A Guide to Picking the Right Storage Unit for Your Budget and Needs

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated April 19, 2022
Outdoor storage units
Photo: knowlesgallery / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • The average cost to rent self-storage units is $1 to $1.80 per square foot.

  • Determine your size and time frame needs before shopping for storage.

  • Create a budget and figure out what security features you want.

  • Ask the facility some key questions.

  • Consider insuring your belongings.

  • Collect multiple quotes.

Sometimes, there’s just not enough space in your home for all the belongings you have. Maybe you’re renovating a portion of your home and need to move out some bulky items for a little while. Perhaps you have an event coming up in a few months that requires props that you don’t want to keep lying around. Or maybe you’re just reluctant to toss some things.

Whatever the reason, you may be interested in tucking some things away into storage. But you shouldn’t choose just any storage facility. They all have different units available, pricing, security features, and more. 

Here are a few things you can do to properly assess a storage unit and make the right choice for your needs.

Understand Your Storage Needs

Before you begin shopping, you should fully understand your storage needs. Take measurements of all of the possessions you want to store and determine how large of a space you need.

Also, figure out how long you will want to store the items, and give yourself some buffer time. If you're storing items to be used to set up a booth for a conference on a set date, for example, you know exactly how long. But if you're storing furniture while you wait for your house to be remodeled, you should allow some extra time in case the project is delayed.

Many storage facilities offer month-to-month agreements that let you cancel with a certain amount of notice; this is a good question to ask prospective facilities.

Create a Budget for Your Storage Unit

Now that you know what you need, you’ll need to draw up a budget of how much you will expect to spend on storage. The average cost to rent self-storage units is around $1 to $1.80 per square foot typically, with the size, location, and features among the main factors impacting the price. That averages to about $240 per month for storage unit rental, although the price can vary widely: it could cost as little as $20 per month or as much as $450 per month.

Determine What Security Features Your Storage Facility Should Have

Storage facilities offer a variety of security features that can help keep your valuables safe. Some security features include access control, security gates, and fire prevention. A popular method of access control is keypads at entry points to prevent unauthorized entry. Consider what type of security features are important to you, and ask your prospective facilities if they offer them.

Do Storage Units Have Cameras?

Many storage facilities have cameras on-site to offer video surveillance of the property. Security sites may install cameras at the management office and all entry points, and possibly on the storage units themselves.

What Are Some Specialty Security Features?

Private vaults may offer additional security features, such as round-the-clock staff, more advanced security systems with better coverage, and reinforced doors.

However, the more security you get, the more it will cost, so it's important to strike the right balance. Are you just storing a few personal belongings of relatively low value that could easily be replaced? It's best to just put it in a minimally staffed self-storage facility. Do you have an expensive art collection that you want to keep safe from theft or arson? A more expensive private vault may be for you.

Questions to Ask a Security Facility

A closeup of a locked storage unit
Photo: bwancho / iStock / Getty Images

When you’re shopping for storage units, you can’t always tell from their website whether they have a unit that meets your needs. Here are a few questions to ask the facility before making a decision:

  • How does your pricing work?

  • What kind of sizes do you offer?

  • Can I get a discount for a longer-term rental?

  • What kind of security features do you have in place?

  • Do your storage units have cameras?

  • What kind of fire prevention methods do you use to keep belongings safe from being destroyed in a fire?

  • Are you staffed around the clock and do you patrol units for suspicious activity?

  • What kind of access control do you have to keep unauthorized users out?

  • Do you have alarm systems or motion-sensor lighting?

Consider Insurance for Your Storage

Check your homeowner's insurance policy to see if it covers possessions stored at a storage facility. If it doesn't, look into purchasing additional insurance to ensure you lose nothing if the worst happens. And even if your policy does cover your possessions, it may not cover as much value as you want, so consider increasing the dollar amount. You may also be able to buy insurance directly through the storage facility.

Collect Quotes and Compare

Narrow down your search to a few storage options near you that offer the security and storage unit sizes that you’re looking for. Then, ask for them to provide you with a quote for the unit you want in the time frame you specify. Armed with a few quotes and the answers to the questions you had, it should be a lot easier to confidently make a decision.