13 Things to Know Before Renting a Storage Unit

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Roommates packing up belongings to store in a storage unit

According to a study by Storage Cafe, more than 20% of Americans utilize self-storage, and another 15% say they plan on renting a unit in the future. If you’re among the 15% or are simply curious about renting a storage unit, here are 13 things you should know before renting one

Not All Storage Facilities Are Made Equal

While some facilities are regularly inspected, offer 24/7 access, and are equipped with surveillance cameras, that’s not the case for all self-storage sites. Here are a couple of factors you’ll want to consider before opting for a specific self storage facility

  • Security: A safe and secure storage facility will have security cameras, gated access, proper lighting, and in-person surveillance.
  • Accessibility: If you predict you’ll need your items at inconvenient times, opt for a unit with 24-hour access.
  • Location: Retrieving items from a facility located across town can be a hassle. Consider how far you’re willing to drive and how frequently you’ll need to access the unit.
  • Reviews: If you’re still not sure whether you’re looking at a safe and suitable facility, check out the reviews to get a full picture of the renting experience. 

You’ll Need a Valid Government-Issued ID

When renting a storage unit, be prepared to present a valid form of identification. This could be a driver’s license, a passport, a state ID, or a military ID. You’ll also be asked to sign a contract, agreeing to any conditions set by the storage facility. 

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Storage Units Vary in Size

The size of storage typically ranges from about 5×5 feet to 10×30 feet. Here’s a breakdown of popular storage unit sizes and what they can hold: 

  • 5×5: This unit is the size of a small closet. A 5×5 storage unit can fit a small mattress set, a dresser, and several medium-sized boxes.
  • 5×10: The 5×10 is the size of a small walk-in closet. It can fit the contents of a mid-sized bedroom.
  • 5×15: This unit is the size of a large walk-in closet. It can fit the contents of a single bedroom, including a dresser, a queen-sized bed, golf clubs, a television set, and several medium- to large-sized boxes.
  • 10×10: This is arguably the most popular storage unit. The size of half a standard one-car garage, the 10×10 unit can fit the furnishings of an entire family room or two full bedrooms.
  • 10×15: The 10×15 unit can fit the contents of three full bedrooms.
  • 10×20: The size of a standard one-car garage; the 10×20 can fit the furnishings of a multi-bedroom house, including a couch, refrigerator, dining room set, and several large boxes.
  • 10×30: This storage unit is as large as a one-and-a-half-car garage. It can fit the furnishings of a three to five-bedroom house.

Costs Can Vary

A self storage unit typically costs somewhere between $75 and $300 a month, although there are some units available for as low as $40. The cost is based on factors such as size, location, facilities, and any additional insurance fees. 

Long-term leases are usually cheaper than short-term leases, and climate-controlled units tend to be more expensive. 

Most Storage Contracts Are Month-To-Month

If you need a storage unit for just a week, prepare to pay for the entire month. Most self-storage rental companies, like Neighbor, operate on month-to-month contracts. You won’t have to sign any long-term contract, but you will pay for the full month. 

If you’re looking for something with weekly contracts, look into independent locally-owned storage companies, as they are more likely to offer short-term storage contracts.

You Might Need a Climate-Controlled Unit

There are two types of self-storage units: climate-controlled units and non-climate-controlled units. Here’s the difference:

Climate-Controlled Storage Units

These units are housed inside a building and maintain a temperature between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Climate control storage means that items are protected from humidity and extreme temperatures. Opt for one of these units if you’re storing sensitive or valuable belongings, like artwork, electronics, antiques, or musical instruments. 

Climate-controlled storage units of the same size cost more than the non-climatized units, but usually only by about $10 a month. However, non-climate-controlled storage units often offer drive-up access, meaning you can park your car or truck right outside the unit for better accessibility. 

Non-Climate-Controlled Storage Units

These units lack temperature or humidity regulation, making them suitable for more durable items, such as gardening supplies, camping gear, bikes, seasonal decorations, and construction materials.

