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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 into a new home and need a place to keep a few things for a few weeks, or you're renovating a room in your current home and can't fit your furniture anywhere else. Hopefully you're not struck with some unfortunate circumstance—a flooded basement, a damaged attic, etc.—and need to move everything into a new space, but we know it happens. Whichever the reason is, there's no solution more flexible, more affordable or more convenient than self-storage. than storage.

What is self-storage?

Storage (in terms of self-storage) is an industry where businesses allow customers to rent space at a certain location. Typically, this means a ‘unit’ at a dedicated storage facility, though there are some variations on this basic concept that we'll get to later. 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.

Storage units usually come in one of several standard sizes and are accessible on one side via a large, garage-like rolling 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.

Storage rental rates are typically charged on a monthly basis, though different kinds of contracts usually can be negotiated. The price of storage will depend on its location, the quality of the facility, the size of the unit, any extra amenities like climate control, the time of year, the facility's level of occupancy, and special deals or promo rates. Because of these myriad factors, storage prices see a large amount of variance of variance.

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 few similar services.

Storage lockers

Think of these like a storage unit's little brother. You'll often find storage lockers offered at storage facilities, often with similar benefits like interior access and climate control, but for a fraction of the price of a normal unit.

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.

The first is cost. If you’re only planning on renting storage for a few months, your rental feeds won’t be nearly as high as the cost of a shed, many of which cost well over $1,000–that being said, those who are in need of a long-term solution might opt for a shed’s one-time cost and it’s permanent location in your backyard.

Additionally, outdoor sheds require assembly that will require your time, effort and tools. On top of that, sheds will lack the variety of amenities available at a modern storage facility, many of which are necessary to keep items like furniture and electronics same and protected from the elements.

Typical Uses for Self-Storage

The storage industry has become so successful due to the simple fact that there are a large number of uses for storage. Below we’ve listed some of the most common.

Moving

Perhaps the most common reason people need storage is as 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 some of the trickier moves. For example, it's not uncommon for your new home to not be ready by the time you move out of your old home. But what can you do with your stuff while you wait for your new place to be finished? Put it in storage. Another common situation is not being able to move everything with one trip. If you can't leave your things at your old home, where will you put them? Once again, storage offers an easy solution.

Are you in the process of moving and need a truck? SpareFoot has you covered.

Renovating or remodeling

Remodeling or renovating 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 move the furniture elsewhere, 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 any and all the furniture you’re having to relocate.

Downsizing

Moving 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, expensive location. But this presents some downsizers with a problem: How do they fit all of those things that once filled their older, larger home into the new, smaller one? Though the best way to deal with this is to get rid of the things you don't need, there are some things that would be far more expensive to buy again down the road than to keep in a storage unit, and so many of those who are downsizing have turned to that solution.

Cutting down on clutter

Are you stuck with congested closets? Is your basement buried in clutter? Is your attic awash with stuff? If you're in need of extra space, storage is your solution.

College summers

While most college students relish their summer break, they often take a much more ambivalent attitude toward moving home—not because they're trading roommates for parents, of course, but due to the fact that they'll need to move everything out of their dorm, load up their car and lug it all back home. Storage can take the headache out of this entire process, allowing students to keep their things near campus for those three months.

Are you a college student looking for storage? SpareFoot has you covered.

Home staging

Try this scenario: Your Realtor tells you that in order to best show your home, you need to remove half of everything inside it. What do you do? Storage, once again, comes to the rescue. The cost of a month or two of storage can easily pay for itself when you sell your home for more than you would otherwise, due to the great impressions you've left on the buyers.

Emergencies

Finally, there are those times where life throws a curveball at us and an unexpected event suddenly disrupts life. Whether a natural disaster or a death in the family, these situations call for quick and reliable solutions, and for many of us storage is exactly that.

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 type and size of unit that best suits your needs.

