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Searching For Self Storage Units? Here's Everything You Need to Know

Whether you're moving into a home that isn't quite ready yet or downsizing for a period of time, you need a place to store some of your stuff-and a friend's garage isn't going to cut it.

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Thankfully, self-storage companies exist to help out in exactly these situations.

At it's basic, self-storage allows you to store your belongings for a small monthly fee , and storage unit quotes are based on multiple factors like location, 24-hour video access, and cold-storage facility. Storage units come in various shapes and sizes depending on how much you'd like to pace inside. Plus, there's no need to sweat security since the units are completely private-meaning that your self-storage unit is locked and only you hold the key.

So, what do you need to know before shopping around for self storage quotes?

Before moving to shop around for the perfect storage, let us see what self-storage is, how it works, and what are the most important factors to consider while comparing storage facility quotes:

What is self-storage?

Self-storage (the shorthand term for "self-service storage") or "mini storage" is an industry where storage space (such as rooms, lockers, containers, and/or outdoor space) or "storage unit" is rented to tenants, usually on a short-term basis (often monthly). Both individuals and businesses hire self-storage service. Initially, it was a US-based industry but now it exists all around the world. It is estimated that more than 50,000 self-storage facilities exist in the US alone.

What are the different types of storage facilities?

The type of storage facility you choose should depend on the type of items you want to store. Choosing the most suitable facility for your items means getting an appropriate level of protection for them at the best price.

Choosing the wrong facility may end up wasting your money without the proper protection for your items and also end up causing damage to the items you might love and cherish.

In this article, we'll share all the ins and outs you need to know when renting a storage unit.

The following are the most common types of storage units available in storage facilities:

Climate-Controlled Self-Storage

Climate-controlled storage has units where the humidity and temperature are monitored and controlled by the storage facility.

The storage company determines the specific degree of the temperature in the units and all the space is enclosed in a structure or building. This facility is suitable for storing items that are affected or damaged by weather conditions.

External weather, either hot or cold cannot affect items in the self-storage unit or determine the temperature inside the unit.

Most climate-controlled facilities only give access to few authorized individuals for the smooth running of the facility. Depending on the facility you opt for, you may have access to your items 24 hours or less in a day.

Climate control Storage

Non-Climate Controlled Self-Storage

The storage facility does not control or monitor the humidity and temperature of the non-climate-controlled storage space, whereas they are affected by the natural prevailing weather.

The facility can either be cold or warm based on the temperature outside. The quote for this storage facility will be more pocket-friendly as compared to the one for a climate-controlled storage unit. You can hire one such storage facility for items that won't be impacted by the weather conditions.

Portable Container Storage

Moving container companies such as PODS are known for providing portable container storage services. The company delivers your preferred container size in the location you want, your home or business.

After loading the container with items, you contact the company to pick it up and transport it to their warehouse where it is stored. This storage is suitable for items that don't require repeated access and are not affected by climate. For a portable container storage facility, the quote raised by a company will also be cheaper than a normal storage facility.

Information Management Service

This type of storage company collects files at your location (either home or office) and moves them to their climate-controlled facility. These companies only collect and store paper files. Once you request any of your files, the company will deliver them to you.

Information management service companies aren't as common as others. Several businesses now operate a "paperless" system. Such companies prefer cloud storage (digital storage system on the internet) and no longer require the services of paper file storage companies.

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What size of storage unit do I need?

The storage size you need depends upon the number of items you want to store. A 2-bedroom's worth of items will require more storage space than a studio's worth of items.

Most storage facilities provide various storage sizes for rent. If you are fine with the storage facility quote, you can choose whatever storage size you want.

Here are 6 of the most common storage sizes to choose from:

  • 5x5 (25 ft. 2) - mostly suitable for storing seasonal items
  • 5x10 (50 ft2 - suitable for storing a studio or a 1-bedroom's worth of items
  • 10x10 (100 ft2) - suitable for storing 2 bedroom's worth of items
  • 10x15 (150 ft2) - suitable for storing 3 bedroom's worth of items
  • 10x20 (200 ft2) - suitable for storing 4 - 5 bedroom's worth of items
  • 10x30 (300 ft2) - suitable for storing 5 - 7 bedroom's worth of items

You can use this storage units size guide to determine the right storage size you need for your home or office items.

