Storage Sites

Page Created 10 June 2021 – Last Updated 13 June 2021 12:37

Setting Up A Caravan and Motorhome Storage Site

This is NOT a “how to guide” but should be read as more of a “I wonder what’s involved” conversation.

I have had over the years people ask me about what is involved in setting up a storage site for caravans and motorhomes. I’ve had conversations with them and covered all sorts of details and sometimes not until much later think I wish I’d mentioned so and so or I forgot to say such and such. So I thought I’d put everything in one place.

While not an expert by any means, I have gathered some information and a couple of links where you can find further reading to find out if this is something that is feasible or desirable in your particular case. I’ve tackled it more as a conversation piece and at times played Devil’s Advocate and been a bit challenging. As I said earlier I’m not an expert, legal eagle, planning guru but someone that’s been a caravan owner for a few years and happens to write a blog about it.

Depending on your location there may be another option for leisure vehicle storage. If you have some land within a couple of miles of a large caravan dealer it may be worth going having a conversation with them about storage. Caravan (not so much motorhome) dealers have a dilemma, part of they year they don’t have much stock so storage is not a big problem but as soon as the new models for the coming year are announced by the manufacturers they are under pressure to take the new models from the manufacturer, build up a stock and hold them before they are released on sale to the general public. This means that for a few months of the year they are looking for short term storage. It may be you could for-fill this need.

How much can I earn?

That is one of the first questions people ask me… and you are not going to be looking to buy your first premier league football team based on profits from storing caravans and motorhomes. It all depends on your location, how affluent the area is where you set up and demand. Typically it’s between £1 and £5 per day per pitch.

Access…

If you have land and it has reasonable access from a road, then in theory there isn’t any reason you can’t set up a storage site. There are however a few things to consider. If access is down a narrow road that is unpaved then this can be seen by many owners as a negative. With even modest caravans starting at £20,000 no one wants to risk scratching the sides on bushes or crawling over pot holes in the track. The track doesn’t have to be paved, most caravan sites are gravel and gravel has some advantages, more about that later. For width, caravans have been getting bigger, originally they were 7 feet 6 inches wide however a lot of models are now 8 feet wide (2450mm) so an access road should be a minimum of 10 to 12 feet wide without vegetation encroachment. If there are any sharp bends then you need to think about the swing radius of vehicle and caravan. For example our outfit – VW Amarok pickup and Sterling 550 single axle caravan when hitched up is a total of 41 feet 2 inches (12.544m) long. With the biggest caravan available to legally tow in currently in the UK this could be just shy of 45 feet or 13.7 metres total length. We are therefore not much shorter than an articulated lorry.

While we are still on access to your potential storage site we need to mention height. Our caravan is about 8 feet 7 inches (2.61m) high…. add solar panels and an air con unit this would easily add another 8 inches (200mm) If you want to consider motorhomes then you need to start at around 10 feet as a minimum. So overhanging vegetation – tree branches etc. will need to be cut back and maintained annually to allow clearance.

The sticker I have on my vehicles sun visor

Open Air or Undercover?

The vast majority of caravan and motorhome storage is open air. There are a small number of storage sites that offer undercover storage and these tend to attract premium pricing in the area. However there are a few reasons why people may not opt for under cover storage.

Most caravans (and motorhomes) now come with one or even two solar panels on the roof. These are there to maintain the leisure batteries in the vehicle. Years ago it was a common site to see someone visiting a caravan in storage pretty much monthly to remove the leisure battery, take it home to charge it and return a few days later to re-install it back in the caravan. Solar panels and modern batteries have reduced this pastime even in the winter months when a caravan might not be used for two or three months. Companies that manufacturer all-weather storage covers recognise this and now produce them with clear plastic panels in the roof so as not to obscure the solar panels. They have done this for a very specific reason…. they want people to buy their covers and if they didn’t provide clear areas over the solar panels then people would stop buying their covers.

