The Ultimate Storage Unit Guide

Over sixty thousand storage facilities operate nationwide, each with different features, prices, and rules. Knowing what features to look for can save time, energy, and money in the moving process.

The Ultimate Storage Unit Guide

In this article

Storage units are essential for keeping belongings safe and secure while moving, preparing for a renovation project, or for any other reason. Knowing how to make the most out of your storage unit can save you time, money, and a whole lot of stress.

Storage units provide peace of mind during periods in your life when things are a little too in the way. But, finding the best storage companies is only half the battle. With special considerations for cost, location, and safety enhancements that protect your belongings, you can ensure a more than suitable storage unit that keeps your belongings protected till you need them again.

How Much Do Storage Units Cost?

You can expect to spend anywhere from $30 to $200 per month on a storage unit, depending on the size of the unit, the location, and the amenities offered. Professional storage companies offer transparent pricing by square footage, with smaller units starting at around $30 per month and larger units costing up to $200 or more per month.

The location of your storage unit will also affect the price, with units in major cities generally costing more than units in smaller towns or rural areas. Also, storage units that offer climate control, security features, and other amenities will cost more than basic units. 

Average prices you can expect for storage units with various amenities are as follows:

  • Climate-controlled storage units: $50-$200 per month
  • Standard storage units: $30-$150 per month
  • Storage units with security features: $40-$200 per month
  • Storage units with 24/7 access: $60-$200 per month
  • Portable storage units: $100-$400 per month

The cheapest way to get a storage unit with any of these features will be to sign a long-term lease of three or more months. This way, you can ensure that you’ll have a storage unit that meets your needs without breaking the bank.

Best Locks for Protecting a Storage Unit

Even with the best security features, it will still be your responsibility to protect your belongings while they’re in storage. Whether it’s a portable unit maintained by a professional storage company or a self-storage unit you’re renting on your own, it’s best to invest in a heavy-duty lock that can’t be easily removed, such as:

  • ABSUS 20 Disc Lock – Resistant to lockpicking, drilling, and cutting. Available in multiple sizes to suit any sized storage unit door.
  • Medeco 3 Padlock – Weather-resistant, hardened steel cylinder lock perfect for non-climate-controlled storage units.
  • Stanley Hardware Padlock – Specially designed for indoor storage units. Easy lock access means no fumbling trying to get the key in.
  • Master Lock Padlock – Tough, durable, corrosion-resistant lock ideal for portable storage units that will be exposed to the elements.
  • Day Padlock – Keyless design using number combinations makes this an excellent choice for people who want easy access to their storage unit without worrying about losing a key.

By protecting your storage unit with a high-quality lock, you can rest assured knowing your belongings are safe and secure – giving you one less thing to worry about during your move.

What You Can't Put In a Storage Unit

The urge to throw any old thing into your storage unit is understandable – it’s out of sight, out of mind, right? But there are certain items that are actually illegal to store in a self-storage unit, including:

  • Firearms and ammunition
  • Explosives
  • Flammable or combustible liquids or gasses
  • Toxic or poisonous materials
  • Perishable food items

Interestingly, this list covers a lot of the same items that moving companies will not transport. So if you’ve combined professional moving services with storage unit rental, your mover should be able to give you a good idea of what’s not allowed in either case. It is recommended to responsibly dispose of or find alternate transport for these items.

In addition to the items above, other belongings may also be prohibited from storage depending on your storage unit’s rules and regulations. The following items violate criminal, health, and safety laws – punishable by fines, imprisonment, or both.

  • Pets
  • Plants
  • Illegal drugs or paraphernalia
  • Stolen goods

Lastly, while not always a violation of the T&Cs for every storage company, many discourage storing valuable items in storage units, such as:

  • Jewelry
  • Artwork
  • Family heirlooms
  • Antiques
  • Important documents like social security cards, passports, or birth certificates.

Arrangements should be made to safely secure these items in your home or safety deposit box instead. While fully capable of handling and storing most items, storage unit companies may not offer enough coverage in basic insurance policies that cover loss, destruction, or damage of high-value assets.

Consideration of the weather in the area where your belongings will be stored is also important. If you live in an area with extreme temperatures, it’s best to find a storage unit that offers climate-controlled units to protect fragile items sensitive to temperature fluctuations, like:

  • Electronics
  • Appliances
  • Wooden items
  • Leather goods
  • Books

These items can be ruined by excessive heat or cold, so it’s important to take the necessary precautions to protect them. Those without climate-controlled storage units should be careful using cardboard instead of plastic storage bins. Extreme humidity can cause the cardboard to warp and mold, which can ruin your belongings – and potentially cause damage to your storage unit.

Sizes for Storage Units

Storage units come in many sizes to suit short and long-term storage needs for just about any item. Units are priced in square footage with 5’x5′, 5’x10′, 10’x10′, and 10’x20′ being the most common sizes.

The smallest storage unit, 5’x5′ (25 sq ft), is ideal for storing small items like holiday decorations, seasonal clothing, luggage, and appliances. This size is perfect if you need to declutter a closet or two but don’t have time to go through it till later on.

The 5’x10′ (50 sq ft) storage unit can accommodate the full contents of a one-bedroom apartment or about three rooms worth of furniture and boxes – perfect for students moving out of their dorms or small families decluttering before a move or preparing for a renovation.

