How Does Self Storage Work?


If you’re new to the world of self storage, then there are a lot of great benefits to explore. Every year, millions of Americans take advantage of self storage facilities around the country to act as a bridge during a move, store small business inventory, house seasonal recreation equipment, and a million other uses. 

The reasons that people use self storage units are incredibly diverse. They’re very accessible because they’re affordable, secure, and convenient to use. You can find them in practically every area of the country.

Learning about how self storage works can save you time and money in your search for the perfect storage unit. There are tons of different options and things to consider before leasing your first storage unit. Find out how they work to make the best decision for your personal or business items. A quality self storage unit can have a significant positive impact on your quality of life. 

teddy bear christmas tree decorations in box storage facility hallway storage units

The Beginning Basics

Here’s a brief introductory overview that outlines what self storage is and why people use it. 

What Is Self Storage?

Self storage is a place that individuals or businesses can lease or rent to store goods. Typically, self storage units are found in groups on self storage facilities near residential and commercial areas. The people or companies that operate self storage facilities market them to people looking for somewhere to store furniture, bikes, antiques, goods for sale, and other items.

Self storage options vary widely in terms of cost and features. Some self storage units are very basic. They’re built like a shed and are secured with a padlock. Others are located in modern, multi-story complexes with remote access and onsite security. 

blue storage unit doors with numbers self storage facility

Long-Term Vs Short-Term Units

In addition to size, the length of a lease contract is often a major consideration for self storage. Some people only need short-term storage that could be as short as a few days or a week. For example, if you’re selling a house and need to be out by a certain date, but are not yet ready to move into your new residence, you are going to need somewhere to put your things. 

On the other hand, sometimes long-term self storage is a better option for people who want to manage costs or store items for years. A lot of small businesses use self storage to manage inventory rather than keep items stacked on the floor in their basement. Typically, the longer you pay to rent a self storage unit, the more cost-efficient it will be. Expect to pay a premium for short-term leases.

shipping container self storage unit full of household goods

Different Types of Storage Units

As previously mentioned, there is a wide range of features available when it comes to self storage. Facility owners know that not everyone is looking for the same thing, so they build different units to appeal to different customers. Here are some of the different features of self storage units:

Standard Storage Units

These are the most common type of storage unit. They have basic construction and security. Essentially, they’re practically a row of metal sheds surrounded by a fence or walls. Each unit can be locked from the outside.

yellow thermostat on yellow wall climate control

Climate Controlled

Modern storage facilities have started offering more climate-controlled units to customers concerned with property damage. Depending on the local climate, items left inside a hot or cold storage unit can be subject to mold growth and other damage. Climate-controlled storage units maintained a set temperature based on customer needs to help preserve property inside. 

Vehicle Storage

Some storage units cater to customers who need to store larger items like cars, RVs, jet skis, etc. You can find indoor and outdoor vehicle storage that carry different price tags. 

specialty storage wine storage many bottles of wine laying down

Specialty Storage Units

If you need to store a specialty item, odds are you can find a storage unit to fit your needs. Whether it’s high-security storage with features like biometrics and keycard access or drive-up access, it can be found. Some self storage facilities will even come to your property, pick up your possessions, take them to the storage facility, and deliver them to a new location when you need them. 

self storage unit orange doors with bicycles inside

What To Look for In a Self Storage Unit

There’s a lot to look for when choosing your first or even tenth storage unit. If you’re new to the idea of self storage, then you’ll want to take some extra time to get things right. Getting stuck in a long-term lease that you don’t love will be stressful, while finding the right fit will open you to the possibilities of how self storage can make life easier. Here are some things to look for in a storage unit. 

  • Online Bill Pay – Many self storage facilities offer online bill pay and online portals where renters can manage their accounts from a distance. That’s a huge bonus for people who relocate to another area and need to store their things for some time. 
  • Security Gates – Different self storage facilities will have different on-site security features. A security gate is a common security measure that can be found in most storage facilities. A security gate grants access to renters and facility managers, while also deterring security threats. 
  • Video Surveillance – Camera systems are another layer of security popular among self storage facilities. 
  • Customer Service – Some storage units are bare-boned when it comes to customer service. Others market their friendly management, responsive staff, and quick problem resolution as a feature. Get a self storage unit in a facility with a friendly manager who will answer all of your questions and responds quickly to your inquiries. 
  • Convenient Location – This is a huge component of finding the right storage unit. Avoid renting a unit that’s too far from where you are if you think you need to access it regularly. It’s no big deal if you only need to be there once a quarter. However, you’ll regret going for something marginally cheaper that adds between you and your property. Rent something close enough to drop by in a pinch if necessary. 
  • Easy Access – Avoid storage units that place limits on when and how you can access your things. The process of getting to your unit should also be fast and easy. 
  • A Clean Facility – The condition of a storage unit facility is a huge indicator of what your experience is likely to be. A clean storage unit shows that management cares about customers. If things are dirty and in disarray, you should stay away. While you’re touring the facility, look for things like units left open, rat droppings, what type of area it’s in, and other red flags. 

Finding the right storage unit is a lot like anything else in life. If anything doesn’t feel or look right, then keep looking. The most important thing about your unit should be the fact that you feel comfortable leaving your valuables there. If the security, customer service, access, and type of unit are all in order, then it could be the one for you. 

piggy bank against pink background getting the best deal

3 Tips on Getting the Best Deal

Self storage prices aren’t static. Much like pricing on hotels, airline tickets, and even apartments, they fluctuate based on season and demand. If, for example, a storage facility is in a high-demand area with many customers, management is going to be stricter about pricing. However, if the timing and conditions are right, you could score a great deal on a unit. 

Here are three things you can do to get a better deal. 

1. Ask About Discounts

A lot of storage units advertise deals for students, veterans, and other groups. Take advantage of these deals to get breaks on pricing and lease lengths. If you don’t see any discounts on a facility’s website, pick up the phone, and ask. Some facilities won’t broadcast the discounts, saving them for the customers who take the initiative to call up and ask for them.

2. Call About Taking Someone Else’s Lease

Just like with apartments, sometimes people sign a lease for a storage unit and then plans change. They may be six months into a year-long lease when they need to take their property out. Maybe a business decides to liquidate. Sometimes, you can get a deal on a storage unit by taking on someone else’s lease. Facility management will often facilitate lease transfers to keep old customers and new renters happy. 

3. Look During the Slow Season

Typically, the slow season for storage units is during the middle of college semesters when students aren’t moving in and out of their housing. You’ll often get a break on pricing because facility owners would rather rent to you at a discount than leave a unit empty for months. 

indoor self storage facility hallway with red storage unit doors

There are a lot of other ways to get great pricing on a self storage unit. Usually, all it takes is some creativity and effort on your part to find a killer deal on a unit that’s safe, clean, and convenient. You can learn about other ways to grab a good deal by reading our article here. Soon, you’ll be enjoying easy access to your property with peace of mind knowing it’s safe and secure. 

Recent Content