Industry Deep Dive: What Is Full-Service Storage?

Andreea Draguleasa
January 29, 2024
Find Self-Storage
Tired of the usual storage hassles? We’re mainly talking about packing, hauling and squeezing boxes into tiny spaces without any help. 

If your answer is yes, then full service storage might be right for you.. Unlike traditional self-storage, this storage service handles everything for you like a concierge.

This means no more boxing up, no more renting trucks and especially no heavy lifting. They just pick up your items (disassembly and packing included), store them securely and return them fully or partially when needed.

This complete door-to-door storage service simplifies your life by taking care of all the moving and storage details you don’t have time for.

“While the premium price point is higher versus self-storage, the value lies in diminished stress levels,” said Jim Olenbush, founder of, who recommends full service storage to his clients whether they’re downsizing, renovating or relocating temporarily.

Coming from someone who has relied on this offering quite frequently to take logistics off his clients’ plates, we’d say it’s a pretty clear winner, but let’s take a closer look by comparing it to the more familiar self-storage option.

The Difference Between Full Service Storage and Self-Storage

MakeSpace has emerged as one of the successful full-service storage companies to date.

We already mentioned full service storage is like having a team at your beck and call. They pack, move, store and return your items, making it all effortless for you. To put it briefly, it’s a luxury service for your belongings. On the flip side, self-storage is more DIY, as you’re in charge of everything — packing, transporting and managing your space. Sure, this storage solution might save you some bucks, but it demands your time and energy. And isn’t time money?

Here’s a cheat sheet with what you can expect from full service storage compared to self-storage:

Full Service Storage Self-Storage
Packing Services
Moving/Transport Services
Digital Inventory
Climate-Controlled Options
24/7 Access to Items

Now, this simplified table comes with a few notes:

  • Full service storage typically includes packing services but you can opt out of them to cut costs.
  • Climate-controlled units are available in both storage scenarios, but they are not a given. If you need climate control for your belongings, make sure to clarify this from the very beginning. And here’s an additional insight based on the personal experience of William Horton from “I found the security and climate control measures to be more advanced in full service than traditional self-storage.” Noted.
  • Access to items is not all black and white, as it might seem from the table. Instead, it means that it is more likely for a self-storage facility to offer 24/7 access than it is for a full service storage company. It’s not a given for self-storage either, it’s just that the full service storage option requires prior appointments, and some facilities may completely restrict visitor access for extra security. Need something in a pinch? If you’ve chosen self-storage, it’s easier.

With that out of the way, let’s continue observing some more differences between self-storage and full service (or door to door) storage:

Full Service Storage Self-Storage
Customer Involvement Minimal High
Cost Higher Lower
Security Measures Advanced Basic to Advanced
Convenience High Moderate
Availability Major urban areas Everywhere

So, customer involvement is practically zero with full service storage. You’re hands-off, focusing on what matters to you. In contrast, self-storage keeps you in the driver’s seat — quite literally, as you’re hauling your stuff to and fro.

The packing and transportation stages are where full service storage wins a lot in convenience. And then there’s the detailed inventory management. “They often provide digital inventories, including photographs and detailed descriptions of your items,” Horton pointed out.

But here’s the catch: while door to door storage offers digital inventories and generally better security, it might make you wait a bit for your stuff. Take that into account before you decide to go one way or the other.

You can also reach out to companies that offer both self-storage and moving services and see what benefits you most. Clutter, for instance, offers these separately, but also has a full service storage option called Smart Storage that includes packing and moving services. The downside is its availability, as not all Clutter storage locations benefit from it.

Pros of Using Full Service Storage

Full service storage teams do all the heavy lifting so homeowners like you can focus on their core activities and responsibilities. Companies are generally able to get you fully packed from start to finish on the same day, but very large appointments may require professional packers to be sent a day in advance to make sure everything is disassembled and wrapped properly.

