Storage 101: The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Storage

Andreea Draguleasa
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Thinking about self-storage? Determining whether to use self-storage doesn’t need to be a head-scratcher. From self-storage to vehicle storage, business use and short-term storage solutions, we’ve got you covered on the most frequently asked questions.

These are the top questions to help you make sense of the storage world. So, take a moment, and let’s clear the fog on storage, one question at a time!

How Do I Find a Self-Storage Unit?

You can thumb through the phone book, call around, or visit facilities in person, but the best way to find a self-storage unit is to search online. You can find over 20,000 storage facilities nationwide on SpareFoot. Simply enter your location, compare options by price, size and amenities, and make a risk-free reservation online. If available, you can even complete your storage rental online without the need to visit the storage facility before bringing in your belongings.

How Much Storage Space Should I Rent?

Unit sizes typically range from 5’x5′ (25 sq. ft.) walk-in closets to 10’x30′ (300 sq. ft.) units suitable for a fully furnished five-bedroom house. Take a quick inventory of your items, use measuring tape to estimate their size and check out our comprehensive storage unit size guide. You can also gauge space using a moving truck or visit the facility and see units of different sizes to get a clearer picture. To avoid underestimating your storage needs, choose a slightly larger unit. 

How Much Does a Storage Unit Cost?

The cost of a storage unit can vary based on factors such as location, unit size and amenities. According to data from January until May 2023, the average monthly prices for popular storage unit sizes rented through SpareFoot.com is as follows:

  • 5’x5′: $50.10
  • 5’x10′: $71.70
  • 10’x10′: $109.08
  • 10’x15′: $141.44
  • 10’x20′: $160.34
  • 10’x30′: $169.04

Find more detailed information on storage unit costs here.

Do I Need to Reserve a Storage Unit?

While most storage facilities accept walk-ins, reserving a unit is advisable to lock in pricing and guarantee availability, as these can vary with demand. SpareFoot allows easy comparison and risk-free reservation of units at your convenience, either online or by phone.

What Can’t I Store in My Storage Unit?

Storage units are intended for common household items, not for objects that pose a risk to safety or hygiene. Prohibited items typically include live animals or plants, stolen items, perishable goods, hazardous or noxious materials, flammable substances, illegal drugs, explosives, firearms (unless explicitly permitted) and, of course, people. It is best to consult the guidelines provided by your self-storage company for specifics. Storing prohibited items may lead to severe legal repercussions and health hazards.

Do I Need a Climate Controlled Unit?

Opting for a climate-controlled unit largely depends on the nature of your stored items, your geographic location and the storage duration. Climate-controlled units, maintaining temperatures between 50°F to 80°F, help safeguard sensitive items from damage caused by temperature fluctuations and excess humidity.

Items like electronics, valuable clothing, furniture, books, photographs, antiques and collectibles benefit most from such environments. If you live in an area with extreme weather or plan to store items long-term, the additional cost for a climate-controlled unit is often justified by the protection it offers your valuables.

How Safe Are Storage Facilities?

The safety of storage facilities largely depends on their location, maintenance and implemented security measures. Key factors to consider include adequate lighting, gated access, video surveillance and an established relationship with local law enforcement.

Advanced facilities may offer access control systems and individual door alarms for added security. However, your unit’s safety is also reliant on your actions: place high-value items at the back of your unit and choose a sturdy lock. Remember, safety is a shared responsibility between the facility and the user.

What Type of Lock Do I Need for My Storage Unit?

Use a high-quality, robust lock that is difficult to pick or cut. The most widely recommended types are disc locks, cylinder locks and closed-shackle padlocks.

  • Disc locks have a unique design — akin to a hockey puck — which makes them extremely resistant to picking and cutting attempts.
  • Cylinder locks housed internally within the unit offer excellent security as they cannot be cut and are pick-resistant.
  • Closed-shackle padlocks are known for their short, thick shackles that are hard to reach with bolt cutters.

We strongly recommend that you stay away from standard padlocks and combination padlocks.

Do I Need To Insure the Items in My Storage Unit?

