Is a Car Cover as Good as a Garage?

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So we’ve filled our garage with lots of stuff – stuff which, incidentally, we’ll probably never look at again, let alone use. The problem is, how do we protect our two cars from the elements? Of course, car covers! But, is a car cover as good as a garage? We did a bit of digging to find out before we took the plunge…we found:

A car cover is as good as a garage in keeping the paintwork protected from rain, snow, wind, hail and UV radiation, but it won’t keep the car dry from moisture in the air as well as a garage. A car cover is also less convenient to use, but the big advantage of a car cover over a garage is the cost. You’ll typically pay no more than $60 for a good quality cover; a garage, on the other hand, may cost upwards of $5,000.

So we went into it in a bit more detail. Read on below…

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Does Your Car Need To Be Covered In The First Place?

We’ve written elsewhere about how to protect your car from snow without a garage, and we believe the best thing for your car is to have some sort of cover, if only during the winter period.

Not only is the onset of cold temperatures, snow and hail not good for your car’s paintwork, chrome and plastic accessories, even when the sun shines there’s unseen changes taking place in the car’s finish. Harmful UV rays are bombarding your car’s nice shiny appearance which will, over time, make the paint fade and the plastic less flexible.

Regularly covering up your car, either by putting it away in a garage or using a car cover, will help to preserve its appearance and ultimately its value.

But, given the state of our garage, should we go for car covers, or go to the effort of clearing out the garage?

Is a Car Cover as Good as a Garage?

We looked at the advantages and disadvantages of car covers vs garages.

Disadvantages of a Car Cover Compared to a Garage

What are the disadvantages of a car cover v a garage?

  • They’re a bit of a Hassle

OK, it’s early in the morning, it’s been snowing overnight, your hands are freezing, and you’ve got to get the cover off the car. It’s enough to make you cuss. There’s no doubt putting a car cover on, and taking it off, can be awkward and can take a little time.

You’ll also have to find a place to put it when you’ve taken it off. Not easy, when it’s dripping wet or crusty with frost.

However, once you’re used to it you’ll get better at it and it’ll take less time. You’ll get used to it. Placing a plastic box near where you park, say tucked behind the garden wall, can provide a solution to storing the cover when you’re away. Or just stick it in your trunk, so to speak.

  • They’re Less Secure

Padlocking (yes, you can get lockable car covers) (paid link) a car cover may seem a little futile in the face of a determined thief, and it probably is, but a well secured car cover may deter the casual door-trier, and protect the car from any casual vandalism if it’s parked in the street.

However, there’s no doubt a garage is more secure. That is, if you bother to lock it. Having said that we had a friend who had $10,000 worth of bikes stolen from their garage, despite a heavy padlock on the door, and padlocked chains around the bikes which could have anchored the Titanic.

  • They Don’t Last For Ever

But then, what does?

You’ll probably get a good 5 or 6 years, or maybe some more, out of a quality car cover, depending on how well you treat it and your local weather conditions.

A garage may be around for 30 or 40 years from a garage, or maybe more. Ours was built around 1920 I think. That’s definitely an argument in favor of a garage.

The relatively short life of car covers may be an advantage though – you may need a new one when you upsize your car (you know, for that Ford 150 you always wanted…), and you won’t feel so bad if the cover is worn out.

  • They Don’t Get Your Car Off the Street

If you don’t have a drive already. A garage, by definition, will be off the street.

You may have to park in a parking lot, though.

A cover may give protection from passers by.

Advantages of a Car Cover Compared to a Garage

So, what are the advantages of a car cover v a garage?

  • They’re cheap

Car covers are nowhere near as expensive as buying or building a garage. No more than a tank of gas (or a few battery top ups if you’re green).

It will probably cost upwards of $5000 to build a garage, whereas a good quality car cover (paid link) could be had for less than $70.

  • There’s No MaintenanceA Car Cover Won’t Have Ongoing Costs

Just fold ’em up and put them away somewhere, preferably dry (or it may get the cat litter in the cupboard wet).

