How to Choose a Storage Unit

Written by | Updated February 1, 2018

self storage unit with boxes

If you have more stuff than you know what to do with, a self-storage unit may be a good option for you. When looking for a storage unit, you’ll want to think about how much space you need, how secure your belongings will be (both from thieves and the weather), and how easily you can access your unit.  

Follow these tips to help you choose the right storage unit.

 Keep Your Home Safe Too
While you’re moving stuff out of your house, find out how to keep everything else safe with our guide to the Best Home Security and Alarm Systems.

1. Think about How Much Space You Really Need

Storage units typically come in standard sizes:

  • 5 x 5 ft.
  • 5 x 10 ft.
  • 10 x 10 ft.
  • 10 x 15 ft.
  • 10 x 20 ft.

When shopping for a storage unit, don’t forget about vertical capacity. Using shelves in a storage unit will expand your vertical storage and let you take advantage of the space from floor to ceiling as well as wall to wall.

If your storage unit is 10 x 20 feet with an 8-foot high ceiling, you have a total of 1,600 cubic feet, which is a lot to work with.

Plan how you’ll store items ahead of time: put the heaviest boxes on bottom and lighter boxes on top. Place your furniture at the very back of the unit, and stack other items on top to make the best use of space. If you plan to store off-season clothing in your unit, make sure it’s close to the front so you can easily get to it when the weather warms up.

Don’t forget a sturdy lock to keep your belongings safe. Some facilities will provide a lock for your unit, but it’s a good idea to purchase one of your own that only you have the key to.

2. Consider Climate Control

Some items are extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in temperature. Wooden instruments, for example, will warp and distort beyond repair if left in a hot storage unit.

When you have valuable but vulnerable items, climate-controlled units are the best way to go. Few things are more frustrating than losing the piano that’s been in your family for generations to hot, humid weather.

3. Think about Location

Choosing a storage unit close to where you live is convenient, but making a decision based on location alone can be a bad idea. While you may save a few minutes of travel time, ask yourself how often you plan to visit your storage unit. Unless you’re going there every day, driving ten extra minutes won’t make that much difference.

The extra travel time may make a big difference in price, though. Don’t limit your search solely to units near your home—consider storage units farther away. If you live in the city or a dense suburban area, you can likely find better prices if you look farther away from town.

4. Know the Gate Hours and Office Hours

The gate hours are the times when you can access your unit, but they can vary quite a bit from the office hours. Gate hours are usually longer (and some facilities may offer 24-hour access), but if you encounter a problem and need to speak with the facility manager, you’ll have to do it during office hours.

The hours can also indicate more about the area the facility is located in. If a storage facility closes early in the day and has a lot of cameras posted around the compound, the company may just be security conscious—or it may be in a high-crime location.

5. Pay Attention to Reviews

What other customers have to say about a storage unit will tell you more about it than anything else. Sites like Yelp are full of reviews from usually unsatisfied customers. While you should take all internet reviews with a grain of salt, the same complaint across multiple reviews is something you’ll want to look into more.

Also, keep in mind the age of the reviews. A facility with a lot of year-old negative reviews but more recent, positive reviews may indicate the owners of the facility have made efforts to correct the previous problems.

6. Read the Contract

If you have a lawyer or a friend who’s a lawyer, ask them to review the contract for you. Read the fine print and make sure you aren’t inadvertently signing a multi-year contract you don’t need. Sure, you may be able to break the contract, but it’s usually pricey to do so.

The contract will also tell you what happens if you miss a payment. The payment for a storage unit is often due the first day of the month, and late penalties begin building up immediately. Depending on the facility, the contents of your unit can be auctioned off within just a few days of missing the payment.

Find the Unit That Works for You

With a little bit of planning and research, you should be able to find the right size unit at the right price. Think about how many belongings you need to keep in storage, how long you’ll need to keep them there, and how much of a budget you’re willing to dedicate towards storage.  Start your search close to home, but don’t settle for the first facility you find. Comparing multiple storage units is the best way to find the right combination of location, convenience, and space.

Written by Patrick Hearn

The SafeWise Team is here to help you keep your home and family safe. Whether you’re looking to pick a security system or identify and remove common risks in your home, we’re here to help you find the best products and well-researched answers. At SafeWise we combine our years of experience in home safety and security with user reviews and feedback to help take the guesswork out of living safe. Learn more

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