What is climate-controlled storage?

In a climate-controlled storage, the temperature and humidity of the entire space is controlled and enclosed within a building. The unit is not exposed to external weather, temperature or moisture triggered by humidity. So, whether it is sunny or snowing outside, the temperature and humidity of the storage is not affected.

Unlike other storage, access to climate-controlled storage is limited to authorized individuals. The entire storage building is often secured and placed under strict monitoring. Climate-controlled storage is mostly suitable for items that are affected by temperature, humidity, and the weather.

Here are some of the key items you should store in a climate-controlled storage:

  • Wine
  • Antiques
  • Collectibles
  • Media related items
  • Artwork
  • Clothing
  • Important documents
  • Medical supplies and medications
  • Photographs
  • Musical instruments
  • Makeup and toiletries
  • Household appliances
  • Sports equipment
  • Furniture, and
  • Electronics etc.

What hours will I have access to my storage unit?

This depends on the storage facility you choose. Some companies operate a 24-hour access, while others operate a 12-hour access or less. Before you opt for any storage company, ask about the hours you can have access to your personal storage unit.

Will my stuff be safe from damage and theft while in storage?

Yes! Storage companies thrive on their ability to secure your items and keep them in good conditions. Most storage companies have security experts, use surveillance cameras, adequate lighting in all surroundings, password access gates, digital surveillance system, password access storage units, and fences etc. to keep intruders away.

Items are also stored in a well-maintained facility to avoid the least dust and debris to keep your items in good conditions always.

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Do Storage facilities offer insurance?

Yes! Storage facilities offer insurance. But it's not mandatory to buy from them. You can shop around and buy your insurance from any third-party.

Self-storage insurance protects your items against theft or damage while they are kept in a storage unit at a storage facility. Depending on who your insurer is, the policy you get may cover the transit of your items from the storage facility.

Regardless of who you buy storage insurance from, ask about what the policy covers and excludes before buying.

How much does it cost to insure a storage unit?

Are you already covered under your homeowner or renter insurance? Then it won't cost you anything extra. But if you are separating purchasing storage tenant insurance, it may cost $8-10 price range per month, which is typical for a $2,000 policy. And if you need a high coverage limit as extra protection, you need to pay a little higher.

How often do storage facilities check their smoke alarms and sprinkler systems?

Many self-storage facilities use the NFPA 25 guideline for inspecting their smoke alarms and sprinkler systems. Various parts of the sprinkler system are inspected at various intervals. As required, inspections are done weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually and once in every five years.

The smoke alarm system is also inspected at various regular intervals depending on the part of the system involved. This includes weekly visual inspections, monthly and semiannual visual inspection, and annual visual inspection.

What should I check before renting a storage unit?

All storage facilities are not exactly the same. This is why shopping around and comparing facilities can help you choose the right one. Here are the key things you have to consider before renting any storage unit:

  • Accessibility
  • Security
  • Pricing
  • Availability
  • Location
  • Reviews
  • After-hour access and assistance
  • Facility maintenance
  • Insurance coverage
  • Physical Condition of the Storage Facility
  • Is the Storage Facility Climate Controlled?

What is the average price of a storage unit?

As mentioned above, a company's storage unit quote is based on multiple factors, and hence giving a straight answer to this question is somewhat tricky.

However, sources state that the national average monthly price for all unit sizes in 2020 is $87.15 a month and the average price per square foot is $0.97 per square foot. This is a 1.1% decrease from the average price in 2018 and a 3.5% decrease from 2017 when self-storage prices last peaked at an average of $91.12 per month.

