Navigating the world of self storage can be tricky and there are many aspects that require thorough understanding before an informed decision can be made about renting a storage locker. Here, at STORAGECafé, we’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about self storage from types of storage, amenities, and different uses of storage units to help you make the best decision concerning your storage needs. Let’s take a look at what other self storage customers have been wondering about.

1. What is self storage?

Self storage refers to a service offered in order to assist you in temporarily storing your personal items in a designated unit for later use. This industry thrives on the number of people who move across the United States for work or other reasons and need space for their stuff while they’re between residences, plus those who simply want to have a storage solution away from home for their personal belongings.

2. How does self storage work?

The main purpose of renting a storage unit is to help you keep items that no longer fit into your home or your office. You sign an agreement with the storage facility, and you pay a fee in exchange for this service. Some facilities offer short-term agreements (month-to-month), although longer-term renting options are also available.

Consider the right unit dimensions for the items you intend to store – they come in different sizes, see below. Ask yourself if you need climate-controlled or non-climate-controlled units, based on the nature of your belongings.

Some facilities offer 24/7 access to their customers while others offer specific working hours when you can enter. Inquire about access before committing to an agreement. Customers are typically responsible for locking the unit in order to ensure the safety of the stored items. Facility employees do not have access to the contents of the units, nor does the facility take possession of the items stored, unless a lien is enforced as a result of non-payment.boxes in a storage unit

3. What are the different types of storage units?

Based on their size, there are several types of storage units: 5×5, 5×10, 10×10 (the most common size), 10×15, 10×20, 10×30, 15×20 and 20×20 (as large as a two-car garage).

Depending on the nature of the items you intend to store, decide whether you are going for a climate-controlled unit (for temperature and humidity-sensitive items) or a non-climate-controlled unit.

4. How much do storage units cost?

The cost of self storage varies greatly depending on location and unit size. The average price for a standard 10X10 non-CC unit hovered around $114 at the end of 2019, according to data provided by Yardi Matrix. The highest rates are in Los Angeles ($183/month), whereas Houston and Charleston ($84/month) are currently on the lowest end of the price spectrum, among the largest US markets. You can check out street rates locally if you visit the STORAGECafé’s website and browse through the listings there.

5. Who are some of the major self storage providers?

While there are many storage businesses across the nation, both local and national providers, a few major storage owners have extensive coverage in multiple locations of the US. Some of the largest self storage companies include Public Storage, Extra Space Storage, U-Haul, and CubeSmart. Other trusted household names are Life Storage, Storage Mart, Prime Storage Group, and Metro Storage LLC.

6. Is it worth it to rent a storage unit?

Having a nearby storage unit is always a good idea to help keep things that otherwise you wouldn’t have enough room for inside your home. You might find it useful to keep bulky and seasonal items out of the house. Less belongings inside your home means less clutter. Before you opt to put items into storage, decide whether their real and sentimental value is high enough for you to commit to a storage unit.

Let’s look into a real case scenario. You’re a college student going home for the summer and you have to vacate your dorm room. Renting a storage unit for 3 months costs somewhere around $342 on average. In this case, renting a unit becomes more sensible than paying for a moving truck to get your belongings home and back again when the new year starts. Moving the contents of a 1-bedroom home from San Antonio, TX to Charlotte, NC costs about $1,640 (including taxes and fuel), based on U-Pack Moving quotes. Storing your old TV on the other hand might not be worth it, unless selling is not an option or you’re sure you’ll be using it again in the near future.

7. What items should you put in self storage?

Some of the most common items making it into storage units are holiday decorations, paperwork, furniture, home appliances, books, antiques, clothing, and toys.

8. What items cannot be put in storage?

Food, plants, live animals, hazardous materials and wet items are usually not allowed to be kept in self storage units.

9. Why do people use self storage?

Moving is one of the most common reasons why people turn renting a storage unit. Demand for self storage remains elevated as about 40 million people move annually, according to the US census. Marriage, divorce, retirement, downsizing or loss of a loved one are also strong drivers of the storage sector.

Recent data provided by Yardi Matrix indicates a growing trend in market demand and occupancy rates, which means that storage units have become commonplace nationwide. Currently, 1 in 10 U.S. households now rent a self storage unit, as recorded by the Self Storage Association.

10. How many storage units are there in the US?

There are over 50,000 storage facilities in 2018 alone, according to data provided by the Self Storage Association, ranging from companies with a nationwide reach to small businesses.

11. Can I go to my storage unit anytime?

It depends. Each self storage facility has its own rules. Some might allow you round-the-clock access, whereas others will provide access to your belongings during gate access hours, which vary based on location. You should inquire whether the terms of the agreement grant access to the unit to other people, so you can add them as authorized users in case this is something that could help you.

12. Does a storage unit come with a lock?

There is no definitive answer to this question. While some facilities come with their own locks, others allow a renter to use personal locks. If that’s the case, make sure you choose a disk lock or a cylinder lock – they’re both resistant to bolt cutters. In this way, you are taking every precaution to keep your unit safe and your belongings, well…yours.

