Storing your belongings isn’t rocket science. Although having someone else store your unused belongings can make your life simpler.
Doing initial research before renting a storage unit can help you choose the best one for your specific needs.
And the preparation can save you money in the long run.
For the First Time Storage Renter
Choosing the right self storage facility is important. By knowing what the storage center offers along with what’s included when renting a unit — you can be assured that your belongings are safe and your money is wisely invested.
The best storage rates are often kept secret. You can call now to get an estimate and reserve your space — all within 5 minutes.
More and more Americans are renting storage units for their extra belongings. It has become such big business that there are actually more self-storage units than McDonalds restaurants in the United States.
Whether you’re a first time storage unit renter or an experienced pro, the questions below can help assertively guide you through the process of choosing the best storage facility for your needs.
It never hurts to have several questions to ask storage facilities. It shows that you know what you’re doing and that you want to get a deal and do business with them.
The Different Types of Storage Units…
There are many different kinds of storage units available in today’s market. These include:
Self-Storage Units – The most common type of storage unit is a self-storage unit. This is where you place items such as furniture, boxes, or other household goods. You rent these units by the month or year.
Climate Controlled – A climate controlled unit is similar to a self-storage unit except it has an air conditioning system installed inside. This unit keeps your possessions cool during summer months and warm during winter months. It also helps prevent mold growth on stored items.
Drive Up Access – Drive up access allows you to drive directly into the unit with your vehicle. This makes loading and unloading easier than having to carry things into the building.
Drive Thru Access – Drive thru access allows you to drive straight through the front door of the storage facility without having to go around the back of the building.
Vehicle Parking – Some storage facilities allow you to park vehicles, motorcycles, boats or RV’s in their parking lot. This is helpful if you have multiple cars or trucks — or a homeowner’s association that doesn’t like boats or RVs in the neighborhood.
Furthermore, some storage centers offer additional services and features that may be useful to you.
Common Features Offered at Self Storage Centers
When choosing a storage facility, there are several features to be considered.
If you’re a first time storage renter, here are some of the more popular features to ask about:
Climate Control – Climate control maintains a safe temperature and humidity level for your property. It’s important if you’re storing items where the temperature varies from hot to really cold.
Security Cameras – Many storage facilities now use security cameras to monitor activity at the facility. They’re great for monitoring activity in the facility while you’re away.
Electronic Keypads – Most storage facilities now provide electronic keypads so you don’t need to carry keys anymore.
Pro Tip: Keep a photo copy of the storage center business card where they wrote your entrance code so you always have it as close as your phone.
Cell Phone App – Many facilities have their own app at the App Store and at Google Play. The app can have your phone relay your entrance code at the storage center gate for entering and exiting.
Locking Doors – Locking doors keep people out of your unit while you’re not there.
24 Hour Access – 24 hour access means that you can enter your unit any time day or night.
Convenient Hours – Convenience hours mean that you can drop off or pick up items anytime.
24/7 Security Guards – Many storage facilities offer 24 hour security guards. 24/7 security guards means that the facility provides round the clock security.
Free Pickup & Delivery – Free pickup and delivery means that you won’t have to worry about carrying heavy items into the building.
No Minimum Lease Terms – No minimum lease terms means that you only pay for the amount of space you actually use.
No Deposit Required – No deposit required means that you don’t have to put down a security deposit when you sign a contract.
The First Step to Renting Storage
The first step in finding a good storage facility is to determine how much space you need. There are several ways to figure this out.
First, you can measure the area of the room you plan to store your items in. Next estimate the number of items you’ll be storing and then multiply that number by the square footage of each item. Also pay close attention to those items with the longest lengths since those will ultimately determine fitting in the space.
For example, if you want to store one large piece of furniture that is three foot wide by ten foot long – you would multiply 3 x 10 which equals 30 square feet. That’s the minimum room needed to store that one large piece of furniture.
The large piece of furniture might fit in a 10×10 unit (100 square feet and a needed 10 foot length) but not in a 5×5 (25 square feet and the 5 foot length is too short).
This method works well if you know the size of all of your items.
However, if you aren’t sure what size some of your items are, you may want to take measurements instead. If you do decide to measure your items, make sure you get accurate measurements. Also, be aware that measuring your items might require lifting them. Make sure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes when doing this.
For the common self storage unit sizes, see our article here.
Once you’ve determined how much space you need, contact a few different storage facilities to see which one offers the best rates.
You should also consider other factors such as location, amenities, and customer service before choosing a storage facility.
You Don’t Have to Settle
Today’s self storage is designed with the customer in mind. There’s so many choices now and you don’t have to settle for just any storage unit. The main thing is to find the best storage unit by asking the right questions.
What to Ask a Self-Storage Center Before Renting
The following questions to ask storage facilities can help you find the perfect storage unit:
1. How Much Does It Cost?
This is always the first question. Knowing how much it costs to rent a storage unit will give you a better idea of whether or not it’s worth renting.
Find out what the monthly rate is for renting a storage unit. You want to find out how much it will cost up front and monthly.
This can help you determine how much money you’d spend on rent per month.
And you can also find out how frequently they have to raise prices to match inflation. This helps so that you don’t have surprises later on.
2. What are Your Access Hours?
It helps to know when can enter the facility to drop off and pick up your stuff.
Many centers will give you a business sized card with their access hours. I like to take a picture of that card so I always have it in my phone for reference,
Most self storage centers are open during the typical 9-5 business hours — but that might just be the office staff in the office at that time. Some self storage facilities might open earlier and close later than others, but this doesn’t always mean that someone will be available if you need to talk to them.
Many centers have gate access from 7am to 9pm and I’ve found this works well for my lifestyle.
