Owning a boat provides you with a chance to escape for a weekend, a day, or maybe just a few hours as you hit the water to fish, ski, or even just float around. However, owning a boat also leaves you with a responsibility of properly caring for it, including finding a place to keep it when it’s not in use.

It’s important to know how to store a boat properly, and while boat storage may differ among regions of the country, asking a few key questions can help you find everything you need to know about boat storage.

Where can I store my boat?

Many prefer to either keep their boat docked at the nearest marina or store it at home, both of which can be ideal options in certain instances, such as short-term storage. However, marinas should be avoided for long-term boat storage as prolonged exposure to the water and elements can begin to damage the body of your boat. Additionally, keeping a boat at home can consume valuable space in your garage or be left open to the weather damage, vandalism, or even theft.

A storage facility can offer you three types of storage that can both free up your space and provide you long-term protection. The most basic boat storage is outdoor parking, which is cheaper and most preferred. However, storage facilities may also offer covered parking spaces for your boat to protect it from heavy rain or hail, and many large storage units come with drive-up access for completely enclosed boat storage, which provides the ultimate protection from the elements.

Find a storage facility with strong security features such as electronic gate access, video surveillance, and on-site management. If using indoor boat storage, you should also consider finding a storage facility that provides individually-alarmed storage units to provide additional protection for your boat.

Besides the features and level of protection, you should also consider the location of your storage facility. For instance, find a storage facility with 24-hour access that is near your home for easy pick up at any time, or, if you know you frequent the same spot, it’s worth finding a storage facility closer to that lake or river.

How do I winterize my boat?

While southern regions rarely face damaging winter conditions for boats, those living in the mid and northern parts of the country often have to face harsh winter conditions. As boats typically have a lot of water in them, including inside the engine, any expansion that comes from freezing water can cause costly damage such as destroying your engine entirely. Fortunately, there are some key steps you can take to winterize your boat.

Begin winterizing your boat before freezing temperatures come by making sure you remove all the water. While some prefer to remove the water completely by removing the drain blocks, an easy alternative is running antifreeze through the boat’s water system by placing it in the cooling water intake and letting it pump through the engine—you’ll know when it’s done once you see a bright color coming out of the engine. If your boat has other water systems, such as a marine toilet, you’ll have to pump antifreeze through that as well.

Remember to look over your boat for any possible water system, as expanding water from freezing temperatures can cause parts of your boat to burst.

After removing water or adding antifreeze, your next objective should be stabilizing your fuel, which can be done by filling your gas tank completely with a high-quality fuel stabilizer. Ethanol fuels will absorb water in the air, which will then separate with water on top and ethanol sinking to the bottom. By filling your tank completely, you greatly reduce the amount of air and moisture that can get into your tank.

Another important step is protecting your boat’s battery. Severe cold weather can freeze and crack a battery. If using outdoor storage, it may be best to remove the battery entirely and keep on a trickle charger, which slowly charges your battery to prevent it from dying, at home. However, if you find an indoor unit with the temperature-moderating climate control feature, you can store the battery with the boat.

Lastly, for those using outdoor boat storage, it’s important to find the right kind of cover to protect the interior and exterior of your boat from heavy rain or snow as well as save you from having to clean out any fallen leaves.

Owning a boat provides countless hours of entertainment and memories, and fortunately a few basics steps in boat storage can help prolong the life of your boat to continue that time.