Long-Term Car Storage: The Good & The Bad

The idea of leaving your car for an extended period can be unsettling. After all, how can you ensure that your car stays safe and sound while you’re away?

While there are things you can do to achieve a positive storage experience, you may also want to consider alternatives to long-term vehicle storage.

What Should I Consider When Storing My Car?

When storing your car, you need to consider factors like:

  1. Security measures
  2. Location
  3. Weather
  4. Accessibility
  5. Maintenance

Here’s what you need to know about each of these important factors:

1. Security Measures

When storing your car, you need to find a safe and secure location. For example, look for storage locations that have electronic gate access, video surveillance, and on-site personnel that can help keep your car safe while you’re away.

2. Location

It’s also important that you find a convenient location to store your car. After all, you’re going to need a ride to and from this location. So try to find a place nearby your house or the airport if you’re flying.

3. Weather

You also need to consider the weather when storing your car. If your local area frequently experiences severe weather, this is something to be aware of since hail, ice, and debris from storms can easily damage your car if it’s stored outdoors.

4. Accessibility

When storing your car, you want to choose a location with easy and convenient access. Some storage facilities are only accessible during certain hours. So if you get back home on a late flight, you’d have to wait until the next day to pick up your car.

5. Maintenance

Different car storage facilities have different rules and requirements for maintenance. For example, some facilities require that your wheels and the overall vehicle be in good enough condition to be driven into storage.

Other facilities require you to have current tags and registration while in storage. These are all things to look into before you choose to store your car at a specific location.

What Types of Storage Are Available?

There are also different types of storage to consider for your car, including:

  1. Indoor storage
  2. Covered storage
  3. Outside storage

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of these different choices so that you can make the best decision for your vehicle:

Indoor Storage

If you’re looking for the safest storage option for your car, look no further than indoor storage. With indoor storage, your vehicle is completely covered and protected from the elements in a garage. It’s also completely protected from theft since it’s in a more secure and enclosed space. However, an indoor car storage unit does tend to be the most expensive storage option.

Covered Storage

If you’re looking for some protection from the elements but don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for indoor storage, then you should consider covered storage as a happy medium.

With covered storage, you get a roof with usually no walls. However, some covered storage options have walls that separate your car from the others.

Outside Storage

Finally, if you’re just looking for somewhere to store your car for an affordable price, then outside storage in a simple parking space is likely your best bet. It’s also a good option if your vehicle is too large to store in an indoor storage facility or a covered storage space.

Outside storage occurs in a parking lot and comes with little protection and security.

How Should I Prepare My Car for Long-Term Storage?

Once you’ve chosen the right method of storage for your vehicle, you need to properly prepare it before you store it by following these six steps:

  1. Get an oil change
  2. Check the tire pressure
  3. Wash your car
  4. Fill it with gas
  5. Cover it
  6. Lock it up

Here are the details of each.

Step 1: Get Oil Change

The first step to preparing your car for long-term storage is to get an oil change. This step is only recommended for vehicles that you will store for longer than 30 days because used engine oil may have contaminants that can damage the engine.

Step 2: Check the Tire Pressure

The second step to preparing your car for long-term storage is to check your tire pressure and make sure that they’re inflated to the proper amount. This step is recommended to prevent flat spots in the rubber from the vehicle's weight.

If you’re going to be storing your car for longer than 30 days, then you may want to consider taking the wheels off completely and simply leaving the car on jack stands at all four corners to prevent potential damage to the tires.

Step 3: Wash Your Car

The third step to preparing your car for long-term storage is to wash it — inside and out. The car's current dirt stains could damage the paint if left for an extended time. You should also consider waxing the car for an extra layer of protection from the elements.

But don’t just stop at the outside of your car; continue your cleaning on the inside and remove all personal items that may invite thieves and vacuum up food and crumbs that may invite pests.

Finally, consider putting a protectant on any leather upholstery to prevent cracking.

Step 4: Fill It with Gas

The fourth step to preparing your car for long-term storage is to fill it with gas to prevent the fuel tank from developing rust. However, if you’re leaving the car for several months, you may need to drain the gas tank and replace the gas when you return.

Step 5: Cover It

The fifth step to preparing your car for long-term storage is to cover it with a car cover. While this step is strongly recommended for outdoor storage, it’s still a good idea for indoor storage to act as an extra layer of protection from dust and other debris.

Step 6: Lock It

The sixth and final step to preparing your car for long-term storage is to lock it before leaving it. That way, you can have the peace of mind that it’s properly secured.

What Are the Downsides of Long-Term Car Storage?

