There are various reasons why you may choose to rent a storage unit for some or all of your belongings. Under specific circumstances, an extra storage space can be a life-saver, especially when you find yourself in the middle of a highly transitional period like a home move, for example.
Once you’ve reached the informed decision to rent a self-storage unit for a specific period of time, the next logical step is to first choose a self-storage facility, and then pick a storage unit size that is right for you.
This article will help you make all the right decisions related to choosing a storage unit for your needs. Keep in mind that although self-storage can prove to be a huge asset for you during the unpredictable relocation between two homes, it may also turn out to be a financial burden with a number of potential risks and dangers.
So, how to choose a self-storage unit without endangering your valued possessions or losing your savings in the process?
What you must know before choosing a storage unit
Naturally, it’s nice to have an extra storage space not too far from your home, secure, and easily accessible whenever you need it – some storage facilities offer a 24/7 access for their clients. It’s like having the extra spare room you’ve always wanted for a fixed monthly fee, isn’t it?
Here’s what you need to know before you make up your mind to rent a storage unit when moving to a new home.
Price: can you afford it?
Do the math before you get too excited about having more storage space at your disposal. The home moving process is rather expensive and you should be extra careful not to burden your budget unless you absolutely must. No matter how you look at it, self-storage is just another move-related expense for which you will be billed monthly until you move your stuff out of the storage unit.
Of course, the exact rental price will depend on various external factors such as the storage unit company, city, and location of the self-storage facility within the city. On average, the tiniest self-storage unit you can rent (5’ x 5’) will cost you anywhere between $60 and $100 per month, or sometimes more.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the storage space you get from the smallest storage unit size may not be nearly enough for your needs. Let’s face it: a 5’ x 5’ cell has the approximate dimensions of a standard home closet – what can you really fit inside it?
The final price you pay per month will be estimated after you’ve added any extra features that are paid extra – climate-controlled units are more expensive, of course. Only the storage unit company can give you an accurate price quote so that you can really weigh things up and decide whether or not to go through with your plan.
Location: is it really worth it?
As a rule of thumb, self-storage facilities in larger cities tend to be more expensive than their counterparts in more rural areas. However, the big question you will need to ask yourself is just how often you intend to access the items you want to place in storage.
If you plan to make frequent trips to your stuff, then picking a storage facility that is relatively far from your home will often prove to be a bad idea due to the greater amount of time you’re going to spend on the road. Let’s not forget the money you’ll pay for fuel that, little by little, can inflate the monthly bill more than you want and can afford. Oh, the wear-and-tear factor for your own vehicle should not be dismissed either.
Still, you can make the distance between your home and the self-storage facility work in your favor. How? If you are certain that you won’t need your stored items on a regular basis, then choosing a storage facility that falls outside your local area or city limits can be a shrewd financial decision thanks to potentially lower rent rates, larger discounts, and perhaps even better storage conditions.
Type of access: 24/7 or limited one
You won’t have to be a storage expert to guess that self-storage facilities that can be accessed 24/7 are usually more expensive. Similarly, storage facilities with a standard weekday access or even access on demand should be more reasonably priced.
Ultimately, it comes down to how important the storage unit accessibility is for you – is there a chance you will need a stored items of yours in the middle of the night? If the business hours of the storage facility suit your own schedule, then you should be content even without a-24 hour access. In any way, assess your needs before you go and choose a good storage unit for yourself.
How to choose a storage facility
First, let’s take a detailed look at the best way to choose a storage facility, and then we’ll discuss what you should look for when renting a storage unit – including advice on how to choose a storage unit of the right size.
If you have decided to place some belongings in storage while the household move is in progress or even after the relocation, then you’re going to have to rent a storage unit for the purpose. And clearly, it’ll be a serious mistake to do just that without going and seeing with your own eyes what you’ll be paying for.
You must do the storage facility tour before you say YES – after all, it’s not only about the money – it’s also about the safety of your own things.
Here’s what to look for when choosing a storage facility:
Cheaper is not always better, especially in the world of the self-storage industry. You shouldn’t get too excited if you locate a self-storage facility that offers surprisingly low rates because it can be so for a reason – insufficient or non-existent security, old buildings in bad condition, limited hours of operation, inconvenient location with difficult access, or even incompetent or unfriendly staff. Or maybe all of these “extras” at once!
How much money you pay to rent a storage unit is important, of course, but trying to save some bucks at the expense of your peace of mind and overall safety of your possessions is never worth it.
In addition to the price, the level of security offered by the storage facility is the most essential factor to look for – it alone often proves to be either the deal-maker or the deal-breaker. You just need to know that your household items will be secure – after all, that’s what you’re paying for, isn’t it? In most of the cases, it’s worth paying a bigger price in exchange for an excellent level of protection for your things.
Here are the basic security features you should look for:
- Fence. Needless to say, the entire storage facility should be fenced completely with a high-quality fence.
- Access gate. The access gate should be modern and should provide a high level of security for the entire complex. Is there a live guard present at the gate? If not, what about a security keypad that will only let through authorized persons?
- Surveillance system. The best self-storage facilities are equipped with a modern surveillance system that monitors all activities at key locations around the complex. Make sure you ask the storage unit company to give you more details their surveillance network, if any.
