Tips for Choosing a Self-Storage Facility

Andreea Draguleasa
December 12, 2023
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Ever noticed our spaces getting tighter while our stuff seems to multiply? Blame it on busy city lives, sudden moves or simply that urge to declutter without letting go. Self-storage is becoming the buddy we didn’t know we needed. But here’s the kicker: not all storage facilities are created equal.

Let’s get to the bottom of storage options and help you choose the right self-storage facility for your needs, a space where all your belongings stay safe, your wallet doesn’t cry and you have peace of mind.

Assess Your Storage Needs

Already on your way to choosing a storage facility? Let’s start simple: What are you looking to store? Your collection of winter coats, or perhaps, those bulky holiday decorations? By the way, lawnmowers and jet skis can be seasonal too in most states. Write it all down. While it’s tempting to get a space that “looks” right, it’s wise to first estimate how much room you truly need. You’d be surprised how fast space fills up.

Now, are you planning for just a summer or is this a year-long commitment? Short-term and long-term storage need different approaches. Oh, and if you’re thinking of stashing away that RV or boat, make sure your chosen spot can accommodate vehicle storage. Some units just aren’t cut out for everything.

Location and Accessibility of Storage Facilities

After assessing your storage needs, the next item on your list should be where the self-storage facility is located. Is it near your home or business? That’s super convenient for frequent visits.

Think about those facility access hours too. Some places let you in 24/7, while others might have more restricted hours. Trust us, you want to know that before you’re stuck outside at midnight with a carload of stuff.

Then there’s security — not just cameras, but feeling safe when you’re there, no matter the time. Consider the presence of on-site staff, the sturdiness of fencing or gates and if there are personal lock options.

Storage Facility Types and Features

When choosing a storage facility and unit type, you’ll find there is more than just a one-size-fits-all solution. Different treasures call for different types of treasure chests, right? Here are some storage options to choose from:

Climate-Controlled vs. Standard Units

You’ve probably got some items that need a little extra TLC. We’re talking about those sensitive things that just won’t survive a blazing summer or freezing winter. Climate-controlled units come to the rescue. They not only regulate temperatures but some also keep humidity at bay. Fun (or not so fun) fact: Mold can grow on a variety of items if conditions are right. So, if you are storing artwork, vintage clothes or important papers, climate-controlled units are a no-brainer.

Outdoor vs. Indoor Storage

Alright, picture this: a secure indoor unit tucked away versus an outdoor one with drive-up convenience. While indoor units often offer better security (like extra doors and CCTV), outdoor units let you just drive, dump and dash. Perfect for those with bulky items or in a hurry.

Specialized Storage (Vehicle, Boat, RV)

Got a boat or an RV? Some storage spots offer vehicle storage for items like classic cars, a personal watercraft or camper. If you live in an area with wild swings in temperatures or inclement weather, you may want to look for units that offer things like covered parking, so your beloved boat isn’t basking in the elements all day. Or maybe even a facility that offers units with electricity so that you can plug in a float charger for your battery.

Availability of Various Unit Sizes

Facilities typically offer a mix of sizes. After all, why pay for space you’re not using? Whether it’s a closet-size spot or a giant garage-like room, ensure there is a fit for your stuff and that you can later scale up or down as needed.

Security Features of Storage Facilities

Remember how we touched on feeling safe at any hour when accessing your items? Let’s go a bit deeper because that peace of mind feeling depends on tangible security measures a facility takes to protect your possessions. Here’s what to look out for when comparing storage facilities:

Gated access and fencing. This is a facility’s first line of defense against unwarranted access. Solid, secure gates and fences deter potential trespassers.

Security cameras and lighting. Well-lit areas can deter potential intruders, no doubt about that, and cameras act as watchful eyes for your benefit.

Personal locks. Investing in a high-quality lock is an added layer of protection that goes a long way. Different self-storage facilities may have requirements or recommendations when it comes to choosing a lock so make sure you adhere to their security standards before you invest in the wrong type. 

Staff presence and security policies. Attentive staff can make or break the security of a self-storage facility. Their presence is an additional level of security that also ensures all established security protocols are consistently enforced.

Cleanliness and Maintenance of Storage Facilities

While security is king, cleanliness is certainly the queen of a great storage experience. Now that you’ve made sure your items are safe, you’ll also want them to stay in top-notch condition. Note the following:

Facility cleanliness standards. The vibe you get from the overall tidiness of a self-storage facility can say a lot. A spotless environment speaks volumes about the facility’s commitment to keeping your items.

Pest control measures. Nobody wants uninvited critters nesting among their belongings. While you can use traps and take your own measures to seal potential entry points, nothing compares to regular pest control checks throughout the facility.

Well-maintained units and grounds. Proper maintenance, like fixing leaks and ensuring door seals are intact, is vital, wouldn’t you say? It keeps the elements out and your stored items pristine, just as they should be. Plus, it shows someone cares and does their job right for the benefit of all customers.

Pricing and Payment Options for Storage Facilities

So you’ve found a clean, secure place that fits your stuff. Great! Now, let’s talk about money. First, check the rental rates and any additional fees that the storage facility has listed. It’s not all about that monthly charge; sometimes, there are extra costs that you need to know about upfront. Secondly, stay on the lookout for discounts and promotions. Some places love to reward customers who commit for the long haul with a price break. It’s a win-win.

