How-To Guide for The Best Collector & Classic Car Storage Experience

How-To Guide for The Best Collector & Classic Car Storage Experience

By: Eric Mees

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June 15, 2021

Before we get into classic car storage, let’s get something straight, if you’re a car guy or gal, you get it.

It doesn’t matter if it’s old or new; has a 383 stroker motor, a turbo four, or a 2.5 litre inline 6; is a convertible, coupe, wagon or sedan; is made of fiberglass, steel or carbon fiber; drives a quarter mile at a time, corners like it’s on rails, or barely goes at all.

If it’s a car that turns your crank, it’s worth collecting.

Whether you work on it yourself or have a favorite mechanic, drag it or autocross it, display it at concours events or think the rust gives it a nice patina—if you love it, you want to treat it right.

“Little Red Corvette | You need to find a love that’s gonna last.”

Little Red Corvette by Prince

Collector car storage

Hagerty Insurance, which specializes in collector and classic cars, has a couple of important considerations for insuring collector vehicles: 1) They can’t be daily drivers, and 2) they should be “stored in an enclosed, secure structure when not in use—such as a private garage, pole barn or storage unit.”

We couldn’t agree more.

A storage unit makes a safe haven for collectors who have a little or no space at home, want the added security of locked steel doors, need added protection against the elements, or can’t drive their car year-round.

“I love you for your pink Cadillac.”

Pink Cadillac by Bruce Springsteen

Is it a collector, a classic, an antique or just an old car?

At Store Space, we care about car collectors of all types. There are plenty of options when it comes to storing classic cars at a self-storage facility, including drive-up and climate-controlled storage units. We’ve got the low-down on the difference between these storage units, as well as 8 tips to help you keep your love lasting longer, or at least how to prepare your car for storage.

If you’re interested in classic or collector car storage, you might want to know if your car’s considered a classic.

“Classic” and other terms like “collector,” “vintage,” “antique” and “historic” sometimes get used interchangeably, but insurance companies, car clubs and even your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles use different criteria for classifying cars. Here’s a general guide to use when trying to classify your car: 

  • Vintage Car: Manufactured between 1919 and 1930
  • Antique Car: Manufactured 1975 or earlier (at least 45 years old)
  • Classic Car: Manufactured 1990 or earlier (at least 20 years old)

Let’s not split hairs. If it’s your dream car, your next project car, your first car revisited, your investment for retirement and you want to keep it safe and secure, then classic car storage is right for you.

Storage for collector cars

As a general rule, collector cars are expected to appreciate in value over time. This can include newer limited editions, exotics and supercars, or older models that were considered ahead of their time or the game-changers in an otherwise boring automotive era.

Investing in cars can be risky. Today’s darling might be tomorrow’s Edsel, and speculator interest might move from one model to another faster than you can change lanes. Did anyone foresee the mid-‘90s Supras becoming a 6-figure car overnight? Is the ’08 Porsche Cayman about to skyrocket in value?

It’s important, therefore, to take special care of your collector cars. We’ll detail some tips throughout this blog, but it’s important to focus on these areas:

  • Clean the exterior
  • Wax the car
  • Clean the interior
  • Start it often

One of the things to ask yourself is if you’re going to be driving your collector car and, if so, how regularly?

Most collector cars depreciate as soon as you start racking up the miles. This is doubly true for exotic cars that need frequent attention, like the Ferrari 308, which needs new timing belts every 30,000 miles (at a cost of $2,000 to $4,000—mi scusi?).

Other collector cars might not be as needy, but no matter what type of car, they should be started and driven somewhat frequently to keep the tires from flat-spotting, the fuel from gumming up, and so on.

The Rise of JDM Imports

If you grew up playing video games like Gran Turismo 2 on PlayStation, you’ve probably drooled over ‘90s cars like the Honda Beat, the Nissan R32 GT-R, or the Toyota Soarer, which were only available in the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM).

With recent changes to import regulations, JDM cars can now be imported without too much hassle, opening up a whole new realm for car collectors.

“You can now import a car without much legal hassle if it is at least 25 years old and it meets the safety and air emissions regulations of its country of origin at the time of manufacture.”

Automobile magazine

Even though these cars might have relatively low miles (Japanese cars average less than 6,000 miles a year), you’re still talking about a right-hand drive car built in early to mid ‘90s. Parts aren’t as readily available in the U.S. and there’s no guarantee that your car wasn’t a stunt vehicle in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (OK, it probably wasn’t, but still).

