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07 Feb 2022

RV and Boat Storage Becoming Mainstream – Do Not Miss the Opportunity


Jim Chiswell

Managing Partner

Having worked in the self storage industry for the past forty years, I have a rather unique perspective on how this great business of ours has expanded and evolved. I have watched as our industry transitioned from Mini Warehousing to Mini Storage and now most facilities call themselves Self Storage as we have arrived as a mainstream service business for the millions of customers that rent from us coast to coast. The publicly traded Self Storage REITs have continued to outperform virtually every other real estate asset class.

I can remember a Florida facility manager asking me years ago if we could build a building with air conditioned units because she kept getting potential customers asking for them. Guess she wasn’t as crazy as I initially thought she was about this idea. At about the same time, we installed our first security cameras and a computer-controlled entry gate to actually have security instead of just claiming our disk locks were all the protection that was needed.

I am now seeing another shift coming that I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight and encourage your consideration. RV & boat storage started as Owners and Managers doing friends favors by letting them park their vehicles and boat trailers in open areas around the facility. That slowly evolved to actually planning for ten or fifteen outside parking spaces to turn vacant land into a profit center.

Now across the country, the race is on to develop stand-alone RV & Boat complexes. I can still remember touring a facility in Altamont Springs, Florida with over 30 acres of outside parking and thousands of square feet of fully enclosed buildings. Customers were not allowed into the buildings and all vehicles were valet parked by the facility staff. Sure, some added payroll, but no damage being caused by inexperienced drivers and zero crime to worry customers. This facility was in fact just sold.

When in 2021 wholesale shipments of new RVs reached a record of 602,200 units, across the country, Winnebago’s last quarterly report results showed a record $1.2 billion in revenues up 45.7% from the same period a year ago. At the same time, virtually 100% of new subdivision homes being built come with specific deed restrictions that prohibit homeowners from having their RV or boat parked in their driveway. The National Marine Manufacturers Association announced that 2021 powerboat sales surpassed 300,000 units for the second consecutive year.

This is ushering in, in my opinion, a coming boom in RV & boat storage needs from coast-to-coast. I expect to see a jump in stand-alone facility growth, together with an increased emphasis to include significant portions of land at new self storage complexes for RV & boat parking. It is not just simple outside parking, but covered as well as fully enclosed spaces that will boom in this decade.

I have watched facilities like the upscale Oakley Executive RV & Boat Storage in Oakley, California be opened by Robert Hayworth ( https://oakleyrvboat.com/ ). With 321 covered spaces, the facility filled rapidly and any vacant spaces were filled quickly. As an additional profit center, a passive solar energy system on the ten covered roofs, are generating 1.678 megawatts of power annually. Customers can also take advantage of free ice and water, a dump station, air compressor and a conference room with Wi-Fi that can be reserved and the ability to get their propane tanks filled at prevailing market prices. Not a bad alternative to parking your RV or boat in an empty unsecured lot.

Make no mistake, renting spaces for RV & boat parking is not the same as a traditional self storage space. The Texas Self Storage Association recognized this reality several years ago when they had a specific “Vehicle, Trailer or Boat Self Storage Rental Agreement” prepared for member use across Texas. That Agreement “contains numerous additional protections”.

An entire new trade association, called Toy Storage Nation, has now emerged to support and encourage this industry segment. ( www.toystoragenation.com ). Yes, there can be issues to overcome because in most states you cannot simply conduct a Lien Sale on a “titled” vehicle, however, most owners will tell you that it is a very rare circumstance that an RV or boat owner will sacrifice the loss of their toys for a few months of unpaid rent.

So, as you read this article, take a moment to consider the possibility that RV & boat storage could provide you with your next entrepreneurial venture with a potential big payday at the end of the rainbow.

Jim Chiswell, has been involved in the self storage industry for over 40 years and started his industry consulting firm in 1990. During that time, he has provided new project feasibility, acquisition due diligence and manger training in all fifty states. You can reach Jim at www.selfstorageconsulting.com / 434-825-4204 / chiswell@earthlink.net

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