Even with the proper preparation, there are some downsides to storing your car for a long period. Here are some of the disadvantages to consider:

  • Battery issues
  • Tire damage
  • Body damage
  • Pests

Let’s go over each in detail:

Battery Issues

Storing your car for long periods without starting it could contribute to battery charge issues. If possible, have someone start and run your car every so often to prevent the car battery from draining and dying. However, if that’s not possible, you should consider disconnecting the negative battery cable.

Tire Damage

Storing your car for long periods without driving it could also cause your tires to lose air and go flat. As a result, it’s important to ensure that your tires are properly filled with air before leaving your car for a long period.

Body Damage

Storing your car for a long time can also lead to damage if you’re not careful. This is especially true if you’re storing your car outdoors. Seemingly innocuous things like reclaimed water and bird poop can cause permanent damage to your paint.


Last but certainly not least, pests like bugs and rodents can wreak havoc on a stored vehicle. Just because you’re not using your car doesn’t mean that these critters won’t.

What Can I Do Instead of Storing My Car?

Based on the downsides of storing your car for an extended period, you might be wondering about alternatives. The good news is that you can do things instead of storing your car. For example, you can ship your car.

How Does Car Shipping Work?

Car shipping is a convenient and painless way to get your car from point A to B. However, the process can work in a few different ways depending on your choice of service.

For example, you could choose door-to-door car shipping, wherein you choose the pick-up and drop-off locations for your vehicle based on what’s convenient for you.

You could choose work or home address. The driver comes directly to you to pick up your car and then drops it off right to you as well.

There’s also terminal-to-terminal car shipping to consider, wherein you’re responsible for getting your car to and from central auto terminals. Once your vehicle is at the auto terminal, a driver comes to pick it up and then drops it off at an auto terminal close to your destination.

This option is typically cheaper but might not make sense for those living in rural areas far away from the nearest auto terminal.

How Much Does Car Shipping Cost?

The cost of shipping your car depends on:

  • What type of car
  • How far it will be shipped
  • When it is shipped
  • Method of shipment you choose

Some types of cars cost more to ship than others. If you’re shipping a small sedan, then you can expect to pay less than if you were shipping a larger car like a truck, crossover, or an SUV.

For example, the average cost of shipping a car is $1,150, whereas shipping an SUV and a truck is between $1,280 and $1,450.

The shipping distance also affects the price of your car shipment as most car transporters charge per mile. That being said, they often charge less per mile for longer distances. For example, it might cost $1 per mile for distances less than 500 miles but only $0.50 per mile for over 2,000 miles.

If you’re shipping your car during the summer, expect to pay about $200 to $300 more since it’s peak moving season. However, if you’re shipping your car in the early spring, late fall, or even the winter, you should be able to get a better deal.

Finally, the method of shipment you choose affects the price. Open car transport using an open trailer costs less than enclosed car transport using an enclosed trailer.

On average, you can expect to save 30% to 40% by choosing open car transport over enclosed car transport.

How Can I Keep My Car Safe During Shipment?

Safety should always be a priority for your vehicle, whether you’re storing it or shipping it. So how can you keep your car safe during shipment? Here are some pro safety tips:

  • Work with an experienced company: Perhaps the best way to keep your car safe during shipment is to work with an experienced and trustworthy car shipping company. The best car shipping companies have years of experience, an extensive network of vetted drivers, adequate insurance coverage, and positive reviews.
  • Consider enclosed car shipping: If you have an expensive or classic car, you may want to consider enclosed car shipping for extra protection. An enclosed trailer will protect your vehicle from damage from road debris, adverse weather, and theft while on the road.
  • Remove your personal belongings: Before you ship your car, it’s important to remove all of your personal belongings. For starters, personal items can easily become dislodged during transit and cause damage. Additionally, personal items could be targeted by thieves.
  • Get an inspection: It’s also a good idea to have your car inspected before it’s shipped. That way, you know that your tires, brakes, brake pads, and engine are in tip-top shape and aren’t likely to cause issues during transit.
  • Document the condition of your car: Right before your car gets picked up for transport, you need to thoroughly document the condition of your car with photos and videos. That way, if something does happen to your car while it’s on the road, you’ll have proof that the damage happened during transport, and you’ll be able to work with the transport company and their insurance to get it fixed.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, storing your car for an extended time comes with pros and cons that you need to consider. If you’ve decided that the cons outweigh the pros, and as a result, are looking to ship your car, then you should contact Carvaygo.

Carvaygo is a car-hauler that frequently works with Snowbirds to help make sure that your car stays safe and sound during transit. So check out our website for a quick and easy quote in just three steps.

Here's How Vehicle Storage Works | Moving.com
How to Prep Your Car for Long-Term Storage | Edmunds
How Much Does It Cost to Ship A Car? | Move.org

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