Storage amenities

The most common type of storage amenities you can opt for include climate controlled storage, 24-hour access storage, drive-up access storage and storage with electricity.

Climate controlled storage

Climate controlled units keep your belongings cool and dry, protecting 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 might need climate controlled storage.

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 you need. As you might expect, this storage amenity will come at a higher price than basic units, but depending on your needs they may well be worth it. Note that there is a difference between unit access, which is the time when you’re allowed to access your stuff, and facility access, which is the time that the 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 to unload. These are great for their easy access and lower prices compared to interior units, but they often lack the ability to add additional amenities such as climate control which can be crucial depending on where you live.

Alternatively, interior facilities house all units in a single building, meaning you'll have to go inside a building and sometimes even 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.

Interior storage facilities, with their more compact footprint, are more prevalent in urban and suburban areas, while drive-up access storage facilities are more common in rural areas. It's also not uncommon to see both building types on a single facility's grounds.

Storage units with electricity

Finally, storage units with electricity just means that your unit with have electrical outlets. Having this amenity will allow you to plug into the facility's power source—some facilities allow customers to set up offices or workstations in their units and there are even cases of bands holding practice in storage–but it will cost you extra. This amenity does not come with every unit so make sure you plan ahead if it’s something you think you’ll need.

Some other special amenities you might encounter are onsite video cameras and security systems that are used to monitor many storage facilities, as well as 24/7 on-site managers who will keep an eye on the valuables there and usually provide 24/7 access to their customers.

Storage Sizes

An equally important decision you'll need to make is choosing the size of your unit. Storage typically comes in the following standard sizes: 5' x 5' (25 sq ft.), 5' x 10' (50 sq ft.), 10' x 10' (100 sq ft.), 10' x 15' (150 sq ft.), 10' x 20' (200 sq ft.) and 10' x 30' (300 sq. ft). Here's a brief description of each:

5 x 5

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

5 x 10

storage of this particular size is popular among those who live in one bedroom or studio apartments, as it will typically handle the content of such a living space. Unlike a 5x5, you should be able to fit a couch or bed set into a 5x10, provided your couch or bed set are not extra large.

10 x 10

This middlemost standard size of storage is also the most common and popular. These units are about the size of a large bedroom and can handle the contents of a typical two-bedroom apartment.

10 x 15

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.

10 x 20

Likely to be used by families who need to store the entire contents of their home, 10x20 storage units are capable of storing the contents of a four bedroom house. You should even be able to fit some midsize to large vehicles in here, like trucks, trailers and boats.

10 x 30

Though this may not exactly be common enough to call a standard size, we'll still mention this behemoth, which should be able to handle the storage needs of any family or business.

Items You Can Keep in Storage–And Others You Can’t

Things you CAN keep in storage

Furniture

Easily one of the most commonly stored category of items, storage almost seems to have been invented for the purpose of keeping furniture. With the right size unit, almost any piece of furniture can go into storage. There are, however, some important considerations that go along with furniture storage.

  • The first is humidity. Unless you live in the desert, you should seriously consider keeping your furniture in a climate-controlled storage unit. That's because almost every piece of furniture has sort of organic material on it, like wood or cloth. When there's humidity within a contained area like a storage unit, mold and mildew can easily begin to flourish and spread which will ruin your furniture.
  • It's also a good idea to keep your furniture up off the ground while in storage, to increase airflow and ventilation. Furniture can also be vulnerable to pests, which are best avoided inside interior storage facilities.
  • Other good ideas for storing furniture include removing the legs from tables so that you can make more efficient use of space and covering furniture with a tarp to prevent scratching.

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, particularly to electronics with screens, which can be scratched by dust. Dust will also clog vents and can cause problems later on once you remove the units from storage. Climate controlled storage is also the best solution for keeping your electronics safe.