Just try and clean the bird poop and sticky stuff off it every now and again (see below) using warm water with washing up liquid.

A garage roof will need replacing at some stage, maybe after 20 years if flat and made of felt.

  • If You Park Under a Tree…

If you habitually park your car under a tree (try not to!), then the cover will protect your car from bird poop and sticky drips from the tree itself – and possibly even from falling branches in a gale.

  • A Good Car Cover Will protect Your Car Almost As Well As a Garage

Whilst a garage will keep your car generally free of moisture, and will enable you to maintain a dry atmosphere (and therefore keep your car free of rust) – particularly if you have a dehumidifier. However, a car cover will keep the worse of the weather off your paintwork, and most importantly maintain a good degree of ventilation around the car.

  • A Garage May House Vermin – Mice Don’t Like Drafty Covers

If you leave your car undisturbed for a while you may find little visitors take a liking to your trim, or worse still find a way into your car and do all sorts of damage. A car cover shouldn’t give the little vermin a house to hide in.

  • You Can Take A Car Cover With You

Whereas the garage is a fixed location, the cover is portable. You can enjoy the covering benefits not just at home, but everywhere you go. If you want to cover your car, you can do that even while being at the office, even during holidays, or out in the city.

Can a Car Cover be Used Inside the Garage?

The simple answer is: Yes. Some car covers are specific for interior use, such as this highly rated one listed on Amazon (paid link).

You might wonder, why would you cover your car if it is already inside? Even though it is not essential, an extra cover, while your car stays indoors, will result in more protection from dust and vermin. The indoor cover is even more useful if you don’t use your car frequently, or you storage it inside a garage for longer periods of time.

Materials for Outdoor Covers

For the outdoor covers to be successful, two elements must be taken into account. The cover needs to be resistant against the external conditions, at the same time it needs to be gentle and protective with the car’s exterior surfaces, and also to let the car breath through the cloth.

The material for outdoors is a durable one, usually made of reflective polyester that protects both against the UV rays and waterproof. There are also some covers made of a simple, yet thick breathable cloth.

However, a real good outdoor car cover will also have an interior made of a different material, which can protect directly the surface. Usually this is a soft fleece lining with rubber grommets, so that nothing can ever scratch the car.

The covers for indoors are made of soft materials, like silk, satin, polypropylene, and have a high degree of breathability.

Can a Car Cover Damage the Car’s Paint?

Normally, if you use it properly, the car cover will never damage your car’s paint, nor the other bits and pieces, such as wing mirrors, aerial etc. However, you must be very careful to the way you use the cover, as we found it was easy to snag the aerial if you weren’t careful.

What Do I Need To Look Out For In Buying and Using a Car Cover?

  • Purchase The Specific Car Cover for Your Needs

Either for indoors or outdoors, with a higher resistance against external factors or not, your car will benefit from high quality materials.

  • The Right Cover Size

Make sure that the cover fits your car size and shape. Otherwise damage may occur, to the paint or to the plastic, rubber and metallic elements. Modern covers are often tailored to the specific car’s shape, and good quality covers can be bought in a variety of sizes, so that you can get a good fit for your car.

Look out for covers which make specific reference to elements of the car’s make and model; for example a number of covers have pockets for wing mirrors.

  • Breathable

The breathability of materials is also an important factor. When the car sits outside in rain or snow, or the atmosphere is humid, and hot, moisture might gather under the cover. Using a breathable car cover will help to dissipate any trapped moisture which may harm your car.

  • Ideally, Cover Only a Clean Car

Dirt, dust or other particles might scratch your car’s exterior if trapped under the cover. Whilst cleaning your car regularly may pose a challenge, it’s worth the extra effort to avoid damage to the paintwork.

Conclusion

So what did we do? We went ahead and got the covers. Whilst, in one way, they are less convenient than using the garage, it now means we have an extra room to store our useless stuff, without compromising the protection of our cars.

Image credit: Paul Keller Flickr.

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