A 10’x10′ (100 sq ft) unit is approximately the size of a standard bedroom and can hold the contents of a two-bedroom apartment – couches, chairs, tables, bedroom sets, chests, boxes – pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. This is the most popular storage unit size as it’s large enough to accommodate most needs but small enough to keep the price down.

The largest storage unit, 10’x20′ (200 sq ft), is equivalent to a one-car garage and can store the contents of a three to four-bedroom home – perfect for those in between homes or looking for long-term storage for business inventory or equipment.

The easiest ways to determine which storage unit size you need are to:

  • Inventory your belongings. Make a list of everything you plan on putting in storage and measure the dimensions of your belongings and boxes. This will give you a general idea of how much space you’ll need.
  • Consider specialty needs. If your belongings require climate control or 24/7 security and access, you’ll need to factor that into your decision.
  • Get multiple quotes. Once you have an idea of what you need, get quotes from different storage unit companies in your area to find the best price.

By taking the time to consider your storage needs before renting a unit, you can avoid the hassle of having to move your belongings to a more suitable unit later on – saving valuable time, money, and effort in the long run.

Storage Unit Insurance

Insuring a storage unit is an excellent idea regardless of what you have in it or how long you plan to keep your belongings there. Basic policies from storage companies, homeowners insurance, and renters insurance often exclude certain items from coverage or have low liability limits.

So, if you have high-value items in your storage unit – like electronics, jewelry, or art – it’s important to make sure they’re properly insured.

There are two main types of storage insurance:

  • Replacement Cost Value (RCV): This type of policy reimburses you for the cost of replacing your belongings, up to the policy limit, without deduction for depreciation. So, if you have a $2,000 TV that’s damaged in a fire, your insurer would reimburse you for the cost of buying a new one.
  • Actual Cash Value (ACV): ACV policies reimburse you for the depreciated value of your belongings – so, using the same example as above if your TV is damaged in a fire, your insurer would reimburse you for whatever that TV is currently worth, minus depreciation.

Storage unit insurance policies average at about $10 per $10K of coverage, but this can vary depending on the insurer, the value of your belongings, and the type of policy you choose.

Long-Term Storage v. Short-Term Storage

Predicting your storage needs can be tricky, especially if you are beginning a move or decluttering project. If you’re not sure how long you’ll need your storage unit, most storage companies offer month-to-month leases with no long-term commitment – giving you the flexibility to stay as long (or short) as you need.

Short-term storage solutions are ideal when:

  • You’re in between homes and need a place to store your belongings while waiting for your new place to be ready.
  • You’re renovating your home and need a place to store your furniture and belongings while the work is being done.
  • You’re decluttering your home and need a temporary solution until you figure out what to do with your belongings.

With short-term storage solutions of less than three months, you can usually get by with a 5×5 or 5×10 storage unit – perfect for storing smaller items like boxes, seasonal decor, and clothes.

Larger items like furniture can be stored in a 10×10 or 10×20 unit. Be aware that short-term storage units are often more expensive than long-term units, so if you think you may need your unit for more than three months, it’s usually cheaper to go with a longer-term lease.

Long-term storage is often a better solution when:

  • You’re an entrepreneur or small business owner who needs a place to store inventory, equipment, or excess office furniture while the business expands or office space becomes available.
  • You need a place to keep your seasonal belongings – like holiday decorations, winter clothes, or sports equipment – that you only use a few times a year.
  • You’re downsizing your home and need a place to store some of your belongings until you figure out what to do with them.

Long-term storage usually comes with more perks, such as a lower monthly rate, a potential free month of storage, or a discount on professional moving services. Additionally, many long-term storage facilities have enhanced security and climate control features in addition to 24/7 access.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to rent a storage unit?

It can cost as little as $30 per month to rent a small storage unit – like a 5×5 or 5×10 – but the average price for a standard 10×10 unit is around $75 per month. Larger units or those with added amenities such as extra security features, 24/7 access, and climate control can be as much as or exceed $200 per month.

How long can I rent a storage unit?

Most storage units are available month-to-month with no long-term commitment, so you can stay for as long or short as you need. However, you may be able to get a better price by signing a long-term lease or, if you’re using storage while moving, booking storage solutions through your moving company.

What is the average size of a storage unit?

The average size of a storage unit is 10×10, but units can range in size from 5×5 (25 square feet) to 10×30 (300 square feet) or larger. Smaller storage units are an ideal size for assorted moving boxes, small furniture, and seasonal decor, while larger units can accommodate the contents of a multi-bedroom home or multiple pieces of large furniture.

Do I need insurance for my storage unit?

While carrying additional insurance for your belongings in a storage unit isn’t required, it is an excellent way to protect your valuables in case of damage or theft. Policies are rather affordable, with premiums starting at $10 per month to cover $10,000 worth of belongings.

Save Time and Money With Moving Storage Units

With affordable monthly pricing, month-to-month leases, and the option to store for as long or as short as you need, storage units are a flexible and convenient solution for anyone in need of extra storage space – whether it’s for a few months or a few years.

But like any place you keep belongings or valuables, taking the time to secure, properly store, and insure your belongings in a storage unit will give you peace of mind knowing that your things are safe and sound.

Whether it’s a 5’x5′ or a 10’x30′, with the expert tips in this guide, you’ll be on your way to finding and using the perfect storage unit for your needs – whether it’s long-term or short-term, big or small.