A First-Timer’s Guide to Renting a Storage Unit

First time renting a storage unit? We can help. Whether you need to temporarily store your belongings while moving or store them long term after downsizing, renting a storage unit provides an excellent, space-saving solution. Storage facilities are a secure, convenient and easy-to-find option for those in need of storage. The majority of short term storage and long term storage facilities also offer a wide range of unit sizes and services to meet your needs. Use this first-timer’s guide to renting a storage unit to learn more about storage types, how storage works, and more.

How do storage units work?

Most storage units work similarly. Once you find a storage unit near you, you sign a contract with a storage company for a specified amount of time to secure a rental on a storage unit of your choice. A storage unit is a space in a storage facility where you store your belongings. Although some companies require a three-month minimum, most offer storage rentals on a month-to-month basis.

Rules and regulations differ among storage companies depending on the services they offer, but you only pay for the time you need the unit for (unless you break the contract, but that’s another matter). Also, it might seem obvious, but it’s illegal to live in your storage unit per state and federal housing laws. It’s also illegal to conduct business in your storage unit. Some storage facilities allow band practice, but there are restrictions like noise ordinances and no access to electricity.

How do storage units work?

Reasons for renting self-storage

People rent self-storage for more reasons than moving or decluttering. Some common reasons people rent self-storage include:

  • Seasonal storage. Holiday decorations, costumes, seasonal gear clothing, and lawn equipment can all go into storage during the off-season.
  • If your new home isn’t ready. New home not complete, but you need to move out of your old home? A rental storage unit can house your stuff till the move can be completed.
  • Needing more space in their home. Say, you’re downsizing and decluttering but not ready to part with some of your stuff. Or a family member moves in with you and needs a guest bedroom that you were using for storage. There are many reasons people would need more space in their homes. If you’re not ready to toss, sell or donate your stuff, store it.
  • House renovation. Renovating take time and create a lot of chaos and mess. To protect your belongings and clear space, you can store furniture and other belongings in storage until the renovation is completed.
  • College storage. Students who don’t want to lug their dorm room belongings back home during summer break might want to rent a storage unit near campus.
  • Military service. The members of the military can use this option during deployment.
  • To store vehicles. If you don’t have room where you live, you can store your boat, RV, car or motorcycle at a storage facility.

What are the two different types of storage for rent?

When determining what type of storage you need, consider these two types of storage options:

  • Full-service storage – A full-service storage company offers “valet-style” services to its customers. The premise behind a full-service storage company is that they will pick up your belongings and deliver them to the storage unit. Many full-service storage companies also let the customer request and schedule a pickup or return right from their smartphone. Hiring a full-service storage company will save the customer from the added hassle of having to deliver possessions to the storage unit. Many full-service facilities will also take photos and document your belongings. This way, if you can’t remember what’s in storage, you can simply look at a photo or check your online inventory list.
  • Self-storage – Self-storage is, undoubtedly, the most popular storage option available. These facilities offer a safe, secure and affordable way to store belongings from the home, as well as larger items, such as boats. With self-storage, customers are responsible for delivering their belongings to the storage unit themselves. When they wish to take an item out of storage, they pick it up themselves as well. Customers should document their own belongings since self-storage facilities do not keep track of what’s inside a storage unit. It’s also important to note that self-storage tends to be less pricey than full-service storage, making it more appealing to those on a tight budget.

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Full-service vs. self-storage: Which one should I pick?

Most customers in need of storage for rent opt for a self-storage unit. These units tend to be more affordable and easier to use. Instead of requesting a pickup from a full-service storage facility, customers using self-storage can pick up their own things whenever they wish. If you have easy access to a car and aren’t planning on storing an excessive number of items, then we highly recommend renting a self-storage unit.

However, those living in large urban areas, where driving and parking are an issue, tend to opt for full-service storage. Since many city dwellers are without a car and live in high-rise buildings with elevators or stairs, full-service storage makes storage more convenient than ever. If you live in a city where full-service storage is available, then I recommend taking advantage of this service.

How to find a storage unit

The easiest way to find the best storage units for rent in your area is to use Moversnearyou.info’s Storage Center. Just type in the zip code or your city and state of residence and click the “find storage” button. Moversnearyou.info will pull quotes from the closest storage unit facilities near your new home to compare.

How to rent a storage unit

Storage companies have their own protocols but the process of renting a storage unit has similarities. To rent storage near you:

  • Determine what you need to store
  • Decide what type of storage you want (full-service vs. self-storage, outdoor vs. indoor)
  • Determine what size unit you’ll need based on what you need to store
  • Set your budget
  • Consider purchasing insurance
  • Search for the storage you want to rent (see above)
  • Reserve a storage unit online or in person by signing a storage unit agreement or contract (read it carefully before you sign)
  • Get a move-in day date
  • Invest in a good lock

How to rent a storage unit

What do you need to rent a storage unit?

You just need a valid, government-issued form of ID to rent your storage unit. Options include a driver’s license, passport, state ID or military ID. When reserving the storage unit, you’ll need to sign a binding storage unit agreement or contract. Obviously, read it thoroughly first.

