tires: This prevents flat spots, which can destroy your tires. If you’re storing the car for a few years, place the car on jack stands to protect the tires
  • Sealing openings: Cover the exhaust pipe and air intake so critters don’t leave droppings in your car. Make sure to leave a note on the dashboard reminding yourself to remove these seals, though. It’s dangerous to operate a car with them covered.
  • Using a car cover: We recommend a car cover for both indoor and outdoor storage. A cover protects against dust and minor scrapes, saving you hassle down the road
  • Store it where you’ll need it: If you’re a snowbird in Arizona, but you live in Maine in the summer, use a car shipping company to get your car where you’ll be able to use it

Check up on your car

This isn’t always an option, but if possible, have a friend or family member check on the car periodically. Consider leaving a key with them so they can run the engine or move the car a bit to keep it in working order.

Benefits of car storage

Whether you’re a classic car enthusiast or a frequent traveler, the right storage solution has so many benefits:

  • Protection from the elements: Climate-controlled storage facilities shield your car from harsh weather conditions. It’s more common for people to store cars in the winter, but climate-controlled units are also great for protecting against the scorching summer heat.
  • Saved space: Running out of room in your driveway? Storing less-used vehicles keeps your driveway clear for daily-use vehicles only.
  • Security: Look for features like video surveillance and electronic gate access. Car storage facilities offer a much higher level of security against theft, damage, and vandalism compared to parking on the street or in a driveway.
  • Peace of mind: There’s nothing like knowing your vehicle is in a safe, well-maintained space, especially if you’re storing it there for a long period of time.
  • Flexibility: Most storage facilities offer flexible month-to-month leases, so if you aren’t sure how long you’ll be gone, they’ll work with you.
  • Accessibility: Most car storage facilities offer drive-up access, so you (or your trusted friends) can access the car whenever you need it.

Car storage costs

The cost of a car storage facility varies a lot based on several factors, including:

  • Type of storage
  • Storage location
  • Duration of storage
  • Add-ons, like premium security

Outdoor car storage prices are typically lower, ranging from $30 to $100 a month. This is the most economical option that also works well for storing large SUVs and pickup trucks. The downside is that you don’t get a lot of protection from the elements.

Indoor car storage is more expensive, but you get more protection. Pricing for climate-controlled facilities ranges from $100 to $300 per month or more. Prices are usually higher in major urban areas.

Other facilities offer mid-range solutions like outdoor covered parking, which costs around $50 to $150 a month.

If you have a small car, you might be able to get away with renting a large storage unit instead. This costs around $140 for a standard unit or $180 for a climate-controlled unit.

What to do when you take your car out of storage

Taking your car out of storage isn’t as simple as starting it and driving away. Regardless of how you store your car, you need to perform a few checks to make sure your car is road-ready{

  • Inspect for pests. Pop the hood and look for rats, opossums, and any other furry creatures that might have taken up residence in your car. Pay extra attention to the tailpipe and remember to remove the seal, if you put one on.
  • Check fluid levels and tires. Check your oil, coolant, antifreeze, and brake fluid to make sure they didn’t deteriorate during storage. You also should check your tire pressure and look for any signs of flat spots or wear. If you put your car on jack stands, safely lower it back down to the ground.
  • Check the brakes, lights, and signals. Bring a buddy along to help you check that all lights, turn signals, brakes, and windshield wipers work correctly.
  • Reconnect the battery. If you disconnected the battery or used a trickle charger, make sure to reconnect it properly and check that it’s holding a charge.
  • Start the engine. Let the engine run for a few minutes to circulate the oil. Now’s the time to listen for any unusual noises or look under the car for leaks.
  • Take a short test drive. If everything looks good, don’t ride off into the sunset just yet. Take a short test drive around the storage facility or parking area to make sure everything is in working order.

FAQ about how to store a car

What is the cheapest way to store a car long-term?

The most cost-effective long-term car storage method is with an outdoor parking space at a self-storage facility. These spaces are cheaper than indoor automotive storage or climate-controlled units while still offering security and some protection from the elements. Use a high-quality car cover or plastic tarp for added protection.

What size storage unit is best for a car?

The ideal storage unit size depends on your car. Generally, a 10 x 20 unit is enough for most sedans, compact cars, or small SUVs. You’ll probably need a 10 x 30 unit for larger vehicles like pickup trucks.

How long can you store a car without driving it?

You can store a car for several months to up to a year without driving it at all, as long as you prepare it properly for long-term storage. Even so, it’s a good idea to check on the car periodically, and, ideally, drive it every few months to maintain its condition.

Is it better to store a car with a full or empty tank?

Storing your car with a full tank of gas reduces the amount of air in the fuel tank, which prevents moisture and corrosion. Just remember to add a stabilizer to your fuel system to prevent contaminants and fuel degradation.

How do I store my car to protect it from theft?

Choose a secure storage facility with features like cameras, keypad entry, lighting, and electric gate access. You can also store your car in an indoor facility for additional protection. If your car is in outdoor storage, use anti-theft measures like a wheel lock, alarm system, or immobilizer for extra peace of mind.

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