I don't have a real garage. I have a portable shelter. And since I can't tuck my little MR2 into a snuggly warm bed for the winter, that's where he gets to spend it.
Said shelter isn't my first attempt at giving my beloved ride a comfy place to sleep. His first shelter looked like a good deal, until the weight of a winter's worth of snow stressed and ripped the crappy, cheap seams apart. Less than a year later, a wind storm ripped the cover from all but three of the straps that held it to the shelter's frame, leaving it flapping in the wind.
The replacement shelter is still in tip-top shape, 3 years later. Turns out, theres a right and a wrong way to buy a shelter. So, learn from my mistakes and consider a few common sense tips when shopping for a place for your car to stay with these winter storage solutions:
Winter Storage Solution No.1: Observe
Look at the cover.
Usually, its made of a polyethelene "tarp." Is it double or triple stitched together around the edges? What about where implements like windows, doors and straps are attached? Are the seams substantial? Is there a gaurantee against ripping and tearing?
The cover is the only thing separating your ride from the elements, so be sure its up for the job. Retailers like Canadian Tire even offer shelters with "welded" seams that do away with stitching altogether.
Winter Storage Solution No. 2: Count your grommets
Grommets are passages through the cover that allow it to be attached to the frame by screws, bungee cords or other means. These attachment points take a lot of wear when the cover is exposed to wind and snow. Generally, more grommets holding the cover in place give it less room to move over the frame, which results in less ripping, tearing and stress. Less flapping equals a longer cover life.
Winter Storage Solution No. 3: Keep the vicinity clear
Don't underestimate the damage that tree branches, possibly weighted down with snow, can do to your shelter's cover. Trim branches away so they can't come in contact with your storage solution, and remember that a sharp branch in a windstorm can wear significantly on your investment.
Winter Storage Solution No. 4: Anchors away
After finding a location for your car's winter refuge and checking with local bylaws that everything is hunky-dory, consider how you'll anchor the shelter to the ground. Unlike a garage, your shelter has no foundation which is why numerous anchoring options are possible. Shop knowing your surface so you can choose the best anchornig system for the job. Measure your car to ensure it will fit into your shelter (even with its doors open).
Winter Storage Solution No. 5: Domed is the way to go
A domed roof will help prevent the build-up of heavy snow, keeping weight off your shelter's cover and reducing wear. If you don't opt for a domed-roof model, occasional clearing of heavy snow is a good idea.
Winter Storage Solution No. 6: You get what you pay for
Remember that your shelter is likely similarly priced to a few years of paying to store your car elsewhere. With that in mind, spend a few extra bucks to get a top-quality unit, rather than opting to save a few dollars at the expense of quality.