13. How do you protect items in storage?

Many items that end up in storage can benefit from a climate-controlled environment. Household items – washers, dryers, ovens, refrigerators – could all use a low-humidity area to prevent damage caused by rust or to prevent the occasional patch of mildew growing under high-humidity conditions.

14. Can furniture get damaged while in storage?

Long-term exposure to excessive moisture can cause damage to your furniture, such as cracks or rotting. If you are looking to store wooden furniture such as nightstands, tables, and dressers, you should consider renting a climate-controlled unit. This additional amenity comes with a convenient perk – controlled humidity. The same principle holds true for leather products and special collections (coins, stamps, comics or artwork).

15. Can storage units get hot? Can they also get too cold?

In storage units located in states experiencing extreme heat, such as those in the South you would want to keep your belongings in a climate-controlled environment, to spare them exposure to temperatures over 90°F, which can be very damaging. We all know that California can become scorching hot during the summer months, so choosing a climate-controlled storage unit in San Francisco would be advisable, especially when storing sensitive items.

Climate-control is also the way to go for the regions experiencing extremely low temperatures. Severe cold weather is also unfriendly to your items, as they run the risk of freezing. If your personal effects are likely to retain moisture, they are liable to crack in cold temperatures. Watch out for this type of weather affecting your storage in the northern half of the country: Midwest, Pacific Northwest, East Coast Central near the Great Lakes, and the Mid-Atlantic states. Take, for instance, Chicago, where the bitter cold weather in winter could really damage your belongings in storage unless you choose a climate-controlled unit.

16. Can storage containers get damp?

Unless you opt for a climate-controlled unit – which usually go for higher rates –, it is possible for your items to experience the effects of natural humidity. This is especially true in the case of items made of wood or paper which tend to absorb moisture, a prime condition for mildew formation and further damage of your belongings. Appliances made from metal are not free from the effects of humidity. If you live in a state with high humidity, either plan on storing your belongings for a short-term period or go for a climate-controlled unit to cut the risk of any future damage.

17. How safe is self storage?

Most storage facilities use surveillance equipment and some form of a security system. Before you commit to a specific self storage company, do your research in advance to know if your facility is equipped with security cameras. After all, knowing that there is a state-of-the-art security system in place gives you great peace of mind—you know your precious belongings are safe and well-guarded.

18. Do public storage units in the US typically have electrical outlets?

As a rule of thumb, storage units do not come with electrical outlets as they might pose a fire hazard.

19. Can you run a business out of a storage unit?

With the cheap rent and the great space offered, working out of a storage unit might seem appealing for small business owners. Generally, operating your business from a storage unit – either as a workshop or an office – is not allowed. However, storage can be useful for small and large business owners, as they can aid in growing operations.

20. Can I have a yard sale at my storage unit?

When you have items in a self storage unit, it may seem very convenient to hold a yard sale on the premises. However, most storage facilities are accessible by gated, electronic access so it might be difficult for the general public to attend. If you are planning on selling the items in your storage unit, you will need to either take them home or to bring them to a designated community yard sale spot.

Don’t lose heart, though. Renting a storage unit can be useful in helping you prepare for a yard sale. You can organize your items by size and gradually remove them from the unit. Start small, with a few boxes of books or furniture you no longer use, and go from there. Sort through your things and organize them according to need – separate those you can still use from those that are going to a yard sale. You can also start pricing early – you can arrange items by value and put them in boxes to make it easier to put everything up for sale.

21. Can you buy the contents of a storage unit?

Yes, you can. But before you venture out to an auction at a storage facility, you will want to be fully prepared to make your bidding on a storage unit a success.

First, you need to find when and where the auctions are taking place. Check local classifieds and storage facility websites to find out the specifics. Remember to explore the online avenues to sell the items you are planning on buying. You can always use eBay or Craigslist regardless of where you live. To avoid shipping costs, plan on selling larger items – such as furniture – locally.

You should research the price of commonly found goods so that you can get a ballpark value of the items you are about to buy. Also, this helps you set a budget for the auction. While this might seem difficult, you can try to assign a fixed dollar value to each box in the unit. Remember to bring cash, so you can cover the cost of your bid on the spot in order to avoid forfeiting your win.

Plan on having proper transportation either by renting a van or a truck so you can load all the items in the event of a winning bid. This way, you will be able to empty the unit in the allotted time.

22. Can you sleep in a self storage unit?

Sleeping in a self storage unit is not allowed. Typically, city zoning laws and housing codes establish whether a space is livable or not. These rules exist in order to protect you and the owner of the storage space. Storage units were built to house inanimate objects and not humans. If you stay overnight, you can face trespassing charges and you can have your contract annulled as a result of violating the terms.

