What you should know before renting a storage unit
Self-storage facilities offer short- and long-term options for keeping home, personal, and business goods secure.
Whether you’re a college student stashing your stuff for the summer, a small-business owner storing files, or a new homeowner waiting on construction to be completed, you can use your self-storage unit to house your belongings (without having to resort to your parent’s basement).
Before you move everything in, get your self-storage unit questions answered in our first-timer’s guide.
1. What should I look for in a self-storage unit?
Making sure the unit you rent is safe and secure is a top priority, but here are a few other self-storage services to check for before you commit:
- Accessibility: Does the facility offer 24-hour access and weekend availability? Ensure you can get to your goods when you need them most.
- Security: Locks, video monitoring, in-person surveillance, and security gates or doors all offer protection for your priceless items.
- Pricing: Ask for specials and online discounts, and note any pricing variability in the contract to get the best bang for your buck.
- Availability: If you need a specific size or type of unit, be sure your storage location has one open.
- Location: While a facility closer to a city may be more convenient, it can cost you more. Balance convenience with price based on how often you need access to your unit.
- Reviews: What current and former customers think matters. Surly staff, robbery reports, and one-star reviews should knock any self-storage facility off your list.
Storage is for stuff
No matter how cheap the rent is, if you have a pulse, you don’t belong in a storage unit. Not only is it a violation of the lease to have humans or animals living in storage, but you could also get trapped if someone locks your unit from the outside!
2. What do you need to rent a storage unit?
Prepare to show some identification: you must provide a valid, government-issued form of ID to rent your storage unit. Here are your options:
- Driver's license
- State ID
- Military ID
You’ll also have to sign a storage unit agreement or contract (which you should definitely read from beginning to end!) and follow the rules it lays out.
3. How is the cost of a self-storage unit determined?
What you pay for your storage unit will vary based on the size of the unit and how long you plan to store your stuff. Many self-storage facilities offer month-to-month contracts, but you could get a discount by signing up for a longer term.
Pricing can also depend on whether your unit is indoors or outdoors, if it has drive-up access, and whether you need climate control. Location is also a huge factor. Expect a pricing surge in metropolitan areas like Washington, DC and New York City and more budget-friendly rates in less busy ‘burbs.
Learn the ins and outs with our detailed self-storage pricing guide.
4. How do you get your stuff to a storage unit?
While you can max out the trunk space in your Mazda, we suggest taking advantage of free truck rentals from select self-storage companies. A truck rental allows you to transport your bulky items in a single load, which cuts down the time (and headache) of moving into or out of your unit.
CubeSmart, Life Storage, Total Storage Solutions, and others include a truck rental with storage unit sign-up at select locations. And if you’re storing with U-Haul, you can rent a truck for a day.
Interested in our take on CubeSmart’s storage options? Read our complete CubeSmart Review.
Don't ignore your TV
A storage unit has its uses, but don't store your TV just because you're not sure whether to get cable or satellite (or cut the cord) at your new home.
5. Can you rent a storage unit for a week?
This depends on the company. Some self-storage companies—like U-Haul—don’t require a storage contract, meaning you can rent on a super short-term basis. Expect a higher rate per day for this type of storage.
Many other companies, like CubeSmart and Extra Space Storage, have storage unit rules and regulations that require at least a month-to-month contract. Renting on this schedule will typically net you a better rate too.
Want to know more about Extra Space Storage’s options? Check out our full Extra Space Storage Review.
6. Do you need a climate-controlled storage unit?
While all of your belongings can benefit from climate control, it’s especially important for items like clothing and furniture to prevent mold and mildew from growing. Protect your most prized possessions from extreme heat, cold, and humidity with climate-controlled storage units, which maintain temperatures between 55 and 80 degrees all year long.
Climate-controlled units generally cost more than standard storage, but the extra cost is worthwhile to ensure temperatures and humidity never rise or fall dramatically enough to damage your goods.
Here are a few items that we recommend placing in climate-controlled storage:
- Wooden and leather furniture
- Household appliances