Storage Units & Services

What is a storage unit?

Storage units (or self-storage facilities) rent space on a short-term basis to individuals or businesses. Oftentimes, rental contracts are month-to-month, but longer contracts are also available. According to the Self Storage Association, there are more than 52,500 self-storage facilities in the U.S., totaling 2.3 billion square feet of rentable space.

Storage units are available in a variety of sizes. Some of the most popular sizes are 10 feet by 5 feet (about the size of a walk-in closet), 10-by-10 (size of a small bedroom), 10-by-20 (size of a one-car garage), and 20-by-20 (size of a two-car garage). Storage units are usually windowless, and the renter is responsible for securing the contents with his or her own lock and key. Businesses and individuals typically store household goods or extra inventory in a storage unit, but there are also options in which you can store a car, boat or camper.

Most storage unit facilities offer their customers 24-hour access, but use different means to keep the area secure at all times, including security guards, cameras and alarms. You’ll often find the facility is secured with an electronic gate, which renters can open with a keycard or number code. In addition to reviewing the storage facility’s insurance policy, be sure to check with your own insurance company to see if your items are covered while at a storage facility.

What types of storage are available?

Storage units are found in urban, suburban and rural areas. Depending on your needs and your location, you may have some options to consider. There are three main types of storage available:

Drive-up storage: A favorite option for many individuals seeking extra space, drive-up storage is best equated to having an extra garage. These units are suited for items such as sports equipment, furniture, seasonal items, small-engine vehicles, toys and boxes of miscellaneous items that can withstand temperature fluctuations.

With direct access to and from your vehicle, drive-up storage is convenient to move items into and out of your unit. These units tend to have roll-up doors, allowing for easier loading and unloading, and maximum use of space.

Indoor storage: This climate-controlled option is ideal if you have items to store that might be sensitive to the environment. Typically, these temperature-controlled facilities are multiple floors, which will require you to use an elevator to access your storage unit. They have interior access to the storage unit’s door (some may have a door alarm), and provide an extra layer of protection if security cameras are monitoring hallways.

Indoor storage is useful for keeping antiques, artwork, photographs, appliances and electronics. It's also more resistant to humidity, dust and pests.

Outdoor storage: Consider it a reserved parking spot in a secure area. Outdoor storage is ideal for individuals who need space for a car, RV, boat or motorcycle. You can also store trailers and trucks. Based on price per square foot, outdoor storage is one of the most affordable options — especially in metropolitan areas with expensive parking. If you don’t want to leave your vehicle exposed to the elements, search for rental space in a heated or unheated warehouse that caters to vehicle storage.

Portable storage units: Designed for convenience, these large storage containers are delivered to you, right to your driveway. They’re typically used during a move, and provide the convenience of being able to unload items from your house directly into a storage container. Owned by various storage companies, the aluminum containers range in size from 7 feet (which can hold the contents of one room) to 16 feet (can hold contents of three to four rooms). Once your contents are loaded into the container, the storage company will either deliver it to an address you provide or store it at their facility until you’re ready for delivery and unloading.

How much does a storage unit cost?

The monthly cost of a storage unit will vary depending on where you live, what type of storage you seek and how large of a space you want to rent. According to the Self Storage Association, the average price of a non-climate controlled 10-by-10 unit was $115 a month in 2013. For a climate-controlled unit of the same size, the price averaged $146 a month.

Regardless of the size of the storage unit, expect to pay at least $25 to $30 more per month for a climate-controlled environment. For outdoor storage, prices can range between $25 and $100 a month. If you’re signing a multiple month contract, be sure to inquire about any available discounts or promotions.

The cost for renting a portable storage unit will also vary depending on where you live, but many portable storage container companies offer online calculators to determine a price immediately. In most instances, you’re able to keep the portable storage container up to four weeks without any additional fees or expense.

How to choose the best storage unit for your needs

First, take a look at all the items you plan to put in storage. Selecting the right size storage unit is critical — choose one too large, and you’ll be paying more than you need. But choose one that’s too small, and you’re faced with the unenviable task of moving everything to a larger locker.

A climate-controlled storage unit is ideal for items that are sensitive to the elements. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Nina D., of Okatie, S.C.)

Do the math to determine which size storage unit will fit you best. If you’re in the process of moving, consult with the movers on what size they recommend. Keep in mind you may want to leave a little extra space for you to walk in if you plan on regularly removing items. Other items to consider:

Location: Just because it’s closest to you, doesn’t mean it’s the best. Extend your search far enough so you have a handful of options to investigate.

Check the reviews: Before entrusting your items to anyone, thoroughly research their Angie’s List reviews so you’ll know which ones to avoid.

Compare office and gate hours: Note what times the office is open, so if there’s a problem or you have a question, someone is available to help. Oftentimes, storage unit facilities will post their “gate hours,” which are the times you can access your storage unit, but there might not be an employee on the grounds.

Visit, and ask questions: Don’t be pressured to sign a contract right away. Ask to see the unit you would actually get so you know exactly what you’re getting. Find out when the rent is due, and what happens if you miss or are late with a payment. If you plan to sign a lengthy contract, find out what fees are applicable if you should cancel before it expires.

Once you’ve seen the unit and if you’re comfortable with the facility, ask if you can put a hold on the space. Property management may or may not be able to reserve the storage unit for you, but don’t be swayed by high-pressure sales tactics. Take time to investigate several options and thoroughly read the paperwork before signing a contract.

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