What To Do With Your Vehicle When You Travel

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When planning an extended trip, it seems there are always a million questions that need to be answered.

We’ve been there (multiple times) and have written in the past on preparing for a long trip, like what to do with your stuff while you travelwhat to do with your pets when you go on vacation, preparation lists, and how to sell your things online before leaving.

Over the years, we’ve been asked multiple times what we do with our vehicle when we travel, so we wrote this to give you some ideas and their pros and cons. Just realize that everyone’s situation is unique and what works for us might not be the best for you.

The first question you have to ask is how long do you plan to be away?

Short term vehicle storage

If you’re only leaving for a few weeks then you can simply leave your car in your garage, driveway or parking lot and get a friend or a taxi to drive you to the airport. You can also leave your vehicle at the airport or, even better, an off the airport lot that provides free shuttle service to the airport. Off-airport parking lots are usually half the price of leaving your vehicle at the airport directly and only cost an extra 15 to 20 minutes.

If you have a good friend who lives much closer to the airport, leave your vehicle at their place and get a much cheaper taxi ride the rest of the way.

Tip: If your friend doesn’t have a dedicated parking space for you, be careful that long term parking (a few weeks) is allowed on their road and that the neighborhood is safe enough to do so. A broken window or stolen vehicle will cost you a lot more than the price of leaving your car in a secure lot. Depending on your trust level, leaving the keys with your buddy can help alleviate any unforeseen problems and allow them to move it if needed.

Two weeks to a few months

If you plan to be away for a few weeks to a few months and can’t leave your vehicle at home, ask about long term rates before leaving your vehicle with any lot. Even those airport shuttle places have better deals for long term travel if you discuss the rates with them before hand.

You might also reconsider leaving your vehicle on the road near a friends’ house for a long period of time. The chance of being towed or broken into rises with each extra day and since vehicles are a bit of an investment (if a declining one) you might not want to leave it so exposed.

Long term vehicle storage

You’ll need a long term storage solution when you’re traveling for at least a few months up until a year and beyond. Unlike short term travelers, you might be renting your place out or putting your things into storage, so leaving your vehicle in the garage isn’t possible. Contrary to what you might think, you actually have a lot of options for long term vehicle storage, depending on your comfort level, the value of your vehicle and how much you’re willing to spend.

Sell it now

The simplest thing to do might be to sell your vehicle. If you’re planning to be gone six months or more and your vehicle is new enough to still be rapidly declining in value every day, then the best solution might be to get rid of it and buy another vehicle if or when you return. Not only will you not lose any further depreciation on it but you will also be able to cancel the insurance (which could mean money back if you’ve prepaid for the year) and it won’t cost you anything in storage fees.

Tip:  The money you save in depreciation and insurance should be weighed against the cost to sell your car. Depending on where you live, the taxes you would need to pay (on selling your current vehicle or buying a new one) or the cost of paying out any loans could offset any potential gain. There’s also no guarantee that the replacement car or truck you purchase on your return will be as good as what you had.

This year we decided to sell our car right before leaving and keep our small SUV. The car was paid off and we didn’t expect to need two vehicles when we returned. Though we loved that car, it made more sense to keep the SUV since it was older (and was depreciating slower) and also because it can carry so much more than the car. The car is also a very popular make so there are lots for sale at any time in case we want to buy another one down the road.

Unfortunately, selling isn’t an option for those who lease their vehicles and owe more than it’s worth. For those that want to hold onto their car there are still plenty of choices.

Rural and cheap on the farm storage

Years ago, we left our vehicles at Micki’s parents’ place. They lived far outside the city and had a lot of land. Leaving it there wasn’t a problem and the fact that it didn’t cost us anything was a nice plus. The problem was that they lived hours from the airport and we’ve found that the cost and hassle of renting a car right before flying out and then again when we got back was greater than just storing it somewhere close to the airport.

There was also the issue of mice. Since they lived in a very rural setting, all three times we left a vehicle on the farm we had problems with mice getting in. This might not be a problem where you live, but leaving a vehicle on the grass for extended periods of time in Canada is just asking for trouble. There are a lot of products out there that are designed to help keep mice out of a stored car, but we’ve tried a bunch all to no avail.

That said, leaving your vehicle on a farm, on a large lot or anyplace with cheap or even better, free parking, can be a great deal. If you have friends, family or even know someone who knows someone who has access to a lot of land this can be the cheapest option.

Interior storage

If you’re worried about the elements or rodents, another option might be inside storage. This can range from large facilities that specialize in storage to renting someone’s garage.

When looking into large complexes, we’ve found that the cost for interior storage is around twice the going rate for exterior storage. Some places the temperature and security is constantly monitored, but some places it’s not. Make sure you ask beforehand and keep that in mind when comparing them.