Now, when it comes to lease terms, some facilities offer flexibility while others have set periods. Know your obligations before you sign on the dotted line. As for payments, most facilities accept major credit cards, checks and online payment methods.

And the golden rule when choosing a storage facility? Transparency in pricing. No one wants hidden costs to spring up, especially if you are in it for the long haul. Always request a clear, itemized breakdown of fees. It’s reassuring to know exactly what you are paying for.

Storage Facility Reviews and Reputation

What’s the word on the street about your chosen self-storage facility? Just start with a quick online search on Google, Yelp or TrustPilot. Reviews and ratings give a firsthand glimpse into other customers’ experiences but be mindful that people may be more inclined to share negative reviews than positive ones.

Next up, go ahead and ask your friends or your local community as they might have valuable first-hand insights that the internet missed. Last but not least, even if the online reviews are glowing, consider visiting the facility in person. It’s the best way to gauge the real deal on its condition and service quality. Trust but verify, right?

Insurance Options at Storage Facilities

Storing your precious items means one more aspect to consider: storage unit insurance. Storage facilities often offer their own insurance coverage. Still, it’s essential to understand all the details of their policy. How much are they covering and against what risks?

Got a homeowner or renter insurance policy? Check it out because sometimes they have off-premises storage coverage tucked in there. But don’t assume; always verify. If gaps exist, or if you are storing particularly valuable items, consider supplemental insurance tailored for storage situations. But first, have a chat with your current insurance provider. They might have insights or even options you hadn’t considered.

Customer Service and Staff at Storage Facilities

Choosing a storage facility isn’t all about the bricks, gates and locks. The people behind the counters and on the phones matter a lot. After all, they are the heartbeat of the place. Here’s what to assess:

  1. Availability and responsiveness of staff. You don’t want to be left hanging when you’ve got a question or concern. Whether it’s about gate codes, payment and storage options or just needing some guidance, having attentive staff on hand can be a tipping point.
  2. Clear communication and assistance. Ever felt lost in jargon or confused by policies? A top-notch facility will have staff that explains things in plain English, helping you cruise through all the storage dos and don’ts.
  3. Problem resolution and customer feedback. Sometimes things go awry. It’s life. But it’s how a facility addresses and rectifies these issues that speaks volumes. Listen to how they handle feedback and, more importantly, what they do about it.

Remember, if you are someone who’s accessing your storage frequently or even just at the start when you’re figuring things out, having responsive and helpful staff can make the experience feel like a breeze instead of a chore.

Storage Facility Policies and Rules

Diving into the fine print isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but when it comes to comparing storage facilities, it’s a must. Familiarizing yourself with facility policies can save you a lot of headaches down the road. Want to access your unit at the break of dawn? Check those access hours. Need help moving your stuff? Look up their policy on moving truck usage.

And it’s not just amenities that you have to check. What about what’s allowed and what’s not? That is very important too. For instance, while it might sound adventurous, living or running a business from a storage unit is a strict no-no. Similarly, each facility might have its own list of prohibited items. Bottom line? Know the rules and play by them.

Accessibility and Convenience of Storage Facilities

Is accessibility just a buzzword? We think it’s what makes your storage experience smooth or, well, not so smooth. For instance, say you are moving a bulky couch. Wouldn’t it be convenient if there was a dolly right there to help? That’s the beauty of facilities that offer moving equipment like dollies and carts — they make life easier.

Another thing to consider when choosing a storage facility is its layout. How close can you get your vehicle to the loading areas? Shorter distances mean less heavy lifting, fewer helping hands needed and time saved. And one more thing: Top facilities go out of their way to ensure they are accessible for all and cater to individuals with special needs. Whether you need this extra care or not, it is still a welcome plus that shows the company values everyone in your community.

Environmental Considerations

Thinking green? It makes sense to choose a storage facility that reflects your values. Plus, going eco-friendly can also mean saving your belongings in a more efficient way, not just the planet. Go ahead and ask the self-storage facility about their:

  1. Green and sustainable practices. Many facilities are stepping up, with things like recycling programs, energy-saving lights or even using eco-friendly building materials.
  2. Climate-controlled units for sensitive items. These units that protect your stuff from wild temperature swings often run on systems designed to be energy efficient.
  3. Environmental commitment. A little digging can reveal if a facility is genuinely eco-minded. Some might harness the sun with solar panels, while others could be planting trees or sponsoring local green initiatives.

Choose the Ideal Self-Storage Facility for Your Needs

So you’ve done your homework and there’s a lot to take in, right? From location benefits to the ins and outs of security features, the whole spectrum matters. There is no one-size-fits-all, but the ideal self-storage facility does tick the same essential boxes, namely security, convenience and affordability.

Understand what you’re looking for and don’t rush when picking out your storage place. Think about everything, from how clean it is and if their staff is friendly, to their rules, whether they offer insurance and if they are environmentally responsible.

Every item you decide to move to storage instead of tossing means it holds value. Thus, it deserves a worthy home away from home. Find the place that lives up to your standards and once you do, spread the word so that others are also in the know when comparing storage facilities.


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About the SpareFoot Blog

The SpareFoot Blog offers tips about self-storage, information about storage auctions, advice about home organization, news about SpareFoot and much more.
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