Wet vs. Dry Boat Storage: Which Is Best For You?

Both wet storage (also known as in-water storage) and dry storage have their pros and cons, so choosing the right one is up to you. Wet storage is when you store your boat in the water, generally at a marina, dock slip, or mooring. Dry storage is when you store your boat on land, generally inside a garage, stacked storage system, or secured boat parking lot.

Wet storage is best for those who have boats in warmer climates, on a freshwater body of water, and/or have a large boat that is hard to transport in and out of the water. Dry storage is best for trailerable boats, boats in cold climates, and boats that are used in saltwater.

Many people (especially in colder climates) will keep their boat at a wet storage system such as a marina during the summer, and a dry storage system such as a heated garage during the winter.

Keeping your boat in the water all the time can damage it if proper precautions aren’t implemented. Saltwater, barnacles, algae, and much more can eat away at your hull and engine causing your boat to lose a lot of its lifespan in only a matter of a few weeks or months.

Related Article: Saltwater vs Freshwater Boating (Ultimate Guide)

When should you use dry storage?

If possible, I always recommend using dry storage instead of wet storage. This is because of how beneficial keeping your boat away from the corrosive elements in water (especially saltwater) and in the air (especially cold winters). So, if you can trailer your boat or get it out fairly easily, dry storage is the go-to.

Examples of people who should use dry storage include:

  • If you are storing your boat for the off-season and want to protect your boat from a harsh winter
  • If you don’t want to be doing constant maintenance to your hull to keep things like barnacles and algae off
  • It’s generally cheaper to keep your boat on land during boating season than in the water

Examples of dry storage include:

  • Indoor heated storage (most expensive)
  • Drystack (medium cost)
  • Shrinkwrapped and stored outside (cheapest)

One thing to note is that off-season dry storage (especially indoor storage) is going to be 1.5-3 times more expensive than off-season wet storage. Much more people want their boats indoors during the winter, so the prices skyrocket. An easy way to shave off that bill is to store your boat in your garage or driveway, although I wish you good luck arguing with your wife about that one.

I talk more about the different costs associated with each type of boat storage later in the article. Click here to skip down to it.

When should you use wet storage?

Wet storage (in-water storage) makes it much less of a hassle to get out on the water and enjoy a nice summer day. Not having to launch your boat every time you use it can save you a lot of time. However, you need to make sure you take the proper precautions, such as flushing your engines with fresh water after salt water use, scrubbing algae and barnacles off of your hull, repainting your bottom anti-foiling paint every 2-3 years, and waxing your boat often.

Examples of people who should use wet storage include:

  • If you live in an area that has no off-season
  • If you have a very large boat that cannot easily be stored on land
  • If you don’t want to constantly be launching your boat all the time
  • If you don’t have a truck to pull your boat
  • If you don’t mind spending a lot of time taking care of your boat by doing proper preventative maintenance
  • Can save money during the off-season, but will cost more during the boating season.

Examples of wet storage include:

  • Marina slips (most expensive)
  • Dock slips (most expensive)
  • Mooring spots (medium cost)
  • Anchorages (Cheapest)

Most people who use wet storage, only use if for the boating season and then take their boats out and store them on land for the off-season. However, many marinas offer off-season wet storage and use things such as de-icers to make sure no ice damages your boat. Although you can store your boat in the water during the off-season, it’s generally not recommended unless your boat is too large to get it out of the water and store it efficiently.

How much does boat storage cost? (wet vs. dry storage)

From the calculations I made in my article “How Much Does Boat Storage Cost? (15 Examples)“, I’ve concluded that:

It costs around $8-$18 per foot of your boat per month to store your boat in an indoor garage, and $4-$10 per foot per month for outdoor storage. Some marinas may also let you store your boat in the water all season (known as wet storage) for about $6-$12 per foot per month.

The price of boat storage depends largely on the location and amenities offered. A nice marina in downtown Miami or Los Angeles is going to be much more expensive than a nice marina on the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri. Check out the article to get some exact locations of a few popular boating locations.

What to look for when considering a place to store your boat?

Whether you are considering dry or wet storage, you should be aware of what to look for. Many marinas and storage facilities may do many bad things, such as overcharging you or carelessly handling your boat. So look for these things when deciding on a place to store your boat:

  • Insurance
  • A modern security system
  • Large theft protective gates
  • Located in a low-crime area
  • Severe weather precautions
  • Price compared to other similar storage facilities in your area
  • Amenities and dock utilities offered
  • A reasonable amount of shelter from wind, waves, and severe weather
  • Size of the space you will be storing your boat

How to prepare your boat for storage?

If you are just storing your boat for a short time, you should make sure you are doing proper maintenance to keep your boat healthy for as long as possible. These include:

  • Making sure your drain plug is not leaking
  • Spraying off and washing your boat after every saltwater use
  • Flushing your engines after every saltwater use
  • Making sure air vents aren’t clogged
  • Waxing your boat every 3-6 months
  • Checking engine oil
  • Drain the water if temperatures are forecasted to drop below freezing

If you plan on storing your boat for a long time, there are a few more tasks that you need to do. These include:

  • Winterizing your boat
  • Shrinkwrapping (if storing outside)
  • Changing oil
  • Changing lower unit oil
  • Cleaning bilge pump
  • Put fuel stabilizer in your tank

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What is dry rack storage?

Dry rack storage is boat storage that maximizes space by stacking boats on top of each other on a rack. They use forklifts and cranes to get the boats in their positions on the rack. Rack storage is used in both outdoor and indoor boat storage facilities.

Is it better to store a boat in the water?

For most people, it’s best not to store your boat in the water. Water can cause many problems which will reduce the lifespan of your boat if proper precautions are not taken. However, storing your boat in the water during the boating season can reduce a lot of the hassle associated with in-season dry storage.

Should you store a boat with a full gas tank?

According to Discover Boating, you should store your boat with nearly a full gas tank, leaving a little space in case of expansion in the fuel during warm temperatures. This can help prevent condensation from forming in your tank during long periods of storage. However, I recommend always using a gasoline fuel stabilizer such as this one on Amazon or a diesel stabilizer such as this one.

Do you have to winterize your boat before storing it?

If you are storing your boat for the off-season anywhere that temperatures will drop below freezing even for a short time, you need to winterize your boat. If your storing your boat in a heated garage, it still may be a good idea to winterize your boat just in case of a power outage.

When should you put your boat in the water?

It’s best to put your boat in the first week there are no freezing days projected on the 10-day forecast. If the temperature drops slightly below freezing for a few hours at night it will be fine, but I always recommend being patient.

Related Article: When To Put Your Boat In The Water