Secondly not all undercover storage is equal. Damp can be an issue in a caravan or motorhome, so manufacturers install vents in the floor and roof so given some air movement on the outside of the caravan it will create air movement in the inside. Put the caravan in an enclosed hanger, this then stops the natural air movement around the outside and hence on the inside too. The best ‘undercover’ storage is literally just a roof with maybe vertical slats for walls…. as often seen in animal barns. This keeps the worst of the weather off but still allows plenty of ventilation and air movement.

Size matters…

41 feet 2 inches (12.544m) bumper to bumper

How many caravans or motorhomes can I store? Well you can pack them in so they have only a few inches between them. This would maximise your revenue for a given patch of land but it will put a LOT of people off. As will how the caravans are lined up. It may look nice to have them in a long row set at a jaunty angle like you see some car parks laid out but people have issues with angles. It’s bad enough watching people park cars in a straight bay let alone an angled bay. Remember these caravans have to be reversed in in most cases. reversing them in at an angle is fine when there is a caravan either side but trying to reverse one in at an angle when both your neighbours are out is going to lead to telephone calls from owners telling you they can’t get their caravan in because their neighbour has parked too close or at the wrong angle. Nice rectangular bays are the way to go with perhaps a white peg driven into the ground to mark the back corner. This is what most caravaners are used to on caravan pitches.

How much space per caravan? If you work on the widest caravan – 8 feet ( 2450mm) a reasonable width for a storage slot would be 10 feet (3050mm) this would give in theory 2 feet between each caravan if they were parked centrally in their ‘space’. Enough room to open the entrance door usually. Caravans have two length sizes given… habitation length and shipping length. Habitation length is basically the length of the ‘box’ on the chassis. The shipping length is the maximum distance from the rear most point of the caravan to the tip of the hitch and the longest I can find is a shade under 26 feet or 7.9 metres, so a good size ‘box’ for each caravan to park in would be 10′ x 26′ or about 3 x 8 metres when planning spaces.

It has to be remembered that there needs to be sufficient space for a vehicle and caravan to pull in-front of their space and undertake a reversing manoeuvre to get the caravan into position. On most surfaces a single axle caravan can be manually pushed and turned, a twin axle caravan cannot.

Surfaces…

Caravan and motorhome owners don’t really want to store their pride and joy in a muddy field… or even somewhere that may be firm in summer but given a good downpour turns into an axle sinking mire. Concrete might seem a solution but that has it’s own drawbacks. It needs paying for in the first place and drainage. A great compromise is compacted gravel. If laid over well compacted ‘crush and run’ it offers the best of both worlds. It’s an all weather surface, self draining if properly laid and it’s cheaper than acres of concrete and for caravaners…. especially those with twin axle caravans it is quite forgiving when reversing allowing the tyres to skid in the gravel rather than be almost wrenched off the rim in a tight turn. Some caravans have motor movers fitted and a well compacted gravel surface isn’t a challenge for them. It also allows a reasonably low cost maintenance regime with levelling and topping off with a simple box blade. Weed control is also a lot easier than attempting to mow round caravans that may not move for a few weeks. Think of it this way…… all the big caravan sites use gravel on their pitches…. I guess I could not see any reason to argue differently for storage.

Facilities… and “nice to have’s”

Washing Facilities – is always a great addition, even if it is only an outside tap and hose connector. There are some sites that offer a dedicated concert area with drains that the owner can pull on to. There are even a couple that have those platform ladders to assist in cleaning the roof. Our storage site docent have any washing facilities…. not even a tap, but it would be one of the top items on my list if I was moving to another site.

Nice to Have: Elsan point – Caravans and motorhomes have a chemical toilet cassette and these are commonly emptied in something called and ‘Elsan Point’ Basically its just somewhere you can tip the contents of a toilet cassette and flush the contents into the sewer system or septic tank. They often have a water tap so the user can clean out the cassette.

Nice to Have: Electricity – If there is an outside power point so that basic tools could be plugged in…. I think I would be in caravan storage heaven.