With that said, your JDM car probably isn’t going to be your daily driver, so make sure to have classic car storage for a safe, secure place to park it away from prying eyes.

Antique car storage

When we think of the term “antique,” we usually think of those fragile tchotchkes and figurines in the display case at Grandma’s house you were always warned to avoid. But when talking about cars, some of the most iconic Detroit muscle cars from the late ‘60s are technically “antiques” since they are more than 45 years old.

Yeah, we’re not calling a ’70 Dodge Charger or a ’68 Camaro “fragile,” but it’s important to treat these cars with a little extra TLC when utilizing antique car storage. Here are a couple of tips to ensure your antiques stay fresh and new.

  • Keep them dry
  • Keep them clean
  • Keep them covered
  • Keep the fluids new and full

While the recent resto-mod trend has made it easier to drive antique cars on a regular basis, wrestling a 500 hp, 4,000-lb. beast in bumper-to-bumper traffic every day doesn’t sound like the best choice. Solution? Storage unit.

“A brilliant red Barchetta | From a better vanished time” — Red Barchetta by Neal Peart, Rush

Rush drummer and songwriter Neal Peart was a big fan of the 1948 Ferrari 166MM and he wrote the song after reading a short story about a dystopian future in Road & Track magazine. The name “barchetta” translates as “little boat” and was used to describe the car’s body style by an automotive journalist when it debuted at the 1948 Turin Auto Show.

Let’s be honest. If you’ve got a $10 million to plunk down on one of these 12-cylinder marvels, your garage is probably bigger than most storage facilities, but you get the point.

Vintage car storage

For a car to be considered “vintage,” it’s going to be about a hundred years old. This includes cars like the Model T, which redefined the auto industry by introducing assembly line production.

With more than 15 million Model T’s built between 1908 and 1927, there are still plenty of “Tin Lizzies” to be found. Keep an eye out at your local Fourth of July parades and Founder’s Day events for a glimpse of these beauties.

Vintage car storage is often different than newer models. For instance, a Model T’s fuel tank should be completely drained even if you’re storing it for just a couple of weeks, which is apparently easy to do

They are also more fragile than newer cars and replacing parts can be expensive. Here are a couple of tips to consider to keep them like-new when you’re placing them in classic car storage:

  • Avoid sunlight
  • Keep them covered
  • Keep radiator and coolant system full
  • Elevate car and remove tires

How should a classic car be stored?

We often get asked about classic car storage, and while there are plenty of opinions and methods on the topic, we’ll give you some of the most popular storage options, as well as tips to ensure your car comes out of storage looking as well as when it goes into storage.

“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz | My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends”

Mercedes Benz by Janis Joplin

Can I store a car in a storage unit?

Believe it or not, this is one of our most frequently asked questions. Since we’ve gotten this far into the blog, you can imagine the answer is “yes.” But with some caveats, of course.

First, you want to select a storage facility with drive-up storage units. Fortunately, these are the default storage unit type for many facilities, especially older ones. You can just drive up to the unit, roll up the door and drive right in, then close the door and lock it when you’re done!

There are some cars that will fit in 10’ x 15’ units, but just barely (a 2006 Honda Civic is 14.75 ft. long, for reference). A 10’ x 20’ is a better choice, and also allows room to store extra tires, detailing equipment and more.

Second, you’ll want to see that the floor is concrete. If the floor is wood or dirt, avoid these for collector car storage, since they can promote moisture and/or pest intrusions. Worst case scenario, line the floor with a plastic tarp if no concrete units are available.

Check to see if the unit has a lip under the garage door. While these are great for adding protection to the unit, it might make entry a more difficult for a lowered car unless you bring a makeshift ramp.

Indoor car storage

In addition to drive-up storage units, some facilities also offer indoor parking in a warehouse-like setting. These may cost a little less than an individual unit and can accommodate taller vehicles like lifted trucks or RVs, but they are harder to find.

Your car might also be more vulnerable to dust, dirt and dings, so it might be a better option for pre-restoration storage rather than show cars.

Climate-Controlled Car Storage

Climate-controlled storage units with drive-up access are the holy grail of car enthusiasts. Warmed or cooled air is circulated through these units year-round to help minimize temperature swings and high humidity.  This helps protect everything from the finish of the car to rubber and plastic items on the car, as well as the interior upholstery.

Garage Condos

A recent trend in storage for collectors has been the garage condo, which is basically a workspace, garage and a man-cave rolled into one. These are sometimes found in industrial areas and can be big enough to hold multiple cars as well as your Moto Guzzi collection and all your tools.