Storage unit cost comparisons

5' x 5'5' x 10'10' x 10'10' x 15'10' x 20'
Average price per month$60$70$110$130$180
Average climate-controlled price per month$75$88$138$163$225
Works forFew boxes or furniture itemsStudio or 1-bedroom apartment2-bedroom apartment1-2-bedroom house; small vehicle or boat3-4-bedroom home; large vehicle, trailer, or boat
Best forCollege students storing items for the summerStoring seasonal itemsStoring a few rooms' worth of stuffRenovations/remodelsHome remodels

*Most popular storage unit size to rent To calculate costs for this table, we averaged the average storage unit costs in all fifty states. Climate-controlled storage costs are based on a 25% increase over regular storage unit prices.

Standard monthly storage unit costs by US city

CityState5x1010x1010x20
New YorkNY$202$420
HonoluluHI$177$316$555
Los AngelesCA$171$278$473
San FranciscoCA$167$254$449
QueensNY$158$328$691
NewarkNJ$139$187$348
OxnardCA$137$155$449
ProvidenceRI$122$176$261
Long BeachCA$120$201$299
BostonMA$110$182$331
New OrleansLA$109$172$280

What type of contract will I be required to sign?

The rental agreement between you and the storage service company must have all the essential parameters to avoid future miscommunications and conflict. Through a simple agreement, it will have all details related to the terms, purpose, and payment.

Once you agree to the storage unit quote by the company and decides to sign a deal, make sure it covers every point to avoid future friction.

  • What can the unit be used for

    The unit can be used to store any item you like as long as it falls within the guidelines of the storgae unit. Usual items people store include clothes, furniture, toys etc. But you may store anything you wish to not keep in your house.

    If you have any special items just make sire to check with the storage unit first to avoid any issues.

  • What are you going to store inside

    Self-storage units are meant to store ordinary household belongings - furniture, books, utensils, or home appliances. The contract will state that you are not permitted to store hazardous objects, illegal items, toxic waste, or flammable liquids.

  • What happens if you pay late or don't pay

    The contract should mention the late payment. It should also have a clause about the action that a company will take when you stop paying the rent.

  • What are the other payment guidelines?

    Is the contract speaking about the annual rent hike and if yes, at what rate? The agreement should also speak about who will bear the extra fitting charges or repair charges if they arise in the future.

  • When can the service company enter the storage unit?

    Your deal must state the circumstances under which the service company representative can enter inside the storage unit. It can be for repair or to check leakage.

  • What will be the notice period

    There should be a notice period, for example, 15 days to leave the premise, applicable for both sides.

  • What are the permitted and prohibited usages of storage?

    Before you sign a deal, confirm what all activities are permitted inside and what the company does not agree with. In normal cases, the storage unit is for storing purposes and you running an office from inside will not be encouraged. Similarly, go for other points that the storage company wants you to stick to.

  • What are the access hours?

    Post you agree to the storage facility quote, ask the utility provider if the access is limited to a particular duration or you can access the unit anytime you want. Only once the timing is finalized, you need to sign the agreement.

Things you can keep and cannot keep in a storage unit

Agreeing with an expensive storage facility quote does not permit you to store any item of your choice inside.

Things permitted inside a storage Things not permitted inside a storage
FurnitureGasoline, propane, oil, grease, chemical
UtensilsCleaners, aerosols, and paint
Electric appliancesFertilizers and weed killers
Cloths, footwear, and costumesLiving animals
Books, DVDs, and stationary itemsPlants
Antiques, music instrumentsFood items and milk
Christmas decor, camping gearWeapons, explosives, stolen items
Files, documentsWet or scented items
PC, scanner, printer, camera, hard disksJewelry

When to Use Storage

  • Moving out and need to store extra items

  • Cleaning out garage or basement

  • Store old furniture

  • Store baby items, like cribs, toys etc

  • Store seasonal items like holiday decorations, winter clothes etc

  • Store boxes of old clothes or other items

  • Store items during a move

Benefits of Storage

  • Nationwide availability

  • Low monthly costs

  • No contracts, flexible terms

  • Secure and Safe Facilities

  • Climate-Controlled Units

  • Private access

  • Long-term or Short-term rental options

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Ashburn, VA 20147

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