What to Know About Storage Unit Locks

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
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Published on March 02, 2021
5 min read

At a glance

There are three basic storage unit locks with costs ranging from about $40–$400. Move.org put together some tips and tricks to help you choose the right lock for your self-storage unit:

  1. Closed-shackle padlocks are the most affordable.
  2. Cylinder locks are the most secure.
  3. Disc locks are the most popular.

You purchase your own storage unit lock

Storage units require locks to keep your belongings safe—and you have to buy them separately. Without locks, a dirty rotten scoundrel could simply walk up to your unit, roll up the unit door, and walk out with your valuables. A good lock keeps burglars out.


Three main types of locks

Storage unit locks vary by design, size, quality, and cost. There are hundreds to choose from, and prices range from about $5 to $5,000 (seriously). But it’s not quite as complicated as it sounds. Almost all of your options boil down to three types of locks that cost between $40–$400.

Types of storage unit locks

Lock type
Price range
Description
Learn more

Closed-shackle padlock

$40–$130

Most affordable

Cylinder lock

$45–$280

Most secure

Disc lock

$50–$400

Most popular

Closed-shackle padlock

Closed-shackle padlocks are your most affordable option. They’re an upgraded version of the combination lock you probably used on your junior high gym locker.

Standard padlocks are easy for thieves to slice through with bolt cutters. That’s why you want a closed-shackle padlock where the U-shaped bar at the top (the “shackle”) is thicker and less visible than a regular padlock. Because the shackle isn’t exposed, there’s no room for a looter to snip through the lock and run off with your stuff.

Expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $130 for a quality closed-shackle padlock.

Closed Shackle Padlock

Cylinder lock

Cylinder locks offer the best security. They’re what you have on your front door. The “lock” part is inside the door, so thieves either need your key—or they have to pick the lock or break the door down.

A cylinder lock, or pin tumbler lock, uses various lengths of pins that move in a pattern when the correct key is inserted into it.

These locks are great in theory but tricky to use in real life. Not all storage units allow cylinder locks and those that do often have strict size requirements. They’re also a pain to install and repair (think lots of power tools). So while cylinder locks offer the best protection, they usually aren’t a realistic option.

A decent-quality cylinder lock generally costs between $45–280.

Cylinder Lock

Disc lock

Disc locks are the most popular type of storage unit protection. These locks are basically the same thing as closed-shackle padlocks—except they’re round (instead of square or rectangular).

Disc locks are easy to use, and the circular shape and small opening makes the locks a nightmare for crooks to tamper with. The combination of usability and security makes this lock a favorite of both storage unit customers and self-storage companies.

Costs range from about $50–$400 depending on how strong you want your lock (read more below).

Closed Disk Padlock

Storage unit locks: Tips and tricks

It can be hard to select the right lock even if you know the difference between the three main options. We’ve put together some tips and tricks that should make it easier to find an affordable, high-quality lock that’s perfect for your situation:

Shop online. Don’t buy locks from the storage unit company or your local hardware store. Their prices are attractive, but the locks are often low-quality. Amazon has your best options.

Go heavy. If choosing between two nearly-identical locks, go with the heavier option. It’s a sign that the lock uses stronger metals.

Use the ‘lost key’ test. When looking for a lock, ask yourself how hard it would be to break into your unit if you lost your key. If you think you could bust open the lock with a hammer or rock, chances are a robber could too.

Stay away from combination locks. Thinking about a combination padlock? Forget about it. These locks might be easy on your wallet, but the low quality makes them magnets for bad guys.

Don’t be (too) cheap. Everyone likes low prices, but use some common sense and basic math. If a thief can buy bolt cutters for $30, your storage unit lock should cost at least that much. The more valuable your belongings, the more expensive your lock should be.

Pay the brass tax. If your storage unit is outdoors, rain and snow will gradually weaken the metal on your lock. Brass locks offer the best protection against the weather.

Don’t jump the gun. Ask your storage unit company what size lock you need. Size requirements can vary by company, so it’s important to nail down the details before purchasing a lock.

Think of your lock as a last line of defense. Locks are essential, but a top-notch storage facility has several extra security layers. Look for a self-storage company with gates, an electronic keypad at the entrance, and plenty of video surveillance. The best self-storage companies make it difficult for burglars to reach your storage unit.


Storage unit lock FAQ

Do you need your own lock for storage units?

Yes, you need your own lock for storage units. Most people choose between disc locks, closed-shackle padlocks, and cylinder locks.

Where can I get a cylinder lock for my storage unit?

You can get a cylinder lock for your storage unit online or at your local hardware store. Just be sure to check with your storage facility first––some companies don’t allow cylinder locks.

Should I use a hardened steel lock for my outdoor storage unit?

No, you shouldn’t use a hardened steel lock for your outdoor storage unit. Rain and snow can damage hardened steel, so outdoor units work best with brass locks.

What size of lock do I need for my storage unit?

Ask your self-storage facility what size of lock you need for your storage unit. Not all locks are compatible with all doors, so it’s critical to know your storage unit’s size requirements before purchasing a lock.

What is a disk lock?

A disk lock (correctly spelled “disc lock”) is a circular-shaped lock that offers enhanced protection for your storage unit. Costs range from about $50–$400 depending on the quality.

Does Public Storage sell storage unit locks?

Yes, Public Storage sells storage unit locks. Each Public Storage location has an on-site retail store where you can purchase disc locks and cylinder locks (standard padlocks don’t work on Public Storage doors).

What are round locks for storage units called?

The most popular round locks for storage units are called disc locks. These circular locks are compatible on most storage unit doors and they’re hard for thieves to crack open.

What is the most secure lock for storage units?

The most secure lock for storage units is a cylinder lock. However, these locks are difficult to install, and some storage companies don’t allow them. The next best options are disc locks and closed-shackle padlocks.

Is there a master lock for my storage unit?

No, there is not a master lock for your storage unit. You purchase your own lock so that no one else can access your storage unit.

What is the best kind of storage lock?

The best kind of storage lock depends on your needs. Closed-shackle padlocks are the most affordable, and disc locks are the most popular. Cylinder locks are the most secure, but they’re tricky to install and aren’t always compatible with your storage unit door.


Kurt Manwaring
Written by
Kurt Manwaring
Kurt Manwaring brings nearly a decade’s worth of research experience as a business consultant to the Move.org team. He specializes in taking complicated issues (like moving) and presenting them in a way that everyone can understand. His writing has been featured in hundreds of publications, including USA Today, Martha Stewart Living, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Heavy, Slate, and Yahoo! Lifestyle. He brings a BS in sociology and an MPA (masters of public administration) to the Move team. He would love to hear about your moving experiences and questions at kurt@move.org.