Last year as we plotted RVing trips to the South over Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and spring break, we had this random idea: What if we just left the camper in the South at an RV storage spot all winter? It would definitely save ourselves the hassle of hauling the camper back and forth through the mountains (in the winter!) each time. But we were also pretty sure we’d come out ahead financially by reducing our overall towing gas mileage. Although long-distance RV storage might not be for everyone, here’s what we’ve learned from the experience and why you might want to consider it too:
Why storing our camper 600 miles away made sense:
Last year when my parents and brother moved to the Greenville, S.C., area (setting up roots not far from where my sister’s family and my aunt and uncle already lived), we knew we were going to want to visit them as often as possible. So it only seemed logical to tie some RVing adventures into those family visits. But a nearly 600-mile drive each way was going to quickly become tiresome and expensive with the camper in tow.
That’s when Jarrett started wondering whether it might make more sense to find a storage unit near my family where we could park the camper in between our trips. From our Greenville-area base camp, we could plot winter and spring break trips in the South where we could hopefully escape some of the frigid Northern temperatures (that didn’t completely work out for us 😉 ). As an added bonus, the camper would be stored in a more temperate climate compared to our Pennsylvania winters.
Choosing an RV storage location
When it comes to camper storage options, we found there were two main types: general storage facilities that usually have open-air parking spots versus facilities that are RV and boat specific. We were fortunate to find a location right off the highway in Greer, S.C., that was designed specifically for campers and boats. It offered three storage options: a completely enclosed garage, a covered space, or an open air spot. The facility also offers a few additional benefits for RVers, including electric hook-ups so you can keep your battery charged, as well as on-site water and a small dump station.
When selecting a spot to store your RV, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Does it have 24-hour access?
It takes us about nine hours (without stops!) to drive between Greer and our home north of Pittsburgh. This means we are usually dropping the camper off at the storage facility early in the morning or picking it up late in the afternoon. So we didn’t want to store it at a place where we had to show up between normal business hours. We needed the flexibility of 24-hour access.
How secure is it?
When selecting a camper storage location, onsite security is an important consideration. Some storage locations we checked out had no fences enclosing them, so anyone could walk onto the lot and potentially tamper with the units. Given how much gear we store in our camper, we knew we wanted the peace of mind that comes with a more secure facility.
Our storage unit offers a gated entrance where we have to enter a pin on a keypad to gain access. The facility also has surveillance cameras and is completely surrounded by fencing with barbed wire.
Does the site offer short-term lease spots?
Some storage locations will require a minimum-month rental agreement. The place we found did not, which made it even more advantageous since we were able to rent it for the specific time we needed and we did not have to pay for any extra time.
HOW RV storage saved us Time and money
There is no doubt that storing the camper in the South saved us time and money this year. We saved time because it always takes us longer to get places when we are towing the camper. Without the camper, we can travel at the full speed limit, and we can get in and out of places so much easier.
We saved money because of the reduced amount of gas needed on the back-and-forth trips. When we tow the camper, we generally stop for gas every 2.5 hours because we only get about 8.5 miles to the gallon, and Jarrett likes to keep a minimum of a quarter tank in the van. However, when we tow without the camper, we usually only have to fill up once or twice to complete the whole trip since we get double the gas mileage.
We calculated that without having to haul the camper back and forth over the course of our winter trips, we would save $360 in fuel. So even with our $50 a month lease rate for three months (a total of $150, not including the refundable deposit you get back as long as you don’t damage anything 🙂 ) we ended up saving approximately $210.
Would we do it again?
Yes! We really would. The money saved was a big win, and the convenience factor was the icing on the cake. 🙂
This scenario only works, however, if we continue to plan repeated trips to a general region. It worked well for us because we knew we would be planning all of our RVing trips from the common location where we visit my family. In the future, we will probably continue to plan similar trips to capitalize on the mileage by seeing family while doing some RV exploring.
Stay tuned for a follow-up post about the different ways we packed and prepared for our trips since we couldn’t load the camper at home. It really wasn’t as hard as I expected!