Deciding whether to insure the items in your storage unit depends on their value, your existing insurance coverage and your risk tolerance. Many storage facilities require proof of insurance and your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may already cover stored items.

If not, extending your current policy or buying specific self-storage insurance can offer protection. This insurance can safeguard your items from fire, theft and natural disasters. Be aware of the policy’s terms and conditions, including coverage limits, cash value versus replacement cost and potential exclusions.

How Can I Prevent the Contents of My Storage Unit From Being Auctioned?

To prevent your storage unit contents from being auctioned, ensure timely payment of your rent. If you cannot meet your payments, inform the facility management at the earliest. If faced with a potential auction, communicate with the facility, attend the auction to negotiate with the buyer and consider legal help if you think the auction was wrongful. Understanding your state’s self-storage laws is also vital. Know that you can stop an auction by paying your dues any time before the auction day.

What Type of Car Storage Do I Need?

Outdoor uncovered car storage is an economical parking space but offers minimal protection. Covered storage provides additional shelter from weather elements at a moderate cost. For optimal safety, especially for long-term storage, indoor storage is preferable. Preparing your car for storage and selecting the right storage size are crucial steps you should not overlook.

What Type of Boat Storage Do I Need?

Boat storage options include outdoor boat storage, stack/dry stack storage and indoor boat storage. Outdoor storage is affordable but offers limited protection. Dry stack storage keeps your boat indoors but accessing it might take time. Indoor storage is the priciest but provides comprehensive protection and additional perks. Besides choosing a storage type, make sure you also select the appropriate boat storage size.

What Type of RV Storage Do I Need?

Outdoor RV storage includes open parking spaces or covered areas providing basic weather protection, ideal for short-term or frequent use. Indoor storage is more costly but provides the greatest protection, making it preferable in the long term. RVs, campers and travel trailers come in a variety of sizes, so make sure to factor in RV storage size when making your choice.

What Are Business Storage Units?

Business storage units cater to commercial needs, providing a secure, cost-effective space for inventory, materials or equipment. Ideal for various industries, including retail, real estate, construction and pharmaceuticals, these units offer features like 24-hour access, climate control, drive-up access, delivery acceptance and robust security. They are available in a range of sizes, from small closet-like spaces for modest inventory to warehouse-sized units for sizable assets.

How Do I Find Student Storage Near Me?

To find student storage near you, simply enter your location on SpareFoot and hit search. Focus on unit sizes typically needed for dorm room contents, such as 5’x5′ or 5’x10′. Be aware of seasonal price fluctuations in spring and summer, and consider climate-controlled units if your college is in a hot or humid area.

Look for student discounts, especially at facilities near campuses. To save costs, skip unnecessary amenities like 24-hour access if you are leaving for the summer. Remember, early planning can secure better rates.

How Do I Find Deals for Portable Storage Units?

To find the best deal for portable storage units, start by comparing quotes from multiple providers and remember to check if any discounts or promotions are available. For instance, PODS and Zippy Shell offer discounts when you book through SpareFoot, and U-Pack provides discounts on supplies.

You could also save by downsizing your belongings or scheduling your move outside the peak season (May to August). Lastly, consider if you could cut costs by picking up and dropping off the container yourself, a service offered by U-Haul’s U-Box. Don’t forget to consider the cost of optional extras, like climate-controlled units, when comparing prices.

The SpareFoot Guide to Self-Storage

Use the handy infographic below to reference this information as you continue on your storage journey:

SpareFoot Storage Guide Infographic

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 7, 2023 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Andreea Draguleasa

Andreea Draguleasa showed an affinity for foreign languages and literature at an early age and started writing when she was 6. She studied journalism, advertising, and public relations at the University of Bucharest and worked as a content writer for a tourism agency and as a journalist for a magazine in the hospitality industry until 2010. After seven years as marketing manager for a Home & Deco online shop, she realized that learning something new every day brings her the most joy, so she went back to researching and writing informative articles. Through her experience traveling the world, she's picked up tips and resources she now shares on self storage solutions. When not writing about home organizing and storage, Andreea spends most of her time reading, playing video games, and spoiling her cat.
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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.
Contact the editor: [email protected]


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