Insurance…

Nearly all caravans will have insurance and generally as I understand it all storage sites have a “You store your caravan/motorhome/trailer here at your own risk” type clause. When insuring a caravan one question every owner has to answer in detail is “Where will your caravan be stored when not in use?” The answer to that will have cost implications for the caravan owner. Most storage sites are members of CASSOA (Link at the bottom of the page) and the nice people at CASSOA certify storage locations for their security. The caravan insurance companies rely on this certification and offer discounts. For example, for me it is about 20% cheaper to insure our caravan where it is stored than it would be if stored at our home address. So each year when we renew I’m asked where we are storing our caravan and when I give the insurance company the company and location it magically pops up on their screens and they can offer me a discount on my renewal. So being registered with CASSOA seems like a good thing I guess.

All that said this is another area that you might need to talk to your insurance agent about. I have been told that as soon as you ‘invite’ members of the public onto your property you will need “Public Liability” insurance….. yep time to call your insurance agent and have a detailed conversation with them about that too. I’m not an insurance guru… but I don’t mind paying for a bit of insurance just in case!

Security…

Caravan storage sites are a temptation and theft comes mainly in two guises. The first is mainly breaking in to caravans to steal the leisure battery for the lead scrap value or the gas bottles – usually Calor for their scrap value either as a pure weigh in for the metal or more recently to supply the number of companies turning gas bottles into trendy garden fire pits or BBQ smokers. I believe it has been reported recently that tens of thousands of rental gas bottles are “missing” from the normal number of gas cylinders in circulation.

.The second is the theft of whole caravans. A theft of a caravan from a storage site in Kent hit the news when the stolen caravan was recovered after a road accident in Ireland…. less than 12 hours after the actual theft. I have heard of numerious ingenious ways caravans have been stolen, some to order but I’m not going to discuss that here. Caravans are stolen and usually disappear permanently although over the last couple of years recovery rates have started to increase as all caravans now carry microchips and multiple RFID tags built into them at the time of construction. If you are considering setting up a rural storage site, have a conversation with your local Police Rural Crimes Liaison Officer. I know they do a tremendous amount of work with farmers to help keep rural crime in check. An hour’s chat over a cup of tea will be worth it I’m sure.

The other place that will be able to offer great advice on securing a storage facility is CASSOA (link below) and I know from my contact with them in the past they have a lot to offer. The best article I’ve found on the subject is by CASSOA and can be found here

One thing to remember, if you do get a theft of a caravan from your storage site, expect to lose a number of your customers. Talking to other caravan owners one of the biggest reasons they change storage sites is if there are thefts from the site or a caravan goes missing.

Access Times…

Some sites (like the one I use) allow 24 hour access, others you have to ring and check in with the owner and arrange a time to collect your caravan. Early on in your planning you will need to decide on which way you want to go with this and a lot will depend on the security arrangements you make and if its acceptable to have members of the public accessing your land 24 hours a day. If you are a working farm for example, there may be public liability issues that you need to take into consideration. Access times may also have implications in other areas like traffic levels on the road and lighting at night. There also can be planning restrictions that require access between set times.

Planning Permission…

Will I need planning permission? Well simply put…. as I understand it, Yes. The planning approval required is known as B8 – Storage and Distribution to include outside storage. This is something that you will need to do your own research on and I’d suggest maybe getting the assistance of a professional.

Where to Find Out More Information…

The best group for information is CASSOA – The Caravan Storage Site Owners Association. Nearly every caravan and motorhome owner will have heard of them and their website is usually the first place a caravan or motorhome owner will go to when searching for storage sites.

If you are a farmer thinking about diversifying then there is a good article in Farmers Weekly about this specific topic. It touches on a number of subjects including implications of Business Rates to the project.

The Business Barn – Key Priorities when starting a caravan storage business.

If you have watched the TV series ‘Suits’ you know what’s coming…

In the preparation of this article the author has been guided by personal experience and is intended as a discussion document only. All of the advice and comments are given in good faith but does not form any guarantees. The author does not accept any liability in the event of any breach of planning law, financial law or site security.