What Is Self Storage — And How Does It Work?

Man packing boxes and looking for storage options

Over the course of our lives, we tend to accumulate stuff. That “stuff” might be temporary: anything from toys and furniture for kids to an extra car not currently needed on a daily basis, or even business supplies during a downturn in productivity. While we might not need it on a daily basis, quite a bit of that stuff still retains too much potential use to be discarded. Now’s the time to start thinking about self storage. But what is self storage?

The storage industry has become a thriving space over the past decade, increasing by more than 500% between 2015 and 2020 alone. If you still want something but it doesn’t fit in your home, a self-storage unit may be just what the doctor ordered to keep your belongings safe and secure until you need them again.

When it’s that time, you’ll come across plenty of options for your storage needs. In this guide, we’ll focus on self storage, including what it is, its advantages, different types, and how you can find a storage space that makes sense for both your possessions and your budget. Let’s jump in.

What Is Self Storage?

Put simply, self storage is a defined physical space that you can rent to store your belongings. Most frequently, you’ll see this referred to as a storage unit, but other types of self storage options exist as well.

What makes self storage different from full-service or managed storage is that you have full access to the unit you’re renting and, by extension, your belongings. You rent the space, which gives you the freedom to add and remove individual items, rearrange the unit, and access anything you need within the space at your own convenience.

6 Scenarios When You Might Need Self Storage

Let’s move from the what to the why. What is self storage used for?

The relatively low cost and independence of self-storage units mean that they are beneficial in a wide range of scenarios. These are the most common:

  1. Seasonal storage. Want to store all of your Christmas equipment until you need it in summer? How about gardening equipment during the winter? Self storage allows you to be flexible.
  2. Home remodeling. Self storage allows you to keep your furniture in a protected space until your home is ready for it again, especially for larger remodels.
  3. Selling your home. When staging the home for sale, many of your possessions (like toys or those comfy blankets) may need a temporary space. Put them in self storage until you’re moving into your new place.
  4. Temporary moves. When deploying for the military or for other types of temporary moves in your career, a storage unit allows you to keep your possessions safe until you return to the status quo.
  5. Decluttering. Sometimes, storage needs are as simple as getting some dear but unnecessary items out of your home. That old heirloom makeup station might not fit into your bedroom, but it can survive in the right storage unit.
  6. Business storage. Keep your business supplies or inventory in a safe space that allows you access to it only when needed or sales are made.

Of course, these are just some of the countless examples in which a self-storage option makes sense. The exact scenario also dictates which type of storage will be most beneficial for you.

3 Basic Types of Self Storage

Couple loading boxes into their indoor self-storage unit

Realizing that you can benefit from self storage is an important first step. The second is making sure you understand exactly what options you have and which of these options make the most sense for you. The answer to ‘What is self storage?’ can be a little complex depending on what you’re storing. Generally speaking, you can find three basic types of self storage: indoor self storage, outdoor self storage, and vehicle self storage.

What Is Indoor Self Storage?

Indoor storage units are typically part of a larger building, often a dedicated storage facility. They tend to be extremely secure because the building has separate security mechanisms from the units themselves. Many units are climate- and even humidity-controlled for more sensitive items and belongings. The downside is that you will likely pay more, and you can only access your unit when the facility is open during the day.

What Is Outdoor Self Storage?

Outdoor storage units are essentially like independent garages. They often have drive-up access, making it easier to move items in and out as needed and at your convenience. Of course, they’re also less restricted as a result and might come with lower security. Finally, there is typically no option for climate control, although the prices are lower than the more high-tech indoor alternatives.

What Is Self Storage for Vehicles?

Vehicle storage units are specifically designed to store cars, RVs, boats, and other vehicles. Depending on the provider, this might be (from least to most expensive):

  • A simple parking lot
  • Lift storage
  • Large vehicle warehouses that provide significant weather protection and increased security

Always ask what your options are when looking for storage for your vehicles, given how expensive the item you’re storing truly is.

How to Determine What Storage Size You Need

While the exact size of unit you can have likely depends on the storage type you choose, you can use the number and sizes of items you’re looking to store as a general guide to make sure you rent a unit that matches both your current and future needs. Here are some general estimates to get you started:

  • 5’x5′ — The size of a small walk-in closet, enough for six to eight moving boxes or a couple of pieces of furniture
  • 10’x10′ — Fits enough furniture for a one-bedroom apartment, including appliances
  • 10’x20′ — Fits enough furniture for a two-bedroom home, a small boat, or a compact car
  • 10’x30′ — Fits enough furniture for a three-bedroom home or an SUV-size vehicle
  • 20’x20′ — Fits enough furniture for a two-bedroom house, or two cars side-by-side

What Is Self Storage Pricing?: What to Expect

As you might expect, the prices of storage units vary drastically based on their size and type. Depending on what you pick, you can pay anywhere between $60 and $250 per month for a unit. Fortunately, a few important factors can help you narrow down exactly how much you can expect to pay:

  • Unit type. Expect to pay up to 20% more for indoor storage or 30% more for climate-controlled units.
  • Availability. Naturally, an area with fewer available storage spaces is able to bring up the pricing due to higher demand.
  • Location. Facilities in urban areas are typically more expensive to make up for higher leasing prices and more limited space.
  • Provider. For example, finding a self-storage solution through Neighbor can significantly lower your costs.

Ultimately, it’s always best to do your research. Finding out exactly how much you have to store and what a unit at that size and in the right environment would cost can go a long way towards finding a solution that helps you — both in the present and the future.

How to Find and Rent a Self Storage Unit That Makes Sense for You

Finally, let’s walk through some steps that can help you find the best possible self-storage unit for your needs:

  1. Narrow down exactly what you want to store, and pick the type of unit that makes sense for those items.
  2. Find a facility near you, or work with a platform like Neighbor to find alternative options for your items.
  3. Research the security of the facility to make sure your possessions will be in good hands.
  4. Rent your storage unit, keeping potential time discounts in mind. For example, committing to at least a year may help you pay less monthly.
  5. Plan out your moving day to align with the opening hours of the storage facility, and make a plan for how to make the most out of the available storage space.
  6. Consider taking out an insurance policy for the items you’re putting in storage. In fact, some facilities require it.
  7. Complete your rental agreement, and move in!

Self storage is hugely beneficial because of its mix of affordability, convenience, and safety. That’s especially true for Neighbor. What is self storage through Neighbor? We offer a peer-to-peer system that is safer, more convenient, and cheaper than traditional or commercial self-storage units. Whether to store your vehicle, seasonal equipment, furniture, or anything else, find a storage solution in your neighborhood today!

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