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Tips for Renting a Storage Unit

Updated on June 30, 2016

Renting a storage unit can be a convenient way to store your property during events like relocation, remodeling or extended travel.

Storage units are also the perfect solution for people who run out of storage space in their home or just want to de-clutter their home without getting rid of valued possessions.

Whatever your reason for renting a storage unit, here are some helpful tips and advice that can make this process go as smoothly as possible.

Consider Location First

Before you choose a storage facility, make sure the location is convenient for you and close to your home or work. This is especially important if you think you’ll be making frequent trips to and from your unit.

Also, try to avoid storage facilities located in areas prone to natural disasters like flooding or wildfires.

Visiting the Storage Facility

It’s a very good idea to visit the storage facility you’re considering before signing a lease. Stop in the office and ask to see some of the units. This way, you’ll see firsthand whether the facility seems safe, secure and well-maintained. Be sure to ask any questions relevant to your particular storage needs.

Find a Reputable Place

To save yourself time, aggravation and money, thoroughly check out the storage facility you’re considering before you sign a lease. You might want to ask friends, family or neighbors for recommendations or check online for reputable storage places in your area.

The gray box to the right offers a few places to start your search.

The Better Business Bureau site gives you information such as the business’s overall rating, how many complaints and what type of complaints (if any) have been filed against the business in the last three years.

As with any high-volume business, it isn’t unusual to have some complaints but if the list is long, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

The U-Haul website lists U-Haul owned facilities as well as independently owned storage facilities in your selected area. Some of the locations have customer reviews.

Angie’s List is a subscription-based service that provides reviews of businesses from actual, verified customers.

Top Things to Look For

  • Safety and security: sufficient staff, plenty of security cameras and good lighting both in the storage areas and where you might be parking.
  • A fully gated facility with controlled access so only current tenants can enter the premises.
  • Climate-controlled units available (if that’s something you need)
  • Clean and well-maintained
  • A helpful (or at least available) staff
  • A convenient space to park your vehicle when loading or unloading
  • A facility that’s open during hours that suit your schedule. Some places are only open during typical business hours, other facilities have 24-hour access.

Some tips for packing a storage unit.
Some tips for packing a storage unit. | Source

More Tips

  • Before you sign a contract, read it carefully. If there’s anything you don’t understand or aren’t sure about, ask questions.
  • Ask management for a list of things they don’t allow to be kept in units.
  • Keep a small ladder or step stool inside your unit for reaching anything up high.
  • Before you move in, cover the floor with an old sheet or painting tarp.
  • Hide valuables out of sight toward the back of the unit.
  • Don’t overstuff your unit. Try to load in a ‘U’ formation so you have space to move and easier access to your things.
  • Leave a small space between your items and the wall of the unit to allow ventilation.
  • Remove the dust bag from vacuum cleaners before storing to avoid attracting vermin.
  • Never keep anything flammable or potentially hazardous in your unit.
  • Once the unit is loaded, cover items with a sheet to keep dust off.
  • Put items you might need to access frequently near the front of the unit.

What Size of Unit to Rent?

If you’re not sure of what size unit you’ll need, here are a few ways to estimate:

1) Put everything you plan to store into one area, like in a section of your garage for example. This way you’ll be able to estimate the amount of space you’ll need.

2) Take a look at the various size units available at your storage facility and ask a staff member what they suggest for the types of things you plan to store.

3) Use an online storage estimator. There’s a good one at StorageFront.com that lets you easily estimate how much storage space you’ll need, make inventory lists and even print lists and labels.

Do You Need Climate-Control?

Depending on what you plan to store, you might want to consider a climate-controlled unit. They usually cost slightly more than regular units, but if you have electronics, quality furniture, anything made from wood, photographs, important documents or anything else that could be damaged by heat, moisture or humidity, climate-controlled is the way to go.

If you live in a location where temperatures and humidity reach the extremes, the damage from heat and humidity can be even worse.

Not every storage place offers this type of unit, so ask about it in advance.

Locks for a Storage Unit

When you call or visit the storage facility, be sure to ask about locks. Some places require you purchase a lock from them and/or require all tenants to use a certain type of lock. Others will allow you to use whatever lock you choose as long as it fits on the door.

Locks vary greatly in type, price, style and level of security. If you go on YouTube, you’ll find countless videos of people demonstrating how to pick open just about every type of lock.

It’s a personal choice whether you want to purchase a lock for between $5 and $15 at a hardware store, or invest in a more expensive lock for better security.

The Abus Diskus is well-known as one of the best high-security locks for storage units.
The Abus Diskus is well-known as one of the best high-security locks for storage units. | Source

Abus 20/70 Diskus® Padlock

The Abus Diskus 20/70 is a German-made lock known as one of the best high-security locks for storage units.