Renting online vs. in person

Many storage facilities accept walk-ins for leasing a storage unit; some require making an appointment to ensure there’s a leasing agent on premises who can assist you. If you want to check out the facility first, this option makes sense. Increasingly, there’s an online option to book storage space. It’s convenient and will save you time. You can book anytime, including when the facility is closed, and will be guaranteed a spot. Once you create an account, you can also pay your monthly bill and fees like security deposit online.

What size storage unit should I rent?

Good news: The majority of self-storage facilities offer multiple-size storage units for rent. Most offer at least five sizes, including 5’x5’, 5’x10’, 10’x10’, 10’x15’ and 10’x20’ storage units. Many offer larger sizes as well. Most full-service storage facilities also offer a variety of storage unit sizes. However, the price and square footage needed will most likely be based on the number of bins (or boxes) you request. Full-service storage unit sizes vary widely, so be sure to check with the specific facility that you plan to use.

How long can I rent a storage unit?

Typically, you can rent a storage unit for as long as you like. Whether you’re looking for short term storage or long term storage, you’ll find it at one of the many storage companies available. Some people even rent storage units indefinitely as an extra space for personal or work-related items. However, storage companies will likely have a minimum amount of time you can rent a unit. Most offer monthly contracts or weekly contracts. Some storage companies may even have a three-month minimum.

Keep in mind that if you wish to cancel your storage rental, you’ll need to let the company know by a certain date. Otherwise, you may end up paying for the next month regardless of whether or not you’re still using the rental.

How is the cost of a storage room for rent determined?

The cost of a storage unit is based on how much and how long you store. Self-storage facilities typically offer contracts on a month-to-month basis. This way, the customer has the option to store temporarily or long-term. In our opinion, month-to-month storage units are the most convenient option. Contracts offered by full-service storage facilities vary from company to company. Some insist on a three-month minimum, while others offer month-to-month services. Weekly storage units, which are available to rent from week to week, are also very convenient for those looking for short term storage. Unfortunately, not every storage facility offers this option.

How is the cost of a storage room for rent determined?

How does the payment work?

You’ll be paying once a month on or before the date specified in your rental agreement. If the rental facility has the capability to accept payments online, this is the most convenient option. If your payment is late, you’ll be charged a late fee. Those vary, so contact the company or check your lease agreement for details on late payments.

If you default on your payment (it’s anywhere between 5 to 30 days after the due date), the facility can deny you entry. The point of default should be specified in your lease. You can regain access to your unit after you pay the past-due amount. If you don’t pay your bill, per self-storage state lien laws, a storage facility has a right to hold and auction off your belongings to make up for lost rent money. It’s the last resort, and you can prevent it by learning the terms of your contract, paying your monthly bill on time, and communicating with the rental facility manager as soon as possible if you’re having any issues.

What’s in a rental agreement?

Your rental agreement (also referred to as a rental contract, self-storage contract and lease agreement) will specify all the terms of your lease. It’s a binding document so you should read it carefully before you sign (online or in person) and abide by what’s in the document. Generally, your rental agreement will have:

  • The description of the unit
  • Length of the lease
  • The amount of your rent
  • Your payment due date
  • The amount of your security deposit
  • How payments are accepted (credit card, check, online)
  • Non-payment terms (when a payment is considered late, what the late fee is, and what happens if you stop paying rent)
  • Any additional fees (lock-cut fee, auction fee)
  • Tenant rights and responsibilities
  • Landlord rights and responsibilities
  • Cancellation terms
  • What you can and can’t store
  • The value limit if there’s one ($5,000 is common)
  • The move-out process (when to give notice, what condition to leave the unit in)

What’s in a rental agreement?

Indoor vs. outdoor storage

Indoor storage units are frequently climate-controlled units used to store items people want to protect from the elements. Outdoor storage units are covered and locked, but there’s no climate control. Indoor storage units offer more security, but outdoor storage units typically have drive-up access, which is a plus. Indoor storage is usually located inside a multi-level building. It’s designed for anything that’s valuable or fragile, or could be damaged by the elements or pests. Outdoor storage is ideal for storing large items and vehicles.

What should I look for in a storage unit?

When assessing different storage facilities and their amenities, make sure to consider these key factors:

  • Climate control
  • Degree of accessibility. For instance, do they offer 24-hour access to the storage units? Are they open on Sundays? What about holidays? Be sure that the facility’s hours match your availability before renting a unit.
  • Number of locks
  • Video monitoring
  • In-person surveillance
  • Pricing and contracts offered
  • Sizes offered
  • Overall safety and security of the facility. For instance, how well-lit is the facility?
  • Online reviews of the facility

Do I need a climate-controlled storage unit?

If you’re storing clothes and furniture, you will most likely need a climate-controlled storage unit. Fortunately, the majority of storage facilities offer this type of storage unit. Climate control helps protect your belongings from extreme temperatures, humidity and other outside conditions. These units also prevent mildew, mold and other nasty conditions from thriving inside a storage unit. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that mold grows on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood products, dust, paints, wallpaper, fabric, carpet and upholstery. Those planning to store these types of items must focus on finding a climate-controlled storage unit.