Some Storage Facilities Offer Free Truck Rentals

Moving your belongings can be a hassle if you don’t have a truck. Luckily, some storage companies, like CubeSmart and AAA Self Storage, offer free truck rentals. There’s typically a 4-hour time limit, and you’ll be expected to load, drive, and unload the truck yourself, but it’s all free of charge. 

If that’s not available at your facility, you can rent a truck from companies like U-Haul or Enterprise Truck Rental. If all else fails, ask your truck-driving friends if they’ll help you out.

Those who are physically unable to move their belongings or don’t have the time to can always look into full-service storage facilities, where crew come to pick up belongings and customers receive an inventory log. 

You Can’t Work or Live Inside a Storage Unit

This might sound obvious, but it needs to be emphasized that living or working in a storage unit is illegal and violates the lease contract. These units lack proper ventilation and pose significant safety risks. 

If you are caught working or living in a storage unit, you risk immediate eviction from the facility and you may have to pay legal fines. Although you can’t work in a unit, you can store documents or work-related equipment here. 

You’ll Likely Need Insurance for Your Belongings

If you have homeowners or renters insurance, your belongings are already protected, whether they’re in your home, in a storage unit, or anywhere else. 

Most storage facilities require renters to have some kind of insurance coverage. If you don’t already have homeowners or renters insurance (which will cover your belongings when stored in and outside of a storage unit), you’ll have to explore alternatives. Your options include purchasing a self-storage insurance plan from a third-party provider or signing up for an insurance plan directly from the storage facility. 

Many storage facilities have an insurance plan designed to help customers who don’t already have insurance for their belongings. These plans typically cost between $8 and $38 a month. Security Public Storage, for instance, offers plans for $12, $14, and $16 a month. 

There’s a Right and a Wrong Way to Pack a Storage Unit

A general rule of thumb is to always opt for a storage unit slightly larger than what you actually need, just to play it safe. However, if you learn to pack well and optimize space, that might not be necessary. 

Here are a couple of tips to help you save space when renting a storage unit:

  • Disassemble bulky furniture: Remove table, chair, and bed legs to stack and store them in less space.
  • Stack your items: Storage units are usually about eight feet tall, so utilize stackable bins to maximize vertical space.
  • Leave an aisle: Leave a walkway in the middle of your unit so you can easily access all of your belongings.
  • Fill up: Fill any furniture items, wardrobes, and dressers, that you’re storing with smaller items to maximize space.

You Can Store a Car in a Drive-up Storage Unit

If you’re looking for a place to keep your vehicle when it’s not in use, a drive-up storage unit is a great option. You’ll need a 10’x20′ unit to fit a standard car, and a 10×30 unit to fit a truck. These units offer convenient access for vehicles, including motorcycles, cars, and even RVs. 

However, most facilities don’t permit vehicle owners to treat the unit as a workshop or conduct any repairs on their vehicles while in storage–as cars contain flammable and hazardous chemicals. 

Most storage units also don’t have electricity, so keep that in mind when parking a vehicle. 

Some Items Are Prohibited From Storage Units

From refrigerators to bikes to mattresses, storage units can hold most household items, but there are a couple of exceptions. Here are some things that should stay at home: 

  • Hazardous materials
  • Combustible or flammable materials
  • Food or items that attract bugs
  • Living things (humans, animals, and plants)
  • Weapons, explosives, and stolen items
  • Wet or scented items

For more information on the dos and don’ts of what to store in your storage unit, check out this article

Traditional Storage Facilities Are Prone to Theft

Unfortunately, theft is always a possibility and something you should be prepared for. If you discover that your unit was broken into, immediately notify the storage facility’s management and request information about the security protocols, including the surveillance cameras and access control.

You should also notify the local police and review your insurance policy to ensure the stolen items are covered. File a claim with your insurance provider and provide them with the necessary documentation. 

To avoid the risk of theft, opt for a peer-to-peer storage option, like Neighbor. These tend to be safer than traditional facilities. 

In Summary

Once you’ve moved your belongings into their new home, be sure to check up on the unit periodically to make sure nothing has been stolen (or damaged due to temperature or humidity). Once every month or every two months is a general rule of thumb, especially if you’re storing any valuables. This provides peace of mind and ensures your belongings are safe and in great condition. 

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