What You Need to Know Before Renting a Self Storage Unit

What You Need to Know Before Renting a Self Storage Unit

Twenty-two percent of Americans either moved or knew someone who had to move during the pandemic, data from the Pew Research Center states.

6% of those surveyed by Pew say they had to move in with someone else. Young people age 18-29 were the most impacted. The Pew Research Center found that 37% of that demographic moved or moved someone into their home.

So with so many people on the move, it may be time to look into a self storage unit or a place you’ll keep all your stuff until normalcy returns. 

In the following post, we will discuss what you need to know when deciding on a self-storage unit, what you should store there, and precautions you should take to protect your possessions. 

Self Storage Unit vs. Full Service 

The first thing you need to know is that there are two basic kinds of storage units: the self-storage unit and the full-storage unit.

The self-storage unit is easily the more popular option. These rental units are affordable and secure, come in a variety of sizes, are located all over the country, and can accommodate a range of items. You can even store large belongings like travel campers, cars, boats at these facilities.

As the name implies, renters are expected to select the appropriate size of the self-storage unit, move their belongings in and out by themselves, and follow the rules of the facility. When you want to store or remove and item, you do it yourself.

Full-service storage is a different experience than self-storage. These valet-type operations are more expensive than self-storage and are much rarer. The major upside is that they pick-up and deliver your items to and from storage. A full-storage company may take pictures of your possessions, so you can recall exactly you put in their care and its condition.

The convenience here is undeniable, but the cost for full-service is prohibitive for a great number of people. 

Self Storage: What to Consider

As you look at different self-storage units, you should make a checklist of your needs. Besides space (more on that in a bit), you need to know the hours of operation to determine when you can access your stuff. Do you need access 24 hours a day? Or will limited hours fit into your schedule just fine? Here are a few other things that you should consider before deciding on a self-storage unit:

  • Location: A conveniently located storage facility in a large to a mid-size city may cost you more. Consider how far you are willing to travel to have access to your possessions. Don’t have a car? Then you might need extra cash to rent a unit closer to your residence. Willing to travel 20 to 30 minutes? You could get a better monetary deal just outside the city limits.
  • Pricing: Check to see if there’s an online deal before you call. Also, make sure you know what the rates are for your entire rental period. A low-price on the front end is often balanced out by higher prices or raised rates later. A good way to see if the self-storage unit you are considering hikes rates a few months in is to check online reviews.
  • Reviews: Frequency of crimes, vandalism, flooding, and customer service ratings are all things that you won’t find on a self-storage facility’s website but will find on online reviews. Also, check to see if the company is responsive to comments. That’s an excellent way to determine if the company is responsive and reputable. 
  • Security: Consider how many security features the self-storage facility has. Features can include locks, outside lighting, cameras, and the number of security guard patrols. 

What Size Do You Need?

Like minutes on your phone or miles on your car lease, you don’t want to pay in advance for things you don’t use. The same is true with self-storage units. Try to calculate the space you need as precisely as possible. What furniture do you have? How many boxes? How many bikes or exercise equipment?

There are dozens of diagram examples online of how to store items in units. By searching “storage unit diagrams,” you’ll get a great sense of how to arrange the space. Remember, you’ll want to pack tight, so stack boxes to the ceiling and don’t leave spaces. Some diagrams even show how the space could look if you want to get a car in the unit along with boxes and furniture.

Another factor you’ll want to keep in mind is how often and easily you want access to your stuff. If you think you’ll be in and out of your storage unit regularly, then you should build into the space an aisle to access individual boxes easily. 

Other space-saving tips include:

  • Break down furniture. For example, take the legs off your table, stack your chairs, and break down your beds. 
  • Fill dresser drawers with items to maximize space. Keep in mind that you may have to remove then replace the drawers to get the dresser in and out of the unit.
  • Keep heavy boxes on the bottom of your stacks. Also, store boxes with items you know you’ll want access to within easy reach.

How Much Do They Cost?

As a rule of thumb, storage units cost from $60 to $180 a month depending on size. Climate controlled storage units cost a bit more at $75 to $225 a month.

Many storage unit companies don’t require a contract. This contract-free option could cost you more but allow you the freedom to leave at any time (sometimes in less than a week). A month-to-month or multi-month contract can save you money if you are locked in on the duration you’ll need the unit.

When Climate Control Makes Sense

Why climate control? Climate control helps prevent mold or mildew in areas that experience extreme humidity or high temperatures.

Mold or mildew can grow on clothes, cardboard, paper and wood products, and upholstered furniture. Other important items that can be damaged by mold are electronics, artwork, photos, and musical instruments. Many storage facilities offer climate control for an increased fee, so you should consider it while deciding on a facility. 

Moving Deals

One of the best deals in self-storage is getting a free or reduced deal on a moving truck with your self-storage rental. Some companies offer discounts or free mileage. Offers can include deals like getting the first 50 miles free or free truck rental for several hours. Some deals even include a free driver. 

Required Documents

To rent a storage unit, you’ll need some sort of government-issued identification. A military ID, passport, driver’s license, or state-issued ID are all acceptable forms. You may also need a credit card to secure a security deposit. 

Storage Unit No-Nos

There are some things that customers can’t store in storage units. These prohibited items and activities are enforced to protect not only your stuff but the other patrons and the facility. Among the prohibited items are hazardous or flammable materials, items that attract bugs like food, pets, other animals, and plants.

Also, using your storage unit as an office, a workshop, or living space is illegal, as well as cooking and activities falling under the term general habitation. 

Do You Need Insurance? 

Insurance is a good idea. All the research in the world won’t protect you and your belongings from a flood, fire, or break-in. And, unlike full-service storage facilities, self-storage companies are not responsible for damage to your stuff in your unit. It’s on you to protect them. Even break-ins or thefts, something not considered an act of God, is on you.

Most self-storage companies offer insurance, but you should also check with your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance carrier. Often these policies include coverage of your items even if stored outside your residence. 

If you are robbed and have one of these policies, you’ll be able to file a claim after reporting the theft to the police. 

A Word on Flooding

Flooding doesn’t just happen on the coasts. It can happen almost anywhere there’s a marsh, river, or good-sized stream. 

Unfortunately, it is happening with more frequency as the world’s climate warms up, and serious rain-event storms sweep the globe. Also, it takes very little water to completely ruin your possessions. Flooding soaks cardboard, fuels mildew and mold, and destroys just about everything.

One tip to avoid flood damage is to place valuable items as high as you can. You can do this by how you arrange them in your stacks or by using shelving around the sides of your unit. 

Play It Smart

There are many factors to consider when looking for a self storage unit, but here is a final thought: don’t keep your important or expensive items in one. 

Keep expensive jewelry or hard-to-replace documents with you. Passports, titles, birth certificates, and social security cards are a few examples. A move can be a stressful occasion with having to find a place to store all your stuff, so don’t make it worse by having to worry about your precious items. 

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