Do I need a climate-controlled storage unit?

How do I prepare my items for storage?

Don’t just willy-nilly throw your items in a storage unit, especially if you will be using storage for the long term. Properly preparing items for storage is the best way to keep them in top condition. Here are several tips for how to properly prepare belongings for storage.

  • Read about the rules and restrictions – Your storage company likely has a list of rules and restrictions when it comes to using their storage units. Make sure to read up on what is and what isn’t allowed before putting items in storage. You can be sure that fireworks, chemicals and other hazardous items are not allowed inside a storage unit. Anything flammable is a big no-no, as is perishable food.
  • Take inventory of your belongings – If you plan to leave items in a storage unit for a while, you’re going to need to create a detailed inventory list of all belongings. Otherwise, you might simply forget what you’ve left in storage. We recommend writing everything down and taking pictures for insurance purposes as well. Save all photos and an inventory list in one place so you don’t lose track of your belongings.
  • Clean items – Before putting items in storage, it’s best to wipe them down and/or clean them, if needed. Wash and dry-clean clothes, vacuum pillows and upholstery and disinfect boxes. Make sure nothing is wet – otherwise, you could end up with mildewed belongings.
  • Disassemble furniture – When storing furniture, make sure to disassemble it first. You may even want to wrap certain furniture items (i.e. headboards, table legs and mirrors) in protective wrap before placing them inside the unit. By disassembling furniture, you’ll also open up more floor space for boxes and belongings. If a table or large piece of furniture doesn’t come apart, think about how you can use it to hold belongings. For instance, a dining table can be used as a shelf for boxes.
  • Pack everything very carefully – We recommend packing all smaller items in sturdy cardboard boxes and/or clear plastic bins. Plastic bins make it easier to see what’s inside, but cardboard boxes are less expensive (or even free) – so the choice is up to you. Pack everything just as you would for a real move. This means using everything from bubble cushioning and plastic wrap to packing paper and packing tape. Make sure to pack mirrors, TVs and artwork in appropriate boxes as well. This should prevent items from breaking while in transit and while in your storage unit.
  • Label everything – Unless you want to lose track of what’s where, it’s extremely important that you label every box with exactly what’s inside. Use a permanent marker or printed labels and make sure the labeled part of the box is facing the front of the storage unit. A labeling strategy that works for many is to number each box and write the corresponding contents on a separate sheet of paper. For instance, Box 1: 10 everyday dishes; Box 2: A dozen wine glasses; Box 3: Wedding photo albums; Box 4: Books (list out specific names); Box 5: Christmas tree ornaments, etc. Make sure to save the inventory list in an easy-to-access location.
  • Be strategic about where you place items – Finally, when placing items inside the storage unit, be strategic about how exactly you place belongings. For instance, mirrors and artwork should be placed in an upward position – not lying down flat. Boxes that contain fragile items should be placed higher up so that they aren’t crushed by heavy items. If there’s room in your storage unit, we recommend lying your mattress flat on top of boxes, so its condition isn’t damaged over time. Make sure to also place items you need more frequently towards the front of the storage unit, so you can access them more easily. Items that you use less should go in the back. Consider placing a step stool inside your storage unit to make obtaining boxes and items that are placed up high easier.

How do I prepare my items for storage?

Besides household goods, what else can I store?

In addition to storing household goods, those using a storage unit can rent storage for specific items, such as boats, cars, RVs and motorcycles. If you need to store appliances or large furniture items, you may need to consider renting an additional storage unit (or a larger one) as well.

Should I insure my storage items?

Before storing your items, we do recommend that they are all properly insured. Not only will this give you peace of mind, but it will also help replace any items that are (god forbid) broken or stolen while in storage. Be aware that some storage facilities provide protection for items against damage or loss – free of charge. Many storage facilities offer their own affordable self-storage insurance options as well.

Keep in mind that your belongings may already be covered by your homeowners or renters insurance. Insurance Information Institute points out that off-premises home insurance coverage often has 10 percent of the policy’s personal property as a limit. Before purchasing additional insurance, though, be sure to consult with your insurance agent about your existing policy first.

How do I get my stuff to the storage unit?

A full-service storage company will take care of that for you. But if you DYI, there are several options. If you don’t have a lot, you can pack your own car and make one or a few trips to the storage facility. To transport more items than your car will hold, consider asking a friend or a family member with a truck for a favor. Another option is to rent a truck. Finally, you can take advantage of free truck rentals offered by some storage companies. Storage companies offer rental trucks at select locations. At participating locations, all one-way truck or trailer reservations come with one-month free storage.

Ready to move?

Already booked a safe and secure storage unit? Then it’s time to find reliable movers to handle your upcoming relocation. Whether you’re looking for full-service or partial-service help when moving, a professional moving company can do as little or as much as you like. Fortunately, there are plenty of quality moving companies vying for your business. To find the best moving company to move your belongings, check Moversnearyou.info’s extensive network of reputable and reliable movers. All relocation companies in our network are licensed and insured, so you can rest assured that your move will be in good hands.

A First-Timer’s Guide to Renting a Storage Unit
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