23. What happens if I fail to make the monthly payments?

If you’ve been renting a storage unit and you’re unable to keep up with your monthly payments, you should check the point of default on your lease. That represents the number of days you have listed in which you are allowed to access your unit without any legal action. Typically, the default period is 30 days. Beyond that, you will be barred from entering your unit. Additionally, you will lose ownership of your belongings stored inside your unit and they will likely go to auction unless you secure payment for the rent you owe.

24. What happens when my storage unit is auctioned?

In the event of your belongings going to auction, you should know that the facility is required to make both the time and the location of the auction public. The storage facility will also notify you by official letter about the event. Not all is lost at this point, so if you can show up prior to the beginning of the auction you can prevent it by making a cash payment. If you don’t show up, the auction will start as scheduled. Typically, bidders sign in before attending the sale. According to the rules, they are allowed to view the items through the open door of the unit without actually entering it. The contents of the unit are sold “as is” to the highest bidder.

storage unit auction

25. Can I auction off my storage unit?

When you think of self storage auctions, “Storage Wars” might be one of the first things that spring to mind, but the reality might be slightly different. If you are having difficulties in paying your storage bills, you will have your possessions auctioned by the owners of the storage facility. You can ask permission from your managers to hire auctioneers to sell your unit. It is worth it for you to know that you may not get great value for the contents as most storage auctions are “blind.” You can ask management to allow you to move some of the more valuable items in order to make them more visible and potentially increase the bidding. On average, storage unit auctions bring about $425, depending on the items inside.

26. What are some of the greatest finds at storage unit auctions?

Here are some of the most outstanding finds at storage unit auctions:

  • An abandoned unit brought a Scottsdale resident almost 200 signed historical documents, including two signed letters from Herbert Hoover, White House invitations from President Harding and a collection of Civil War currency. The find was estimated to be worth $10,000.
  • In 2014, an eBay user found two vintage Burton snowboards in a storage unit she had bought. The rare items fetched a whopping $31,313 on the bidding site.
  • An impressive Hollywood collection containing 40,000 pieces of memorabilia was found in an abandoned storage locker. Disney film cells, publicity photographs, autographed work and Tim Burton art were included in this amazing treasure valued at more than $1 million.
  • When a Florida radio station bought a storage unit containing documents, they were unaware of the treasure trove within, including photographs, handwritten lyric sheets, royalty checks, and musical arrangements – all related to The Beach Boys. The material ended up being sold at a sealed auction for around $6 million.

27. What is a storage lien?

According to the Legal Information Institute of the Cornell Law School, a storage lien is a security interest that is offered to a storage service provider in exchange for services adjacent to the property. If the renter fails to make payments in exchange for the services provided, the lien holder is entitled to take possession of the belongings involved.

28. Can renting a storage unit affect my credit score?

Traditionally, renting a storage unit could only hurt your credit score if you failed to make your payments. Next, a collection agency will try recover the amount owed. It is likely that this event will be reported to your credit report and your credit score will drop. Making the delinquent payments alone will not bring your score back up. In addition, you will have to request that debt is removed from your credit score.

There is also the case of the “credit reporting” storage companies. They make monthly reports on the status of your bill, just like a credit card company. This means that every late payment could damage your score. On the bright side, keeping your payments up-to-date means that your credit will improve. If you currently have bad credit, renting a storage unit with a company that does credit reporting can be beneficial to you if you are trying to build your credit. Find out more by contacting your local self storage company.

29. What happens if the unit is abandoned?

Storage units are considered abandoned when a renter fails to make several consecutive payments. Each storage company establishes their own number of unmet bills before considering your unit to be “abandoned.” The facility manager will try to contact you, but if you still haven’t covered the delinquent bill by the agreed deadline, then the contents of the unit will be confiscated. Usually, the facility will try to conduct an auction in order to recover the rent arrears as described above.

30. Does renters’ insurance cover items in self storage?

In many cases, it is possible for a renter’s insurance policy to include items placed in storage, but make sure that you read the fine print as they would have to cover items stored away from the residential property you are renting. In addition, damage by water or vermin is not covered under renter’s insurance.

If the renter’s insurance only partially covers your items in storage, you can opt for a dedicated self storage policy. There are many companies on the market offering this type of insurance, so you can always choose the right offer for you. Monthly rates range from $5-$2,000, but you’ll find that a $10 or $20 a month policy will cover most of your belongings in storage.

31. How can I end my self storage unit agreement?

In order to close your account, you should first consult the terms of your agreement. Generally, you need to give advanced notice of your intention of ending the agreement. If the facility has an on-site manager, you can probably do it on the premises, or you can call the customer service number to notify them. Once you’ve removed all your belongings, you can inform the facility that you are no longer using the unit. Try to move your belongings out close to the end of your billing date, to avoid charges for another billing cycle.

Is there something that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.


Mirela is a real estate writer and lifestyle editor for Yardi. With an academic background in English and translation, Mirela now covers a range of topics including real estate trends, lifestyle and economy. Her previous experience in proofreading academic articles has inspired Mirela to choose a writing career path. In her free time, Mirela enjoys reading, but also hiking and creating art. You can contact Mirela via email.

Write A Comment