Self-storage is a growing industry and it is used by people across the US for a variety of reasons. But are the storage services on offer different depending on where in the US you live? And do the conditions in different regions of the country make some features provided by self-storage facilities more desirable than others?

We look at how self-storage varies over the regions of the US and what customers can expect dependent on where they live. The Self Storage Association has given some interesting facts about the differences in self-storage provision between the geographical areas.

Canal Street Self-Storage building, Chicago.
Image by JohnPickenPhoto via flickr

Fundamental Regional Differences

The regions of the US all have different characteristics. For instance, residents in areas prone to hurricanes and other natural disasters sometimes have special needs for self-storage. And areas with successful economies attract different sorts of people with different self-storage needs, and providers there may see the benefits of investing more in their facilities.

States also have different laws, for instance in California, which can affect the provision and the cost of self-storage. The price of renting a unit can vary greatly from one region to another, with the average monthly rent of a non-climate controlled 10×10 unit in Los Angeles and San Fransisco metros being $184 and $194 respectively, which is more twice the cost of the same type of unit in metros such as Columbus ($88), Charlotte ($85), Raleigh-Durham ($88) and Houston ($85).

Changes in Types of Unit

One indication of the increasing sophistication of the self-storage industry is the shift in the type of unit that predominates. Exterior units that are simply in a yard are prey to thieves who can try to drive a truck in and take things away. Interior units in buildings have better security as there are substantial walls in place and further electronic barriers to pass through. Elevators and carts to move items in and out of the units are sometimes provided by such facilities. Provision of these sophisticated features varies across the regions.

The Northeastern region of the US leads the country with the highest proportion of interior units with elevator access (32%). But the study shows that the most popular type of unit is still the exterior type with drive-up parking. The Midwest region of the US has the highest proportion of these (56%), but this has dropped considerably from 75% in 2013.

It appears that if you want a self-storage facility with extra security and sophistication, you will have enough to choose from in the Northeast of the country at least. And even if you live away from that region’s fancy cities, you may find an increasing number of such options coming onto the market, so shop around.

Marital Status

Self Storage facilities are increasingly being used by younger people, and in 2017 the proportion of renters who were never married was 6% higher than it was in 2013. This may indicate changes in the reasons why people use self-storage, for instance an increasing consumerism among young single people and the consequent wish to store older purchases.

A much greater percentage of self-storage users in the Northeast (46%) have never been married compared to renters in other regions (27-30%). This percentage represents a big increase from the figure of 29% in 2013, and given the go-ahead nature of business in this region, single customers there can probably be sure the self-storage industry will be catering to their needs.

And if you are single, a self-storage facility owner may well be happy to see you! Married couples run the risk of divorce and this can create problems, either if both names are on the contract or if one spouse has signed it but the other wants access to their stuff in the unit.

Preferred Features

The climate in America’s different regions can influence which features a customer wants most from a self-storage facility. The South tends to have hotter weather, so it’s no surprise that air-conditioned units are more favored there, with 46% of renters in the South wanting it compared to 30% in the Midwest and 31% in the West. The Northeast may be catering to a more demanding clientele by having air-conditioning in 38% of its units.

The climate in the South also has knock-on effects. Self-storage renters there have clearly experienced some rather unwelcome visitors in or around their units, as 36% say that they would be willing to pay extra for pest control. This is in comparison with 27% in the Midwest and 20% in both the Northeast and the West. Self-storage customers in the South also say that they would pay extra for controlled humidity.

Clearly, people who live in areas with higher than usual susceptibility to vermin would be well advised to take no risks and choose a self-storage facility which has a good pest control policy in place. The same can be said for protection against humidity, which is a real problem in many regions and can do more damage to items in storage than many people realize.


Drive Times

The 2017 study reports that almost 90% of renters said they were able to use a car, a truck or a van to get to their self-storage units, but even so the traveling can take time. And renters across all the regions of the US are visiting their self-storage units more frequently than they did in 2013.

While the majority of renters are able to get to their units within 20 minutes, for 22% of renters in the Northeast it takes more than 30 minutes per journey, compared to 17% in the Midwest and 14% in both the South and the West. Not surprisingly, the number of Northwest renters who find their travel time unacceptable is the highest of all the regions, at 15%.

Anybody looking to rent a self-storage unit should think carefully about how frequently they will visit it, as they may be surprised by how the minutes of traveling time add up. Those in the Northeast in particular may find this an issue, so they might want to consider choosing a facility that is close to home even if it costs a little more.

Residence Types

For people who own the properties they live in there are often other alternatives to renting a self-storage unit. Slightly more than half of self-storage renters own their residences, and a surprisingly large number (67%) live in single-family houses. Over all the regions, 65% have a garage while 49% have an attic and 34% have access to a basement.

Self-storage renters in the Midwest and the South have the highest percentage of single-family home owners, 72%. Those in the Midwest also have the highest proportion with garages, 71%, and more than double the average number of basements, 69%.

It could be suggested that renters who already have extra storage where they live could consider decluttering their homes before they opt for a self-storage unit. Those in the Midwest seem to have the most opportunities for this. Home renters, however, such as those in the Northeast where almost half the people who use self-storage live in apartments or condos, could make good use of cheaper rental space in a self-storage facility.

Storage Facility with Van.
Photo courtesy of Yardi Matrix

Anybody in the US who is considering renting a self-storage unit should think about the characteristics of the region they live in. Local climate conditions could mean that certain threats to their stored items might be more likely than they imagine. Also, getting to their unit regularly may eat into their time in some areas. But self-storage can still be the perfect solution in many cases, and StorageCafe is a great place to find the unit that suits your needs.


Francis Chantree is a writer and editor for Yardi, focusing on real estate and lifestyle content. He is a former programmer and researcher who exchanged computer language for his greatest passion, human language! When not writing and proofreading text, he can be found gardening and reading.

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