Self Storage RV/Boat/Vehicle storage

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1. Site Selection, 2. Considerations blog, 3. Site layout, This may be a little disjointed, I am combining 3 different blogs and discussions I have had.

1. Site Selection:

Your near Detroit, so I will do this specific suggestion without boots on the ground.

a. You have two choices for location. Either close to the customers home (expensive ground/higher rent needed/lower availability of land) or close to their recreation area (less expensive ground/lower rent/more land options). If you go towards the rec area, I would recommend a combination Storage and Rec parking area, separated on the same grounds.

b. Your town would be great for both the lake area, but also near their homes even though they are away from the small lake region. Your ground will be more expensive and you will need to charge more.

c. Looks like most people would exit the city and go Northwest towards the small lake regions. I would look from both a zoning/cost/access standpoint in the following Box. Brighton/Farmington/Rochester/Springfield. Stay on the side towards Detroit in your selection.

d. Using Detroit neighborhoods as the focal point. I will recommend away from Detroit. Pick a road crossway, that either has an overpass or crosslight if heavy traffic. If further out, pick a crossway, that they can go either way, versus just to the right. Pick a piece of ground you see before you get to the intersection coming from Detroit. 1/3 to 1/4 mile before, so they can see and pull in.

e. I would recommend nothing less than 5 acres, preferably more. Decide ahead of time the services you will provide. This will determine water, sewerage, electric needs. Make sure you figure out your Snow removal. Or keep it closed/no access over the winter season.

Key is to pencil your numbers. Parking/storage is not a rapid return proposition. Recommend you also do Self storage buildings or Cargo containers; or do a Rec parking area. There is a great demand for RV/Boat/Vehicle parking, but the numbers are slim. Start small and make your Big mistakes early.


A. Pull through- The front, pull as far forward as possible, gives the person next to you an easier angle to turn into, from behind you. Align your front with the fronts of all other vehicles. Be courteous and leave enough room on the Driver side, so that RV can open their doors.

B. Back to back parking- our locations are set up at 60 degree parking. Also, they are setup for the driver to back in on their side, so they can use the lot next to them for alignment. This way you only have one blind side on the right side backing in. Otherwise you have two blind sides.

We have 20/30/40 foot parking at our location at 26763 Highway 34, Glenwood, IA. Each size has a different width due to how hard it is to park a longer unit at the very front angle of their turn in. 20’s- 10 wide; 30’s- 12 wide; 40’s- 15 wide. Although you could park an RV in any of these sizes, it is easier with a wider width to make the “front” turn. Or ask for an end parking spot, so you are doing a 90 degree parking, but have the whole drive way to back in with, without a turn.

C. Canopy- same issues as others, depending on if 60 degree or 90 degree parking.

D. Enclosed- Really a matter of width and depth. Keep in mind all measurements for storage are relative. For example: A 10 wide x 20 deep x 8 tall unit, with studs, roll up door and door jambs; is really 9 wide x 19 ft 6 inch deep x 7 ½ foot tall. Also if you have a 20 ft boat or Camper, its really 22/23/24 ft depending on Propeller, bumper or front hitch.

E. Surface- Rock or hard surface (concrete/asphalt); If on rock/asphalt put your tongue leg or stabilizer pads on wider pads to spread the weight out. These pads are needed on Asphalt since in hot weather they will sink into the asphalt.

F. Pest control- we put mouse bait out along the fence lines and under the units, mow excess weeds and grass. You should put both rodent and bug control in your unit. Dispose of all food sources, for long term storage. If you want to be really diligent with pest control, don’t park next to overhead lights. They attract bugs at night and then mice underneath. Put scented drier sheets in all compartments and rooms. Open all cabinets and doors.

G. Stabilizers- if doing long term storage put you stabilizers down. Most parking is in an open area and the units can rock and move with the wind. This will also help with taking pressure off your tires so they last longer.

H. Security- Put a lock on the hitch. Although you are in a secure location, RV’s and trailers are the easiest storage to break into or take without notice. Recommend you put in motion sensors or GPS tracking security. Check your vehicle at least twice a month. Most Security systems only maintain footage for 2 weeks due to camera memory capacity.

I. Propane Fuel Tanks- disconnect and store if leaving for long term storage.

J. Electronic Lifts- disconnect the battery if leaving for long term storage.

K. Insurance- most storage unit insurance policies do not cover vehicles. Keep your insurance, just have them adjust your automobile to fewer miles or just comprehensive coverage. Wind, Flood, tornado, Hail, or third party damage or theft can still occur. Traditional insurance coverage, RV’s normally stay a flat rate throughout the year, thus you will still need to maintain full coverage. Or, if you seek out a specific RV or rec vehicle insurance company, you can move in and out of winterization rates.

L. Pricing- use a 30 foot vehicle as an example:

-In the country about a $1 per foot on rock.

-With Paved access and parking spot, this might run $60 to $90

- Enclosed parking this will cost about $120 to $170 for a 30 foot.

- Enclosed parking for a 50 foot, might cost $225 to $350.

The price extremes are the cost of the concrete/asphalt road and the storage bay. Also the longer the unit the price goes up significantly because it takes more driveway width to park and the type of door changes in both size and type (remote operated). A 50 ft RV will require about a 70 foot wide driveway to back in.

We are only addressing the long term Parking portion of storage. Other items are specific to each vehicle such as water clean out, Tire/window shades, etc.

Quick non Parking list:

Wheel/tire covers; Vehicle cover.

Remove and store your tires.

