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Self-Storage: everything you need to know

Sometimes we all need some extra space. Perhaps your garage, basement or closet is bursting at the seams with valuable items you simply can't do without. Maybe you're about to move to a new place, or you have too many seasonal items and nowhere to put them. Hopefully you're not struck with some unfortunate circumstance—a flooded basement, a damaged attic, etc.—and need some additional storage space. Whatever the reason, there's no solution more flexible, more affordable or more convenient than renting a self-storage unit.

What is self-storage?

Self-storage is an industry where businesses allow customers to rent extra storage space at a third-party location, usually on a month-to-month basis. Typically, this means a ‘unit’ at a dedicated storage facility, though there are some variations on that basic concept. You may also hear people refer to storage as ‘public storage' or ‘mini storage', though in recent years ‘self-storage', or more simply ‘storage', have become the preferred terms.

Self-storage units usually come in one of several standard sizes and are accessible on one side via a rolling, garage-like door. Units are secured either by a built-in locking mechanism or by a separate lock, or both. The property will be managed by a dedicated staff, which also works to keep your stored items safe.

Typical Uses for Self-Storage

Storage companies have become so successful due to the simple fact that there are a large number of uses for storage units. Below we've listed some of the most common.

Moving

Perhaps the most common reason people need storage is a part of a move into a new home or apartment. The process of moving is never fun and the logistics can be difficult and tedious, which is why self-storage offers a stable, safe solution to an otherwise painful process.

Renovating or remodeling

Restoring or refurbishing your home (or a room in your home) can go a long way toward improving your quality of life. In the short term, however, it can be a major source of pain. When remodeling a room, you're often forced to find additional space for your items, which can be quite inconvenient - if you're remodeling your entire home, you won't even have that option available. A storage unit can solve all of that by absorbing all the furniture you're having to relocate.

Downsizing

Relocating into a smaller home has become a trend in recent years, as people either attempt to save on rent, or live in a more desirable location. But this trend presents a problem: How do you fit all those things that once filled a much larger space into a new, smaller home? Though the best way to deal with this is to get rid of the things you don't need, there are some things that can be kept in a personal storage unit.

College summers

While most college students relish their summer break, they often take a much more ambivalent attitude toward moving home due to the fact that they'll need to move everything out oh their dorm. Self-storage can take the headache out of this entire process, allowing students to keep their things near campus during those summer months.

Are you a college student looking for storage? Sparefoot has you covered

Emergencies

Unfortunately, there are those times where life throws a curveball at us and an unexpected event suddenly disrupts our life. Whether a natural disaster or a death in the family, occasionally these situations call for quick and reliable storage solution, and for many of us self-storage provides exactly that.

Other Services Commonly Confused with Self-Storage

Though the term ‘storage' has in recent years come to denote self-storage both in the industry and in common parlance, it is still sometimes mixed up with a couple similar services.

Storage lockers

Think of these like a storage unit's little brother. You'll often find storage lockers for rent at traditional storage facilities, often with similar benefits like interior access and climate control, but because of their smaller size, cost a fraction of the price.

Storage sheds

Storage units are not the same as storage sheds, which are often installed on a person's own property and can be purchased in easy-to-assemble kits from your local home improvement store. While sheds are an alternative to storage units and can surely help solve your need for more space, there are certainly some downsides to consider like cost and assembly.

How Can I Find Self-Storage Units Near Me?

In the past, the best way to find a storage facility was to either look in the phone book or simply drive around until you found one. Today, the best way to find cheap storage is through an online self-storage marketplace like SpareFoot.

Simply type in your city or zip code in any search bar on our site, and we'll show all the storage locations nearest you, complete with details like price, size, amenities, and reviews from other storage renters. Our facilities also offer exclusive discounts for our customers, like first-month free rent, which means you are getting the best deal available on your storage unit.

Choosing Between Different Storage Options

Finding a storage unit near you is only one step in the process. You'll also need to figure out the storage size and type of unit that best suits your needs.

Storage Sizes

Most people are unaware of how to choose the ight size unit. Below is a size guide we've created which lists mosts of the standard storage unit sizes.

5 x 5 (25 sq ft.)

A 5x5 storage unit can handle the contents of a small closet. They're great for a few boxes and a couple pieces of furniture, like a desk and a chair. These are popular among college students.

5 x 10 (50 sq ft.)

A storage unit of this particular size is popular among those who live in one-bedroom or studio apartment, as it will typically handle the contents of a small living space. Unlike a 5x5, you should be able to fit a couch or bed into a 5x10.

10 x 10 (100 sq ft.)

This medium-sized unit is the most commonly booked. These units are about the size of a large bedroom and can handle the contents of a typical two-bedroom apartment.

What is the average cost of a 10x10 storage unit?

The national average cost of a 10x10 unit is currently $97.59 per month. This includes prices for both climate control and non-climate control units.

