Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Storage Lot

Is it worth paying storage fees for your boat or RV?  It depends.

Our Casita is getting on toward 20 years old, but still looks like new.  One reason is that it is made of molded fiberglass in two halves, with no rubber roof or laminated walls to delaminate.  Another reason is we've kept it indoors when not in use for most of the time we've had it.  We left it on outdoor storage one year on the island and came back to a mildew factory.  After that experience, we rented an storage locker to keep it indoors.

The owner of the storage locker place kept raising the rent, first from $88 to $90 and then to $93.   That's over $1100 a year to store a camper maybe worth $5000 on a good day.   The Ancillary costs were exceeding the value of the thing.  The last straw was when the owner of the storage place sent us all a letter saying we had to buy $2000 worth of insurance on our goods in storage for $7 a month.   Do the math on that - that's $84 a year for $2000 of coverage.   I can buy a million dollars of liability coverage for about $100 a year.

The owner of the storage locker place said that unless we could prove our goods were covered under our homeowner's policy that they would "slam" this $7 a month coverage on us, and add it to our bill.  This, of course, is bullshit, an adhesion contract, and just dishonest dealing.   So we decided to clean out the storage locker and move on.

As with any other storage locker, we found we had tucked stuff in it over the years, including old files (tax records from a decade ago!) that were really just junk.   Storage lockers are a trap, as once you have one, you keep stuffing crap into it, and the prospect of cleaning it all out seems daunting, so you never do - and you keep paying and paying.

Mark's brother bought a monster 5th wheel for $7000 in Maine and brought it down here.  It is only about a decade old, and probably sold for $50,000 new.  These things depreciate like mad.  His plan is to tow it to Arizona and leave it there as a vacation home.   Good plan.  The dry climate will mean less problems with leakage and mold.   He left it here in Georgia temporarily, until February, when we will travel together to New Orleans and then they will head West.  So the trailer is in a storage lot out by the Interstate - cost: $40 a month.   This seemed like a better deal than $93 a month, so we said goodbye to the storage locker and hello to the storage lot.

Storage lots are a lot like storage lockers - people put stuff there and forget about it.   And they keep paying and paying rent on the things they have stored.   We had our old 5th wheel in a storage lot in Virginia (now a townhouse development) and it was the same thing.   I eventually decided to put down a gravel pad in our side yard and bring the trailer home.  No sense paying storage fees when you own a half-acre of land that is mostly unused.
In both places, maybe 80% of the units are in good shape and taken out regularly.  Around here, snowbirds leave the rigs in storage and about January, will be taking them out and to local campgrounds, including here on the island, for a three to four month stay.  Then it is back into storage.  It is cheaper than paying for the fuel to drive the rigs back and forth to "up North".

But a small percentage of vehicles on these lots are just plain junk, period.   Clapped-out campers that are sinking into the ground that have not been used in a decade.   Old rusty cars that someone wants to "restore someday" but of course never will.  The funniest one was a "Mustang Cobra" under a tarp.  The car, missing its entire interior and one fender, was a mountain of rust and sitting on its rims.  The entire bottoms of the doors was missing.  I grew up in rust country and the car was shot - not worth fixing.

And the "Cobra"?  It was a Mustang II Cobra from the late 1970's - a car so horrible that if you brought to a Mustang meet, you would be asked to leave.   I guess someone told the poor bastard that a "Cobra" was worth millions, but of course that would be a Shelby AC Cobra which is an entirely different car.

I asked the lady who ran the place about these eyesores, and why they didn't just tow the junk away.  She replied, dead seriously, that people were still paying lot rent on these nightmares, in some cases for decades.

Ouch.   People, I realized, are utterly insane.  And why people end up in financial difficulty isn't hard to fathom.   Putting crappy old cars into "storage" for years on end makes no sense at all.   For less than the cost of the storage fees, he could buy a better example of this car.  I know from experience that chasing the tin worm is an exercise in futility.  And when a car has rust holes large enough for cats to walk through it is time to pack it in.

Also, parking cars on the grass is one sure way to make them rust more quickly.  There is something about grass that keeps the underside of the car wet from dew to insure it will rust.  I think also the grass adds to the acidity, particularly when years of grass clippings blow under the car.  Whatever the cause, most car nuts realize that storing a car on grass is the worst way to go about it.

So why do people pay storage fees on junk?   Part of it is craziness - the hoarding instinct that says that every piece of broken-down crap is worth billions and worth hanging on to.   Part of it is laziness, in that to clean out a storage locker or get rid of that rusty hobby car or clapped out camper would require effort and it is just easier to write a check every month or put it all on the almighty credit card.

Either way, it is delusional thinking.  And it struck me that a lot of people in this country are delusional - perhaps the majority.  Act rationally in an irrational world - it ain't hard to do.

If you have a car in storage, ask yourself why.   Cars do not like to "sit" and an unrestored car will not appreciate much in value over time, and in fact may be worth less and less if neglected.  You would be better off selling the car and investing the money rather than slowly hemorrhaging to death with storage fees month after month and year after year.

At the lot in Virginia, we saw campers so clapped out they were starting to disintegrate.   They were so beat they could not be even moved without fear of them being torn in half - and that would be if you first put wheels and tires on them.  Yet people still paid the monthly lot rent.  Thousands and thousands of dollars wasted over years and years, just to let something sit and rot.

It just amazes me.   Owning one of these storage lot or storage locker places has to be a pretty good gig.   Idiots will just throw money at you to park junk on your lawn.