Apparel

Another common category of items found in storage is clothing. Clothing should be stored in a box, a bin or in the shelves of a dresser. Items that can't be folded or rolled up like suits, dresses and gowns can be kept safe under a plastic cover or in a bag. Pests and humidity are the biggest threats to clothing in storage, so if you have apparel that you greatly value, then you should look for interior, climate-controlled storage.

Books

If you're planning on keeping some books in storage, the top precaution you can take is making sure those books stay dry. Like clothes and furniture, books are made of organic material and so are susceptible to damage from mold and mildew. If you live in an area where the humidity is liable to climb to 55 RH or above (and that would include almost everywhere in the U.S.) you should probably rent storage with climate control.

Things you can SOMETIMES keep in storage

Food

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 wonderful 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. Drinks like water however, (and wine and beer) can also be kept in storage–some facilities even keep specially designed wine storage units.

Guns

This one's less of a never and more of an always check with the facility management first. Some storage facilities are absolutely fine with you keeping your registered firearms in your unit, but many have some 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.

Things you should NEVER 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.

Pets

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. Keep your furry friends at home where they belong, or find a kennel or shelter where they can stay comfortably.

Plants

Since they require water and sunlight for survival, plants won't survive long in storage. All they will be good for is attracting vermin and insects.

Garbage

It stinks and you won't be able to hide the smell, particularly from pests. They'll make a feast of any biodegradable material in your unit, and won't spare your non-trash items either.

Drugs or Stolen Property

Simply put, these are illegal to own and so are illegal to keep in storage. Your grow-room won't go unnoticed by managers or other customers and you will most likely get busted, don’t risk it.

Yourself

Self-storage isn't to be taken too literally. Some facilities will allow you to keep a workshop in your storage unit and even hold band practice, but you cannot start living out of it. That's illegal, and the facility managers will be able to catch on quickly.

A Few Extra Things to Consider

Contracts

It 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. In an industry that's spawned a popular television show about people abandoning their items in storage, you should be clear on what happens when things go wrong.

Insurance

Some facilities require tenants to purchase insurance at move-in, although many will accept proof of existing homeowners or renters insurance. Bring your declaration page when you visit the facility to potentially waive the insurance fee, which is usually around $20–you can also visit an independent insurance provider.

Regardless of whether your facility requires this or not, having insurance is a great way to protect yourself and your belongings while in storage. Your homeowner's insurance will likely cover most of the items you place inside storage. Better safe than sorry!

Administrative fees, and others

An administrative fee or "admin fee" is a one-time fee that the facility charges at the time of move-in. This is a very common fee in the self-storage industry. It 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 will replace your security deposit charge (where applicable).

Tax amounts will vary depending on where you're renting. You will 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

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

  • The size of the unit. Smaller units are often cheaper than larger units. Also, generally the more amenities you have the higher the cost.
  • The location of the unit in the facility. Interior units, units on the first floor, and units near the elevator will typically cost more than other units.
  • The location of the facility. Storage tends to cost more in big cities and less in rural areas. Price will also depend on whether or not the facility is located near the city center or out of town.
  • 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 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.

Can the 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.

How can I get find the lowest price?

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

If price is your main priority, we recommend conducting a search on SpareFoot and sorting by price to find and compare the most affordable options in your area.

How Can I Find Storage 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 till you found one. Today, the best way to find storage is through an online storage marketplace like SpareFoot.

SpareFoot works much like other shopping comparison websites: Type in your city or zip, and we'll show the storage facilities nearest you complete with details like price, available sizes and amenities, and reviews from other storage renters. SpareFoot facilities also offer exclusive discounts for our customers, which means you are getting the best deal available on self-storage.

If you're a member of the military or a college student, be on the lookout for special discounts. Additionally, AAA members get the first month of storage free AND a $20 Amazon gift card from SpareFoot at qualifying facilities. Read more.

We have the largest storage online marketplace, with more than 40,000 facilities listed on it’s network, and we allow you to book storage for free today, no strings attached. Finding storage has never been easier.