Tip: When looking into interior storage complexes, look for companies targeting classic car owners and boat storage as they’ll likely have rodent control measures and good security. Depending on where you live, a climate controlled building is probably not required and will save you money.

Personal garages for rent are popular, with owners choosing to make a few extra dollars rather than using the space themselves. We rented a private garage on one of our trips and it worked out well. The downside was that no one was really watching over the garage and we convinced some friends to check it every week for us while we were gone. We also had our belongings in the same garage so that might have added to our extra worry. The price for storing both was far less than other options so it was a good choice regardless of the security concerns. If the owner had lived nearby it wouldn’t have been a concern.

Tip: Personal garages for rent are usually found through a friend or an ad on Craigslist, Kijiji or something similar. Mechanics may also be able to help you find a garage for rent so make sure to ask around.

Volkswagen Car Silo Storage Option

Volkswagen’s storage solution Credit

Another option for inside storage is underground parking. The downside is that not many people list their parking spaces as available to rent. They can also be open to a lot of traffic and the chance of a break in could be higher than the other options..

Tip: With a lot of older people no longer able to drive, their need for a parking spot decreases. Condos, apartments and townhouses designed for the 60 plus age group are a great place to start looking if you want to go this route. If you can talk to the building manager you can probably quickly find out if anyone has a space they don’t need. You can also talk to any friends or family who live in a building with underground parking and see if anything is available there. Even if their parking spot is taken, there might be others available to rent.

Outside long term vehicle storage

These days, we’ve found that in-city long term vehicle storage is the way to go for us. These spaces are usually marketed for RV and boat owners who don’t have the space to park their vehicle for the winter. Because the average car, truck or SUV is much smaller than the typical motorhome or trailer, the price is usually far less as well.

Tip:  We look for a place close enough to the airport that either a taxi ride won’t break the bank or a friend won’t disown us for asking for a ride. We also look for someplace secure that is gated and has secure access. In the past few years we’ve also ensured that the RV storage lot has a gravel or paved lot to minimize rodent issues.

We also ensure that the car is spotlessly clean inside before we leave (again to minimize rodent issues) and we try to wash the vehicle right before we drop it off (to minimize rusting). This year we also unhooked the battery since last year we got back to a dead battery and had to have someone jump start our car. We’ve never bothered to cover our vehicle since I’d rather deal with fading than other issues like a tarp rubbing in the wind. Since we won’t be around to look after it we leave someone in town as the contact point.

Storage insurance

One thing we also do is change our insurance on the vehicle to storage or parking insurance. Storage insurance usually costs only a fraction of our normal insurance and still protects us in case of theft, vandalism or fire. It’s also a must if you can’t have a gap in your insurance (some places will charge a hefty premium if you have a time gap in your insurance coverage) so be mindful that your province/state/country doesn’t have that as well.

Final thoughts

When you leave for an extended trip one of the hardest hurdles is dealing with your things. Sometimes I think people use their stuff as an excuse to put off that big trip they’ve always dreamed about.

Hopefully this post gives you some ideas on what to do with one of your largest things, your vehicle. Whether you sell your home and put your remaining items into storage or rent your place out for the time you’re gone you’ll have to decide what to do with your ride. Depending on who you are, what shape your vehicle is in and your budget, know that there is a solution for you.

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18 Responses

  1. Larissa

    Good overview of options. We knew we would be gone for over a year, and our cars were old, so we sold them. Now that we’re back from our RTW we’re still nomadic, so we try to stay places where we won’t need a vehicle. If we do need one, we find the cheapest rental we can get.

    Interestingly, we used to be into what type of car we drove. Now that we’ve traveled, we’re more interested in getting places.

    • Charles Kosman

      Larissa, we’ve always found it nice to have a vehicle to come back to. With family living in 3 different provinces whenever we get back from a long trip it seems a road trip soon follows. We take good care of our vehicles, never buy anything too new or that will depreciate a lot in value while we’re gone and park it someplace that won’t kill the bank. In Canada, especially outside any of the major centers, being without a vehicle isn’t really viable with two young kids.

      That being said, we did sell one of our cars this trip and my nice utility trailer, which for some reason still saddens me. There are definite pro’s and cons to keeping versus just getting rid of them. Until Canada is no longer considered our home base I would imagine we’ll always have a vehicle waiting for us when we get back.

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kristin of Be My Travel Muse

    Been battling with this myself. My car (really nice car that I’m in love with) is paid off and my mom is kind enough to be caring for it while I’m gone. I won’t be back until almost a year after I left. Then, taking off again. I think it’ll be time to sell it when I’m home… it’ll pain me. Love that thing.

  3. John

    I left my car with my brother and his wife. They have 4 kids now, so they were more than happy to have a second car.