10 x 15 (150 sq ft.)

This is where we get into heavy-duty storage needs. A 10x15 should be able to handle the contents of an entire one-bedroom house, and can even be used to store small cars and boats. Note that car storage and boat storage usually have different requirements so make sure you speak with your facility before booking a unit for that purpose.

What is the average cost of a 10x15 storage unit?

The national average cost of a 10x15 unit is $126.07 per month. This again includes prices for both climate control and non-climate control units and excludes any storage specials you might receive.

10 x 20 (200 sq ft.)

Likely to be used by families who need to store the entire contents of their home, 10x20 storage units are capable of storing a four-bedroom house. You should also be able to fit some larger vehicles in here, like trucks, rvs and trailers. RV storage is also something that requires special attention so let your facility know if that's what you'll be storing.

What is the average cost of a 10x20 storage unit?

The average cost of a 10x20 storage unit is $138.06 per month. For most common use cases, it's unlikely you will need a storage unit this size which is why it's so expensive.

10 x 30 (300 sq ft.)

The least common size storage unit, a 10x30 is really only used for special circumstances and should be able to handle the storage needs of any family or even be used for business storage.

Storage unit amenities

Another important decision you'll have to make is what type of storage amenities you would like to include. There is a wide selection of amenities available but the most common are climate control, 24-hour access, drive-up access, and storage units with electricity.

Climate controlled storage

Climate controlled units keep your belongings cool and dry while protecting them against extreme hot and cold temperatures, as well as humidity. Humidity is of particular danger to organic materials found in furniture and clothing due to the possibility of mold and mildew so take the time to consider if you need this amenity, especially if you live in places that get very hot (like Texas), or very cold (like New York).

24-hour access storage

Some storage facilities allow 24-hour, 7 day-a-week access to their units, meaning you'll be able to access your things whenever necessary. As you might expect, this storage amenity will come at a higher price than basic units, but depending on your needs they may be well worth it.

Note that there is a difference between unit access, which are the actual access hours you’re allowed to view your stuff, and facility access which is the time that the storage facility office is open. When selecting this amenity, make sure you choose the right one for your needs.

Drive-up access storage

Drive-up access storage units are housed in a single-story building and are accessible from the outside, allowing you to pull your vehicle right up to the unit in order to load and unload your belongings. These are great for their simple access and have lower prices compared to indoor units, but they often lack the ability to add additional amenities such as climate control.

Alternatively, more modern facilities house all their units inside a single building, meaning you'll have to enter the interior of a building and sometimes even go up an elevator to get to your unit. Though this makes moving in and out with large furniture more difficult, it offers an unbeatable layer of protection from theft and pests, and almost always features climate control.

Storage units with electricity

Storage with electricity just means that your unit will have electrical outlets inside. We often hear people ask 'Do storage units have electrical outlets in them?' and while some self-storage facilities do offer units with outlets, most do not. Having this amenity will allow you to plug into the facility's power source but it will cost you extra. If this is a requirement, check with the facility to make sure the unit you’re getting has outlets included.

Some other special amenities you might encounter are security features such as 24-hour video surveillance, on-site property managers, or gated facilities with a keypad entry. All of these features will be listed under the 'Features/Amenities' section of a facility details page.

Storage Unit Prices

Self-storage rental rates are typically charged on a monthly basis, though different kinds of contracts can sometimes be negotiated. The price of storage will depend on a number of factors which is why storage prices usually see a large amount of variance throughout the year.

What are the main factors that affect the price of a storage unit?

The biggest factor is definitely the size of the unit. Smaller storage units are often cheaper than larger ones, and generally the more amenities you have the higher the cost.

The location of the unit within the facility is also important. Interior units, units on the first floor, and units near the elevator will typically cost more than other storage units.

The location of the facility matters as well. Self-storage tends to cost more in big cities and less in rural areas. Prices will also depend on whether or not the facility is located near the city center or on the edge of town.

The last thing most people don't think about is the level of demand in the area (and the occupancy rate at the facility). If no one is renting storage in your area, then odds are the facility will mostly be empty. As a result, the storage facility is probably willing to let units go at a cheaper rate. The opposite is also true. If occupancy is high, the cost of the remaining units will likely increase.

What is the average price of a storage unit?

The average price of a self-storage unit is about $90/month, which is down 2.5% from 2017. On average the smallest units, for example a 5x5, can be rented for as low as $65/month while the larger ones, like a 10x20, can cost upwards of $135/month on average. Prices vary greatly so make sure you look up rental rates for local storage units.

How much does it cost to rent a storage unit for a year?

As we said, per month the average price to rent a self-storage unit is $90, which means if you extrapolate that out, the average cost per year would be just over $1,000. For smaller units, the cost can be as low as $600-$700 per year, while the larger units could easily cost $2,000 a year. A year is considered a long-term commitment though and is pretty uncommon in the industry – most storage contracts will be month-to-month.