It’s less common to find a 24-hour access storage facility — but there are some facilities available if you’re the kind of person who needs to see your storage unit at 2 in the morning.
3. Do You Have Climate-Controlled Storage?
Only ask this if you have delicate or valuable items that need careful storage away from heat, cold and humidity. It’s expected that customers pay more for this level of storage.
Climate control maintains a safe temperature and humidity level for your property. It’s important if you’re storing items where the temperature varies from hot to really cold.
4. Do You Provide 24-Hour Security and What do you Provide to Prevent Theft?
Find out if they offer 24-hour security. Basic safety measures include gated entrances, surveillance cameras, well-lit areas and a tall wall. Advanced features include individual alarm systems and a real guard.
It would be helpful if there is a manager who lives on the site.
5. Is There A Deposit or Any Money Down?
Find out if there is a deposit or money down needed.
6. Can I Bring My Own Lock?
Some storage facilities allow you to bring your own lock. Only ask this question if you don’t want to purchase their lock but to use your own.
We recommend purchasing one of the storage centers’ locks that they provide to customers. Their selected lock will fit the unit latch and it will provide the experienced level of security.
As a side note: hopefully this doesn’t happen to you, but in the future if you need to know what a missing lock key is supposed to look like, the storage center can describe it in detail if you have one of their locks – surprisingly that information is needed sometimes.
7. Does the Facility Offer Any Specials?
Find out if the facility has special deals available by asking.
You could even ask… “what can I do to get a discount on the cost?” and see what they say.
Also check the self-storage center’s website and social pages for any online only deals. Even if you walk in to their office, you can mention the discount you saw on their website. I’ve found they usually give you the discount just for walking in and mentioning it.
In today’s very competitive market, self storage centers often have a student discount, military discount, seasonal discounts, website discount and the occasional new renter specials.
8. How Are You Better than the Competition?
Remember that there’s lots of storage options. You don’t have to settle for mediocre service — when you can have the best service for about the same price. You just have to find it by asking the right questions.
The good places will tell you exactly how they are better. Hopefully they say it with enthusiasm because that says a lot about how they feel about you, the customer.
If their answer sounds good and reasonable to you, then that could be the storage place you eventually choose.
9. Do You Have Insurance?
Check to see if they have insurance to protect your items and their storage center. Many centers offer insurance for an additional monthly fee.
10. Do You Have Pest Control?
This can be more important than many people realize. You don’t want bugs and rodents in your storage unit. A good storage facility will have a frequent pest control service that sprays the property, set traps and does what is needed to eliminate these pests.
For example, I had an RV sitting in a storage space and I took it to my car guy to change the battery.
Instead they found signs of a rodent in the engine bay and let me know a rodent could chew on my engine wires. So I protected my RV and cleaned out the signs of the rodent — and didn’t go back to that storage space.
11. Are There Other Amenities Available?
Find out if any additional services are offered at the facility.
12. Are There Additional Fees?
Find out if there are any extra fees associated with using the facility.
Be careful of a self-storage center that offers unrealistic rental rates that are considerably lower than competitors — you might be charged unexpected hidden fees.
Normal fees include a security deposit and an administrative fee.
13. Ask About Moving Costs
If you are moving a home, this is a good time to ask your storage center if they can help. Find out if moving costs are included in the price of renting a storage unit (such as truck rental if available).
The best storage rates are often kept secret. You can call now to get an estimate and reserve your space — all within 5 minutes. To serve you quicker, call wait time is near zero.
Watch Out for Extra Administrative Fees
As mentioned above, normal fees include a security deposit and an administrative fee.
Here’s a breakdown of the normal fees you can expect, so you know how to tell when you’re being ripped off.
Security Deposits – The amount of the security deposit depends on the size of the unit. Smaller units usually have a lower deposit. If you rent a 10×10 storage unit, you should expect to pay $100-$200 as a security deposit. Larger units such as 20×20 units can cost upwards of $500.
Administrative Fee – This is charged by the facility and is used to cover costs associated with running the facility. These could include things like utilities, maintenance, repairs, taxes, etc. This is charged per month and is used to cover the costs associated with running the storage facility. These could include anything from utilities, maintenance, repairs and taxes.
Rental Rate – This is the price you pay to use the storage facility for a certain period of time and is spelled out in the contract. It’s usually around $1.25 per square foot of space but will be more if the unit is climate controlled. Of course, the latest round of inflation could change that at any time.
Rental Period – This is for how long you need to store your items. Most contracts are typically month to month. Most contracts also state that you need to give the self storage center a written 30 day (or 14 day) notice prior to cancelling your unit. Some storage centers let you send the cancellation notice by email but I always prefer delivering the cancellation notice in person and 30 days before I no longer need the storage unit.
Storage Unit Size – This is spelled out in the contract and is the size of the storage unit you are renting.
Insurance Cost – Many storage facilities offer an optional insurance to cover your items and to cover damage to their unit. It’s a wise idea to pick this up.
Additional Features – Are there other amenities available and what are the fees.
Any other fees mentioned in the contract (or charged unexpectedly on your bill) — those need to be carefully scrutinized before signing (or when you get that first bill).
Want to avoid those extra fees? Call us today to get an estimate and reserve your space — without all the fluff of extra fees.
It’s Not Difficult to Rent Storage
I realize that all the questions above might look intimidating to those renting storage for the first time.
The office staff at each self storage facility are asked these questions every day — and they all have the answers prepared for you. Because of that, answering questions is a quick process for the office staff and it shows you’re interested in their service.
Believe me, once you go through this process once or twice, you’ll be amazed how simple it is and how professional you’ll sound.
And because you’ll sound professional when dealing with each self storage center, you’ll save money (and hassles) in the long run.
The best storage rates are often kept secret. You can call now to get an estimate and reserve your space — all within 5 minutes.