  4. Michael

    Sell it! Who wants ties to back home 😉

    It’s a big decision, but if you are going for 6 months or more selling is your best bet.

  5. Paul Langley

    Wow, I had no idea there were so many options for long-term car storage. I am really glad that you mentioned your parents-in-law’s place, because I had never thought of doing something like that. I have a handful of close relatives that own larger pieces of property, I may have to look into storing my car there. Thanks so much for writing!

  6. Westly Smith

    Thanks for the tips about short term vehicle storage. I like to go on vacation a couple of times a year, and the time adds up. I would like to get a place to store my RV. I’m going to check on an RV storage place near me!

  7. Elden Gatley

    I agree that you should consider storing your vehicle while on your trip. This will allow you to access good prices on transportation services. You may find that it’s less expensive than bringing your vehicle, and that it’s less of a hassle.

  8. Otto

    Hi, Charles! For my next trips, I also want to know what to do with my vehicle when I travel

  9. Hazel Owens

    If I ever had to leave my car for a long time, I’d probably opt for interior storage of some sort. You mentioned that interior storage can be about twice as expensive as its exterior counterparts, but I think the protection from theft and the elements would be worth the price. Do you know if any of these facilities are willing to run your car every few days so the battery doesn’t die while in storage? Thanks.

    • Corey Miller

      Did you find a place that was willing to run your car every few days?

  10. wayne thomson

    Great article. Its really nice to read such article.Travelers put their cars to almost every use imaginable: as a place to eat meals, hide things, take shelter from the elements and even live (on a trip to Pamplona several years ago, the smallest guy in our traveling party slept in the trunk). Since your car can be almost your home away from home while traveling, you will want to take some precautions to protect it and the things inside it. Ideally, you wouldn’t leave anything valuable at all in your car, but the reality of travel is that your car is going to serve as much like a safe deposit box or luggage storage closet as transportation — especially during the day when you’re between hotels.

    Keep posting such article.
    Have a great day.

  11. Daniel Jackson


    Traveling on a business trip can get very hectic. You have a tight schedule filled with meetings, appointments and luncheons. You only have a few days to complete all your tasks so it is essential that you value every minute. You have to be punctual to your meetings and appointments. Driving a rental car is out of the question. This is a waste of time and will only add to the stress you are already under. A convenient and stress-free way to get around on your business trip is by using the services of a luxury town car transportation company.
    Thank you so much for great sharing.

  12. teo

    How about renting or subleasing your car to a friend or business traveler in the city for the time you’d be away. Has anybody tried that? Seems silly to keep the car in storage when it could be used while paying for itself… What do you guys think…

    • Charles Kosman

      That’s a definite possibility Teo and we’ve known people who have done it. There are definitely pros and cons to renting or subleasing your vehicle.

      First is insurance. Whether you are keeping your vehicle under your insurance or transferring it into their name there will be a cost for both options. Since it’s doubtful you can use your current insurance you’ll have to get extra. If you transfer it into their name then there will be a cost when you get back transferring it back to you. Depending on where you live in the world, it can be hard to transfer insurance when they’re not the “owners”.

      Second is vehicle liability. If they get into an accident, who’s going to pay for it? You need a strong legal document to guarantee your investment and guarantee that you’ll get reimbursed if your vehicle gets smashed up or stolen.

      Third is upkeep. Are they going to take as good care of your car as you will? Will they change the oil, rotate the tires, wash it if it gets full of sap or tar? Who’s responsible for the costs? Do winter tires need to be put on at a certain time? When do they need to be taken off?

      Fourth is peace of mind. A vehicle can be a significant investment (typically decreasing investment but still an investment) and you can’t guarantee it’s being taken care of the way you do. You also don’t know if they’ll beat it up and put 100,000 km on it while you’re gone and decrease the trade in value down the road. That can easily eat into any savings you’ve made leasing it out.

      Now that all said, if the legalese was solid and the compensation was enough and you aren’t too particular about your vehicle then subleasing or renting your own vehicle might be worth pursuing.

      For us, if we were traveling long enough, I would rather just sell the car and buy another one when I got back. Newer vehicles tend to drop in value at an alarming rate and unless it was an older model, I’m not sure the wear and tear would be worth it.

      I’ve known people that included their vehicle in house swaps and even one that was including it as part of their AirBnB rentals and I can tell you that none of them are doing it anymore because they all got burned. Too much risk and too little gain and trying to get people to pay for minor vehicle damage (especially if they’re from another country) is fruitless at best.

      That said, if you have a friend or family member you trust and you aren’t particularly attached to your vehicle then maybe it could work. Maybe.

  13. Ivy Baker

    This is some really good information about vehicle storage. It is good to know that you should consider the type of car you have, and how much you want to spend on the storage. My parents are going on a long vacation later this year. They have a nice car so having a to storage unit would be smart.


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