Store with a full fuel tank to prevent condensation

Add fuel stabilizers

Place RV completely off the ground to prevent flat spots on your tires, if left for a long time.

Cover your HVAC, skylights, vents and windows to prevent exposure to sun and breakdown.

Boats leave your plug out, whether covered or not.

3. Surface, Canopy, Enclosed.

Just talking Surface.

Have run the numbers about 10 times on Enclosed, but I would have to charge $225 to $350 per month and don't have that market here. Have only seen one location on the interstate near Oklahoma City that had that market ($150,000 to $500,000 RV's) and they were full. They have a lot of $1mm homes and lakes nearby. You have to do Concierge services for that market. Battery charger, turn fridge on before trips, Dump station, Concierge parking service, Tire/Oil/etc check, Big drive ways, electric in each unit, etc.

Canopy, I have seen in Texas. Cant say much, haven't researched it.

I have been in two other models. Old welding shop with 40 foot roofs. Spots are "crammed in". They park and unpark for you.
Another, is winter only. You go "in" the fall and everyone comes "out" the same time in the spring. They also have a lot of outside spaces. Both of these models were full.

Attached (guess you can't upload Excel files) is an Inventory list of an exact 2 acre parking lot we have. Also the row configuration. See cut and past below.

Might not apply if your on concrete, which would be great, but I'll throw these out anyway.
Its on rock. Use 1 1/2 inch with "Fines". Cost about $20,000 for rock delivered.
Put Geogrid underneath, so no potholes after 4 years. Otherwise, you need to put a base of 3 inch rock first, then the 1 1/2 with fines. Be careful if you blade snow.
Payback is about 12 years.
Not the best use of the land, but didn't need it at the time for storage.
Put at 60 degree angle, otherwise you get a lot less spaces, since your driveways have to be wider. Example: If you do 90 degrees parking on a 50 foot space, you might need a 70 foot driveway. Also 60 degrees makes it easy for the driver. Also put the 60 degrees turn on the driver side window so they can see the turn.
Put a Wire and posts down the middle of the shared back to back parking so vehicles stay on their side. Used other posts, stakes, number signs (reflective) to define each space.
Mix. Went with even surface area for 20/30/40 foot spaces. Did not do any 50's for large RV's. Where we are at, most RV's are in the $10,000 to $70,000 range. Actually worked out pretty good. The 20's have a few vacancies.
Price $20/$30/$40. This is in a 10,000 population community with about 4 no wake lakes to the East within 60 miles. Prices could be higher, but= No city restrictions on vehicles, which would increase your market. Plus we are in the country, where you can find a friend to park.
Run light and security camera poles first.
Definitely put a "License Plate" specific camera at a narrow point and other cameras and lights at that bottleneck. Our spot is fenced off from the Storage location, with one access point, no gate there. Recommend your NVR has a timeline with Red markers for motion on your cameras.
Layout and capacity really depends on the lot shape. The same two acres, could probably get about 30% more if it was a rectangle versus a square, due to less turnarounds.

This is a relaxed layout, I did not try to cram the spaces in.

Rows and Road Configuration
This layout is on a 2 acre square.
Roads are all the same width.
All rows are set at 45 degree angles

Additional notes:

If I didn't do back to back would have about 30% less spots ( you have to add more driveways for the same number of units) and payback would be around 18 years versus 12. Wouldn't do it. Had my buddy who does RV rentals help me lay it out. I also wanted to do "Drive through" which we have at one of our other spots. Customers love it, but it doesn't pay. He said if you have an RV you should be used to backing into a campsite. He helped me with the 30 and 40 foot spacings. 8 foot wide vehicle with 2 1/2 feet on each side, for a total of 13 feet. This is fine for the 30, little tight on the 40's backing in. He said could be tighter, but I didn't want to push it.

No problem filling enclosed parking for RV's. Problem is the numbers don't pay. Have a quote from last week for a 20 x 50 x 16 T. 14 x 14 door with operator ($4,400 for door and operator), plus walk thru door. $35,866 for one unit. That's just the unit. If you put a 50ft rv in it, you need a 60-70 foot driveway, if parking at 90 degrees. That's a lot of money for a driveway. Concrete footings, concrete floor, concrete driveway per code. Can rent these all day long at $150, but I would need to charge around $350 to $400; which won't fly in my neighborhood.

Let me know what type of building you are doing, size and rent. Add in concrete footings, concrete parking and 65-70 foot concrete driveway.

We did a 12 wide by 10 tall regular storage unit. This works great for our car people and boats.

The key to planning is to get some stakes and string. Layout the spots and drive/park in it. Get the feel, before you put the spaces down.


I read your post and love what you're doing.

I like your Youtube commercial.

We do something similar (especially with the pandemic) in rentals... We call them Online Ready (OLR). We will either rent over the phone or thru our website, if not in office.

So I've done everything in storage from Assistant Manager to District Manager (managed 10 stores) - I've probably worked at a couple of dozen throughout San Antonio and surrounding areas.

The storage I currently manage broke records the last two months. Just for the month of March 2021 alone, I led our team with 1,140 units, in the following #'s: Delinquencies were .3%... Only three units @ Under $481 roughly!

108 Move-Ins, 66 Move-Outs, with a net rental of 42 and with over $105K+ in Revenue.

I guess you can say I'm the Storage Whisperer. 😂

If you ever want to talk shop or need advice or suggestions or just to bounce ideas off of, feel free to contact me.

"Big" Henry

Real Estate Investor

Licensed Special Agent aka Realtor