How can I guarantee I find the lowest price on storage?

Shopping around and comparing different options is the best way to find affordable storage. Besides that, if you know you're staying for a longer period of time, some storage facilities allow you to negotiate a lower monthly rate to ensure a longer tenancy.Other facilities may offer discounts for referrals, meaning if you can get a friend to also rent with them, they'll cut you a deal.

Unfortunately, some facilities might not budge on the price, but may be willing to throw in a few perks for free. See what you can do to negotiate for free boxes, storage locks or a moving truck rental.

For more info, check out our blog post on how to get discounts on self storage.

Can the storage facility raise my rent?

Yes. Rent increases are common in the storage industry and depend on market prices in your area. If you're concerned about a rent increase during your tenancy, go through the lease carefully with your storage facility. Make sure you're clear on notification procedures, should a rent increase occur.

Will there be any additional fees?

An administrative fee or 'admin fee' is a one-time fee that the facility will charge at the time of move-in. This is very common and is used to offset the costs of setting up your tenant account and processing paperwork. Usually the admin fee is between $15-$25, although in some cases it can be more. Sometimes this fee may even replace your security deposit charge.

Tax amounts will vary depending on where you're renting and you’ll also need to provide your own lock for your unit, which can range from $5-$50. Additional things you may be charged for include dumpster service, electrical charges, etc.

FAQ

Still have questions about self-storage? Here are some of the most common questions we get asked.

What type of contract will I be required to sign?

Self-storage contracts will include stipulations about what you can keep in your unit, what the rules about access and usage are like, and perhaps most importantly, what happens when you're late or delinquent on your payments.

What is self-storage insurance and is it required to rent a unit?

Self-storage insurance is a type of insurance specifically for storage units and their contents. Many storage facilities require you to have insurance before renting and may not take responsibility if your items are lost, stolen, or damaged. Before going to the facility, always have proof of insurance by bringing your declaration page when you visit the facility. This will potentially waive the insurance fee which is usually around $20.

Regardless of whether your facility requires this or not, having insurance is a great way to protect yourself and your belongings while in storage. Better safe than sorry!

Do storage facilities offer insurance?

Yes, some facilities do offer insurance. If you do not have insurance and it's offered at the facility then they will sell you some. Note that you do not have to go with their insurance, it's merely there for convenience. If the price is unreasonable, you can find another insurance provider.

Are storage units covered under homeowners insurance?

If you have standard homeowners or renters insurance, the policy does cover items that are in storage. However, items that are in storage can only be claimed at a certain percentage of your coverage limit. Consult your insurance agent to see how much the items would be covered.

How much does it cost to insure a storage unit?

Usually insurance on a storage unit is fairly cheap, with some insurance policies being as low as $2 for every $100 worth of stored items. However, the average price for insurance on self-storage ranges from $6-$24 depending on how much coverage you want.

Do storage units have lights?

Storage facilities with indoor units typically only light the hallways and not the individual units themselves. Outdoor facilities occasionally have some lighting around the perimeter but also not inside the units. If you will be visiting your storage unit at night you should bring a flashlight or headlamp to help you see, otherwise we recommend visiting your unit during the day.

What things can I keep in storage?

Furniture

Easily one of the most commonly stored category of items, self-storage is often thought of by people as merely furniture storage units . When storing this type of item, seriously consider keeping your items in a climate controlled storage unit, especially if you'll be keeping furniture there long-term.


Electronics

Similar to furniture, electronics are mostly vulnerable to the elements. Extreme hot and cold can damage their materials, while humidity can destroy their internal components. Dust is an additional concern, which can scratch electronics that have screens or clog vents. Climate control is also the best solution for keeping your electronics safe.

Food (sometimes)

The most suitable type of food that can be kept in storage will be items that are properly canned and/or are nonperishable. Non-canned food will go bad and bring a horrible odor to your unit, and will also attract the vermin. A vermin-infested unit will quickly get you evicted by facility managers so store with caution.

Guns (sometimes)

An important note here: always check with the facility manager first! Some storage facilities are absolutely fine with you keeping your registered firearms in your unit, but others have very strict guidelines on storing guns. If the facility does grant your request to keep guns in the unit, always remember to keep your firearms unloaded.

What can't I keep in storage?

Hazardous, flammable or explosive material

If a material is dangerous when spilled or is combustible, DO NOT KEEP IT IN STORAGE. If you're storing any chemicals whatsoever, do your research and make sure that they’re not in any way dangerous.

Plants, pets and yourself

Basically anything that is alive should not be kept in storage. It's both illegal and inhumane to keep animals in a storage unit, and you won't be able to hide them from the facility managers. Plants require water and sunlight for survival so they won't last long in storage and will also be good for attracting vermin and insects. You'd think this would go without saying but while some storage facilities will allow you to have an office or workshop in your unit, you cannot start living out of it (seriously, that's illegal).