Many have the option to add a loft or mezzanine to display your vintage Sinclair gas station sign, plus your 65-inch TV, a couple of sofas and the foosball table.

The problem? Cost.

Obviously, the price is going to vary by market, but an unfinished, two-car garage condo in Indianapolis goes for $150K.

At that price, you could buy a 2021 Aston Martin Vantage supercar and you’d still have enough left over to rent a 10’ x 20’ storage unit for more than 2 years. I think that’s an easy choice.

How do car collectors store their cars?

In a perfect world, all car collectors would have their own space to rival the Petersen Automotive Museum, but let’s get real. Only your true friends are stopping by to pay homage to your second-gen RX-7, and even then you might need to tempt them with an adult beverage.

So how are you going to keep your car safe, secure and in pristine condition while you’ve got it in a storage unit?

Here are 8 classic car storage basics to keep in mind:

  1. Clean it first, inside and out – Keep corrosion from destroying the exterior, and ensure crumbs and dirt are gone from the interior.
  2. Keep it covered – An all-weather cover will help protect your vehicle from rain, snow and UV rays. Cars in indoor units should at least have a dust cover.
  3. Change the oil – Fresh oil is less likely to have contaminants that can damage your engine over time.
  4. Check your tires – The tread should be in good shape and they need to be inflated at all times.
  5. Disconnect the battery – If you can’t use a battery tender, detach the negative lead to keep the battery from draining.
  6. Jack stands – Raise your car using jack stands to keep your tires from getting flat spots. Remove tires if possible.
  7. Fuel Stabilizer – Add commercially available fuel stabilizer to your gas to prevent deposits or gumming.
  8. Start and drive it – This is important to keeping your stored cars in great shape. Start and run them for 15 minutes every two weeks to 1 month. If you weren’t able to put the car on jack stands, drive the car around the facility to rotate the tires, too.

When storing classic cars, it’s important to remember that your registration and insurance need to be current. Talk with your insurance agent (or an agency that specializes in classic car coverage) to make sure you’re covered whether the car is stored, at an HPDE or on the road!

How do you store a classic car for winter

In most climates, classic cars start hibernating as soon as the weather starts to take a turn for the worst. The good news is, winter storage and long-term storage are pretty much the same. If you want to learn more about extended vehicle storage, this article from Edmunds.com has more in-depth tips.

Can I work on my car in a storage unit?

Unfortunately, working on cars is prohibited in a storage unit. Please review your rental contract for do’s and don’ts in a storage unit. 

Storing Trailered Cars

If your car’s not street legal, such as race-prepped cars or show cars that are transported in enclosed trailers, a self-storage facility can be a godsend.

Some facilities offer oversized units that can accept a trailered car. If you’re towing a BMW E36 M3, for instance, you’re probably using a 16 to 18 ft. trailer, so a 10’ x 20’ drive-up unit should work. Just remember to add in the length of the trailer’s tongue and check that the overall height isn’t greater than 7 ft. tall.

Enclosed trailers can be stored in secure outdoor spaces. These spaces typically start at 10’ x 20’ and can be 30 ft or longer at some facilities. These are behind an access-controlled gate and are watched by security cameras for added security.

If you don’t want to leave your car on (or in) your trailer, we get it. We understand if you still want the added security of a roll-down door for your car, so we won’t judge if you get both.

Facilities that offer outdoor parking or drive-up storage typically have wide driveways, making it easy to park and maneuver your tow-vehicle and trailer.

How much does it cost to store a classic car?

There are a number of factors that determine how much is it to store a car in storage: location, amenities, type of storage unit—the list goes on.

Fortunately, Store Space publishes its rates right on its facility pages so you can see our already low rates! Plus, we’ll give you our new customer move-in promotion so you can save even more!

We offer month-to-month leases so you can rent for as long as you need without being trapped in a long-term contract.

“Just a little deuce coupe with a flathead mill | But she’ll walk a Thunderbird like she’s standing still”

 – Little Deuce Coupe by The Beach Boys

Where can I store my classic car?

At Store Space, of course! We’ve got room for everything from your ’32 Ford Coupe to your yet-to-be-released TOYOTA GAZOO Racing GR Yaris.

Use our convenient Store Finder to search for storage in your area or call us at 833-786-7366 to talk with our storage professionals about the storage options near you!

find storage at store space

Writer who also enjoys cars, guitars and Mars bars.

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