- Insurance. Will the items you place in storage be insured in any way? Anything can happen – theft, fire, natural catastrophe, etc., so you must be aware of the type of coverage you get. Lack of an adequate insurance is always a bad sign.
What’s the first impression when you look at the buildings inside the storage facility? Are they in a good overall shape – fairly new and without any noticeable structural damage? Rust is a sign of negligence and possible water leak problems, so it should not be visible anywhere on and around the buildings. No holes, regardless of their size, should be present either – holes could be a sign of infestation. All in all, all the buildings inside the storage facility should look presentable and pleasant to the eye.
Cleanness and tidiness
How do the premises look to you in terms of cleanliness? Can you spot trash lying around or any unrecognizable dirt along the buildings themselves? First impressions matter in this case, so if you see it with your own eyes that the whole storage complex is not maintained well, then that may be a reason to look for another one. The best storage unit companies will do their best to keep their respective self-storage facilities in great shape.
Parking spaces and illumination
Do you notice sufficient parking spaces around the storage complex, and especially ones directly in front of the storage units? If you don’t, then that could be a problem for you when you need to access your stored items in the future. Also, is there enough illumination around the entire facilities that provide good visibility at all times? Remember that you’ll also need sufficient light inside your rented storage unit too.
Level of occupancy
Have you noticed too many unoccupied storage cells? If yes, that could be a sign that something is wrong with the current self-storage facility even if you can’t tell why at the moment. Think about it: if the storage complex did offer affordable rated and excellent storage conditions for their clients, then why would most of the storage units be empty? Of course, your mission is to find out exactly that.
On-site staff and property manager
Finally, let’s say a few words about the customer service you’ll have to deal if you do decide to become a client of a self-storage facility. Although not usually on the top of the list of essential factors to look for, customer service is important. On-site personnel should be competent, respectful and friendly. A good property manager on site is also a big plus because unexpected problems may appear from nowhere and there should be someone who knows how to deal with them.
Useful info: Packing timeline for moving [packing checklist]
How to choose a storage unit
Now that we’ve covered in detail what to consider when choosing a self-storage facility, let’s explain what to look for when choosing a storage unit.
Storage cell conditions
Ask to see your future storage unit in person before you agree to rent it. First, take a look at the storage unit door – it should be strong and safe with a secure lock. Also, it should close tight and ideally – equipped with a waterproof seal to keep water away. The inside of the unit should be 100% dry with absolutely no signs of moisture. A ventilation system should be present – if not, then there should be suitable spaces at the top so that air can circulate and prevent the formation of mildew.
Short term or long term?
It’s important to get the right size of a storage unit, and one of the factors that will determine just that is the storage duration – how long you plan to store your items there.
For shorter storage periods, it’s usually okay to have your things packed really close together without bothering to leave an aisle for easier access. Tight packing will leave much less room for air ventilation but you still should be okay thanks to the short-term storage.
For much longer storage periods, ventilation becomes a critical factor so you should leave more space so that the air can circulate freely. Also, you are advised to leave a walkway through your stored stuff so that you can have a decent level of access whenever you might need it.
Amount of stored items
Of course, the storage unit size will depend on the number and sizes of the things you plan to place in storage. First, make a detailed inventory of those belongings, and then set aside the ones you will need to have access to more frequently.
The next step is to try to figure out the total collective packing size of all the things that will go into storage – for long-term storage, leave more space for air circulation. Finally, compare your space calculations with the available unit sizes (see below).
Storage unit size
Finally, let’s examine the storage unit sizes and what they can usually fit.
- 5’x5′ units (25 sq. ft.). How big is a 5’x5′ unit? It’s the size of a small home closet, and the room is good for boxes, clothes, small furniture pieces, children’s toys, and other small personal items.
- 5’x10′ units (50 sq. ft.). How big is a 5’x10′ unit? It’s good for boxes, clothes, and a better variety of furniture pieces such as chairs, a sofa, a mattress, and even a chest of drawers.
- 5’x10′ units (75 sq. ft.). How big is a 7.5’x10′ unit? Being a bit bigger than a 5’x10′ unit, such a storage cell can fit around the same amount of household items, plus maybe a bit more boxes and personal items.
- 10’x10′ units (100 sq. ft.). How big is a 10’x10′ unit? Such a medium storage unit can fit most or sometimes all the contents of a one-bedroom apartment, including cardboard boxes, furniture pieces and even some of the major house appliances.
- 10’x15′ units (150 sq. ft.). How big is a 10’x15′ unit? Now that you’re considering large storage units, such a cell can fit the contents of a 2-bedroom home, including all the boxes, furniture, and appliances.
- 10’x20′ units (200 sq. ft.). How big is a 10’x20′ unit? Renting 200 square feet of storage will enable you to fit all the contents of a 3-bedroom home.
Larger storage spaces (10’x30′ units and 20’x20′ units) are sometimes also available, but they are more suitable for commercial customers and business storage needs. Keep in mind that you can even store a motor vehicle inside those two last storage cells.
Must-read info: How much does it cost to hire movers?