Now, here are the goodies you get with this door to door storage service:

  • Full packing and moving services, all handled by professionals, save you time and effort.
  • There’s no need to rent trucks or move items yourself.
  • You can request specific items to be delivered as needed, without visiting the storage unit yourself.
  • There’s considerable stress reduction. “By handling every touch-point from packing to retrieval, clients have one less headache to concern themselves with,” Olenbush said. “It has delivered immense peace of mind in high-pressure moving scenarios.”
  • Your property is protected from damage during the move. This includes safeguarding floors, walls, hallways and doorways.

Cons of Using Full Service Storage

The usual suspects that may make you think twice before opting for full service storage are the added cost, access limitations and limited customization. Let’s break them down:

Full service storage usually costs more than self-storage due to its comprehensive services. Packing, transportation and item management, all add to the overall expense. To cut down on costs, you can adopt Horton’s strategy of selective storage. “Unlike self-storage where you might be tempted to fill up the space, with full service storage, it’s more cost-effective to store only what you really need to,” he said. “This means periodically reassessing stored items and deciding whether to keep, donate or dispose of them to save money.”

Need some help with that? Clutter, for instance, offers a Disposal & Donation storage service. For a fee, of course, but still more cost-effective than long-term storage for items you no longer need.

Now, unlike self-storage, where you can usually access your items anytime (or at least anytime within the working hours of the storage facility), full service storage typically involves scheduling and wait times for item retrieval. This can be inconvenient for those who need quick and frequent access to their belongings, especially since wait times can be up to a week.

There’s a workaround for that too, according to Horton. He recommends organizing items based on frequency of use. That is, if the full service storage company allows that. Unfortunately, full service storage often means you have less control over how your items are stored. The storage company takes care of the organization and management, which might not always align with your preferences.

“For items you’ll need more regularly, inform the storage team so they can make them more accessible. This minimizes delays in retrieving and returning items,” Horton suggested. Also, keeping a personal inventory or a digital list can be really helpful especially when you want to recall or access specific items quickly. Thankfully, door to door storage companies offer this perk.

A Brief Cost Comparison with Traditional Storage Options

Full service storage typically comes with a higher price tag than self-storage, that’s no secret and we’ve mentioned this already as a downside. That’s because self-storage costs are more focused on space rental, without the extra convenience provided by the process of door to door storage, such as packing and transporting items, which obviously adds to the overall cost.

The simpler model of self-storage can result in lower costs but requires more input from the customer in terms of moving and managing their items. Win some, lose some. The savings in terms of time and effort that you pay extra for can be especially valuable for clients who are short on time or prefer not to deal with the physical demands of moving and storing items.

Now, it’s also worth noting that some full service storage companies may offer promotions or discounts, and we fully encourage you to look into it before making a decision. For instance, at the time this article was written, Clutter had a promotion offering free pickup and delivery for storage bookings of four months or more.

Who Can Benefit Most from Full Service Storage?

Are you a busy professional with a packed schedule? You’ll find the time-saving aspect of full service storage more than appealing. Or perhaps you are a business owner. Off-site management and flexibility make this storage solution perfect for those of you with fluctuating inventory needs.

But perhaps the largest segment that stands to benefit from door to door storage consists of those going through life transitions, whether it’s moving or undergoing significant life changes like the passing of a dear family member. Add downsizing to that and it can get even trickier.

When Horton and his wife decided to relocate to a smaller apartment, for instance, they faced the challenge of downsizing their belongings. “Full service storage became our solution for managing items that we couldn’t accommodate but weren’t ready to part with,” he emphasized.

So, whether you don’t have enough time to fit all the packing and moving into your schedule, or simply feel like prioritizing ease over cost, full service storage companies are there to help.

That’s Full Service Storage for You

Swamped at work in the middle of a move? As you can see, full service storage really shines for those with busy lives or big changes like also downsizing when moving. It handles all the heavy stuff for you — packing, transportation, storage and keeping things safe through the entire process. Sure, it might cost more, but think of the time and effort you’ll save. Plus the extra peace of mind. That can be worth every penny.

Got your own story about storage choices? Your experiences and insights matter to us and our readers. Go ahead and drop a comment below with your story. It could help someone make their decision and we’d love to hear how you tackled your storage challenges. Perhaps you have an extra question we haven’t answered yet. That’s just as helpful — your query could shed light on something others are also wondering about. Happy storing!


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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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