It’s a disc style lock with a stainless steel body and hardened alloy steel shackle, anti-cut plate, 250,000 key differs and drilling and pulling protection. Abus claims this lock is “virtually pickproof”.

It currently runs about $30 to $40.

Master Lock Pro Series Padlock Model 6321
Master Lock Pro Series Padlock Model 6321 | Source

Master No. 6321 ProSeries® Padlock

This high-security shrouded padlock from Master features a boron alloy shackle, a high-security solid iron shroud, dual-deadbolt locking for prying resistance and it’s re-keyable for replacing the cylinder or shackle.

It currently costs between $25 and $30.

While there’s no lock that can guarantee someone won’t break into your storage unit, I feel that a high-security lock is worth the extra money in most cases.

Just the sight of either of these two locks might be enough to send any would-be thieves toward a unit with a much easier lock to pick.

MasterLock Shrouded Padlock No. M40XD
MasterLock Shrouded Padlock No. M40XD | Source

Master No. M40XD

Another very secure and slightly less expensive lock is the MasterLock No. M40XD.

This lock features a Tough Cut™ octagonal boron-carbide protective shrouded shackle, stainless steel construction for weather resistance, a 4-pin cylinder for increased pick resistance and a key-retaining feature to help ensure the lock isn’t left unlocked.

It currently runs about $16 and can be found at Home Depot, Lowes and other local hardware stores.

Ask If There Are Discounts

If cost is a concern, ask your storage facility about any discounts they offer. For example, many storage places offer discounts if you pre-pay for a certain number of months or if you sign a six-month or longer lease.

5 Tips for Maximizing Space

1) Use cardboard boxes whenever possible instead of storing items loose.

2) Stack vertically. Load the back of the unit first, placing heavier items on the bottom and stack upward toward the ceiling.

3) Group similarly sized boxes and items together.

4) If you have the time, sort through what you’re storing so you’re not paying to store things you don’t really want, use or need.

5) Pack your boxes so they’re full, but not too heavy for one person to carry.

Storage Rent Payments

Types of payments accepted and the due date policies vary greatly, so ask your storage place for the specifics. Many locations will allow you to access your account online and pay with a credit card or from your bank account.

Make sure you’re clear about the payment due date and late payment policies so you don’t risk your unit being auctioned off.

If you’re really busy or not great with remembering to pay things on time, see if your storage place offers automatic payments from your credit card or bank account. This might be the best way to go to make sure you’re not late.

Insuring Your Storage Unit

Some storage places will require you to have insurance coverage on the items in your unit. Other facilities don’t care either way, but having at least some insurance coverage is a good idea to protect you in the case of theft, fire, floods or natural disasters.

If you already have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, it’s usually easy and fairly inexpensive to add your storage unit to your existing policy.

The cost will vary based on how much insurance protection you want. If you’re storing high-value items, be sure to talk to your insurance agent to make sure you have the correct amount of coverage.

Make an Inventory List and Photograph Your Items

Making an inventory list and photographing items (especially ones of value) is useful for your own personal records and for insurance purposes. Some insurance policies will even request photos of high-value items in storage.

If you’re really organized, record the contents of every box to make it easy to find anything specific you’re looking for.

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What NOT to Keep in a Storage Unit

These are just some basics. Check with your storage facility directly for their specific rules. When in doubt, ask to be safe!

  • Anything potentially flammable or hazardous like paints, motor oil, cleaning products, propane tanks or fireworks just to name a few
  • Weapons or ammunition
  • Any type of food product or perishables
  • Priceless family heirlooms
  • Original artwork
  • Ideally, nothing that contains personal information like social security numbers, tax returns, birth certificates, etc.
  • Family photos (If you have no option but to store them, try to scan them first)

© 2013 carolynkaye


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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      My husband has kept industrial business chemicals in a storage unit for years so we don't have to store them in our garage. There are some people who have snack vending services that keep their products in there too (yuck). You are wise to advise against storing food and valuables. Over the years, my husband has occasionally had some of his polymers leak on the floor and harden, and the solidified drippings often have rodents from nearby units in them. Makes you think about what people have stored in there. I've also known of cars being stored in some units and people not paying their rental fees, so the unit is sold with the car in it. I would just recommend to people that they assess the value of what they are storing and considering whether it's truly worth the fees? My mother-in-law kept a unit for years full of crap. She could have used the money for better purposes. Voted up and more.

    • carolynkaye profile image

      carolynkaye 3 years ago from USA

      Thanks, FlourishAnyway. Great point about people considering the value of what they're storing. Storage fees can add up after a while and in some cases it's best to just sell/donate items and just replace them. I appreciate the comment & votes :)

    • lowena profile image

      Lauren Slater 20 months ago from London

      The most important in looking for storage unit is security, reliability and cctv monitored from the tips that you mentioned. Anyway, your tips are complete.

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