Can You Keep A Classic Car Outside?

One of the more challenging aspects of car ownership is storage.

It’s one thing to have a car … it’s another thing altogether to have somewhere suitable to park it, whether that is overnight or for longer-term storage.

Depending on where you live, this could be a big challenge (or something simple to solve).

For example, if you live in an area with cheap housing and plenty of space, then you might have a house with a big garage – in which case your car(s) can easily be stored safely and securely, and their longevity prolonged.

However, in many parts of the world, car owners aren’t so lucky.

You might only have off-street parking e.g. up a driveway, but no garage, or you may have to leave your car on the road or in a parking lot if you live in an apartment or other complex.

A lack of storage facilities can be a real turn-off to owning a classic car.

But what if you don’t have garage space. In that case, can you keep a classic car outside? It’s one thing to store your modern “daily driver” out on the road, but what about a valuable classic?

In this edition of Car Facts we are going to look more at the implications and possibility of leaving a classic car outside. You might also like to read our recent article on whether you can drive a classic car in the winter, for more relevant information.

Is It Bad To Keep A Classic Car Outside?

To be brutally honest, in an ideal world you wouldn’t keep a classic car outside, exposed to the elements.

You would bring it home after each drive and park it up in a dry, secure garage.

There is no doubt that indoors storage/parking is better for your classic car – or any car, for that matter.

But can you keep your classic outside?

Yes, you certainly can. There are no “car police” who will rock up to your house and place you in cuffs if you choose to keep your classic parked outside.

You just need to be aware of some of the potential pitfalls – and the solutions/mitigations to them.

The Challenges Of Keeping Your Classic Outside

When it comes to outdoors storage/parking of your classic, there are a few key areas of concern. Here’s what you need to think about, as well as potential solutions and risk mitigations.

  • Exposure to the elements, meaning higher risk of paint damage and possibly rust.  This is an obvious one. A car parked up outside is going to see more rain, snow, wind etc. This can lead to faster deterioration of the paintwork (here in New Zealand, the weak Ozone layer coverage also means that paint suffers terribly from the effects of UV, particularly red cars) and an increased risk of rust, particularly on cars that are prone to rusting. If you are driving your classic car in the winter on salted roads, then the rust risk is even higher. Freak weather events such as hailstorms can also cause serious damage to cars parked outside.
    • Solutions: Ensure your car is regularly cleaned, kept waxed, and you have protected the undercarriage of the car if you live in a rust-prone area. Keep an eye on where you choose to park as well, for example trying to avoid parking under a tree where wind could cause branches to fall and damage your car, or leaves might fall and cover the paintwork.
  • Accident damage e.g. parking dings. If your car is parked in a parking lot, or in tight on-street parking, then there is a higher risk of dings or damage. All it takes is someone to accidentally back into your car and the damage is done.
    • Solutions: Try to find an outside parking/storage spot that isn’t too busy. For example, park in the furthest corner of the parking lot.
  • Theft and/or vandalism. Thefts from cars, and thefts of cars are on the rise (at least where we live). With prices on even modern classics rising very rapidly, there is strong demand for cars and in some places vehicles are now stolen to order or for parts to keep others’ cars running. While you can still have a car stolen from a garage, it is less likely than if parked outside. Some people are just plain nasty, and like to vandalise cars because they see something they can’t have, or just like causing damage.
    • Solutions: Ensure your car is fitted with an alarm and ideally an immobiliser system that makes it more difficult for the car to be stolen. Use additional deterrents such as a strong steering lock, and possibly even a locking wheel clamp (if parked up longer term) that both make theft more challenging and provide a visual deterrent to would-be thieves. Consider investing in a GPS tracker device for your classic if it is stolen, as well as trying to park somewhere where a security camera (either your own or a public one) can capture footage and potentially put off thieves or vandals. Make sure your classic is fully-insured to its replacement value for theft or damage, even if parked outside. We have heard of people being caught out by this before.

While you there is nothing you can do to completely minimise the risks of outside storage or parking of your classic (and sometimes bad things happened to garage-parked cars. There’s a comment on our Toyota Supra MK4 price guide from a poor soul who had a low-mileage, twin-turbo Supra parked up in a garage that then went up in flames!)

Longer Term Storage

If you plan on storing your classic car outside for a longer period of time (e.g. over the winter or while you’re away overseas) then there are some more considerations to make.

When a car sits for a long period of time, there are some additional challenges, such as:

  • Risk of rodents, insects or other critters finding their way into your car and nesting. One suggestion we have seen from a few different experts is to put some steel wool in the exhaust pipe of your car so that nothing can crawl up the tailpipe and nest. Leave a note on your dashboard or taped to your steering wheel, reminding you to remove the steel wool before starting the car up for the first time. You should also close all vents on the interior as well. Consider disconnecting the battery as well, so that the risk of it draining is minimised. Although it applies more to indoors storage, this episode of the Harry’s Garage show on YouTube has some excellent advice about long-term storage of cars:

  • Greater exposure to the elements. One solution here is to invest in a good car cover. However, a bad or ill-fitting car cover is worse than no car cover. If your cover leaks, then moisture can get trapped inside. If the cover is too loose, then gusts of wind may cause it to flap around and result in scratches to the paint. In some respects, you’re probably better off ensuring that you have thoroughly waxed the car prior to keeping it outside for storage, as there is definitely potential for a car cover to be detrimental to the health of your car.

Conclusion – Can You Park A Classic Car Outside?

Yes, you can keep a classic car outside.

It’s not like a classic car that is parked outside will spontaneously explode when exposed to the elements for a night.

However, outside storage – especially longer term – isn’t ideal for a number of reasons, as explained in this article. In an ideal world, you would park your car in a safe, secure, dry garage. It’s a bit like daily driving a classic car … you can do it, but it probably isn’t ideal.

From greater risk of rust and paint/finish deterioration, through to an increased chance of theft and vandalism, you should ideally avoid storing a valuable classic outside. In fact, all cars prefer to be stored in a nice dry garage, or at the very least under a carport or some other kind of structure.

If you are going to store your classic car outside, then it’s important to take steps to minimise the risks, such as keeping the paintwork waxed, ensuring a good alarm and anti-theft system is installed (ideally with a visible deterrent e.g. light that flashes at night) and trying to park in the most secure location possible.

Depending on your budget and how valuable your car is – or your desire to preserve it – you might even want to look at renting a storage facility.

Do you keep your classic car outside? If so, what advice do you have to our readers for keeping your car safe and secure?

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  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

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