Self Storage Information Center | Welcome to SSIC.org
Self storage units are huge business. People need extra storage for all kinds of reasons – a move, a divorce, retirement, a death in the family, or simply because they don’t have enough room at home or work to keep things around. About 10% of the population use self storage units or portable storage containers in some capacity. In fact, there’s about 2.5 billion square feet of public storage locations across the United States!
There are three main types of self storage people regularly use:
- Mini self storage units
- Mobile portable on-demand storage containers
- Scan on-demand mail storage services.
Self storage units
The most common form of self storage units is known as self-service storage or mini storage. It involves renting a unit, room, locker, container, garage or outdoor space for a short period of time, usually a few months (although long-term mini storage units are also readily available at most storage facilities). Mini storage is useful extra storage space things from your house or business that you may want access to, but don’t have the space to store at home or work. When you rent a self-service storage unit you’re assigned a space then given an access card or key to the storage facility. You then you lock your own unit with your own padlock. This means you can usually come and go whenever you want to. Public storage hours vary, but it’s not unusual to be able to access many facilities 24/7.
Self storage unit sizes
The most popular sizes of self storage units are:
- 10’x5’ (walk-in closet with a hinged door)
- 10’x10’ (small room with a hinged door)
- 10’x20’ (small garage with a roll-up metal door)
- 15’x20’ (medium garage with a roll-up metal door)
- 20’x20’ (large garage with a roll-up metal door).
Self storage units are usually made of corrugated metal and don’t have windows. Covered or uncovered outdoor storage is also usually available for storing cars, RVs and boats.
Self storage unit prices
Self storage prices vary widely depending on:
- The size of the storage unit you need (smaller is cheaper, obviously)
- Any additional features you need in your storage unit (e.g. climate control, lights or power outlets)
- The length of the storage period (usually cheaper if you commit to a longer period)
- Pick-up and delivery fees or 24/7 access (for Mailstorage and mobile storage)
- The level of security offered by the storage facility (e.g. gate access technology like keypads or proximity cards, unit access technology like biometric thumbprint or hand scanners and door alarms, and facility security measures like fences, cameras and security guards)
- Your location (self storage prices are generally higher in larger metro and urban areas than in the suburbs or rural locations).
If you’re not worried about the price, but want to make sure that you get all the features you need and great security then you’ll need to make sure you carefully compare the features your local facilities offer.
It’s very difficult to estimate prices for mini storage units because there’s so much variance depending on what size you need, what features you need and what facility you’re renting from. Honestly, the only way you can really find out how much it’s likely to cost you is to get in touch with a facility renting mini storage units in your area.
That said, here’s some loosely indicative monthly costs, just to satisfy your curiosity. Remember, your storage facility could definitely charge a little or a lot more or less than these prices:
- 5′ x 5′ standard storage unit – $40-$50
- 10′ x 15′ standard storage room – $75-$140
- 10′ x 20′ standard storage units – $95-$155
- 10′ x 20′ climate controlled unit – $170-$180
- 20′ x 20′ standard storage unit – $225
As a comparison, if you’re interested in the monthly cost of portable mini storage containers you can probably rent 8′ x 8′ 12′ portable mini storage units for about $230. This is probably big enough to fit the contents of a 1,200 square foot home. Just remember that you can’t access portable storage units while they’re in the facility.
Also, remember that the monthly rental cost of mini storage units is just one price you may have to pay. When you first sign your rental contract you may also have to buy a decent lock ($20) and pay a nominal security deposit ($50). You’ll also have to ensure you pay for insurance if your possessions aren’t covered by an insurance policy you already.
Storage discounts and promotions
If you’re looking for a great deal on storage, then you can sometimes find that the big national chains offer discounts for prepaying your rental. A lot of companies also offer discounts for senior citizens. Cheap storage units are also sometimes available if a particular facility is just opening up and trying to get their space rented. You might also get lucky find your local company has some cheap storage units available if they haven’t been able to rent for a while. Given how popular public storage units are, this is a bit of a long-shot, but you never know. When I was searching for cheap storage units near me I simply made a list of all the closest facilities to my house and called them one after the other and asked what their best price was if I was willing to pay up-front for the entire period. I’ve found it’s actually getting easier to find cheap self storage units now because there’s so much fierce competition in the industry.
Self storage insurance
Insurance is rarely part of the price you pay for a self storage unit, though most storage facilities won’t allow you to store your goods unless you have it. In some cases, items you have in public storage locations could be covered by your household or business premises contents policy. Otherwise, you can purchase a specific insurance policy to cover stored items. Some storage facilities offer to facilitate this from a third-party insurer as an additional service if required.
Other things you can normally buy from most storage companies include packing boxes, packaging supplies and locks.
Mobile storage or portable on-demand storage containers
Another popular public storage model is called mobile storage or portable on-demand storage. This is where a portable storage unit or ‘storage pods’ are dropped off at your house or business. You then pack it and the storage company sends a truck to come and take it away. The portable container then lives at a secure storage facility until you need it back. Portable storage units are usually used by people who are moving or renovating and don’t need access to their stuff while it’s packed away. Because you don’t have access to your stuff while it’s being stored, the price of portable storage is often lower than public self storage units. Cheap storage containers are often available if you’re looking for storage in the quieter times of year rather than the peak moving season. Otherwise, you might be able to negotiate a better price if you’re willing to pay for your storage in advance.
Scan on-demand mail storage services
Finally, mail storage (AKA Mailstorage or scan on-demand storage) is the newest type of cheap self storage people are starting to use more and more often. It involves storing individual boxes of things in a warehouse; however, in this kind of arrangement the owner of the box isn’t given private access. This type of on-demand storage is a pay-as-you-go arrangement where the customer pays for the items actually stored, not an assigned space, container or storage unit. When a customer wants to store something they call the facility and order a box. The customer then fills the box and the company picks it up and stores it until the customer wants it returned. Some mail storage companies have a minimum number of boxes, but many will store just one box if required.
Access to public storage units
One of the fundamental principles of self storage is that you have exclusive access your storage unit. You don’t have to give the storage company a key to your padlock and the company’s employees and security are not allowed to enter your rented space. Portable storage units are also usually only allowed to be opened by you, even though you don’t have physical access to the container while it’s being kept in the facility.
Public storage hours vary from site to site, so make sure you talk to the facility you’re thinking of going with. You should make sure it’s clear from the start when you can access your storage unit. Many facilities offer 24/7 access with a keycard. This can seem like a great feature, but you really need to ask yourself whether you’re actually going to want to get something out of your storage unit at 2am. I doubt it.
Public storage auctions
If you don’t pay your rent, the storage company may be allowed to cut off your lock and put on their own until you pay. In some cases storage facilities can even sell whatever you have stored in the unit to recover what they’re owed. With the amount of stuff people have in storage these days and the financial pressure on people, public storage auctions are becoming very common. There are even some reality TV shows dedicated to it (particularly Storage Wars and Auction Hunters).
The key to avoiding self storage auctions is simply to pay your monthly rent on time. Of course, it’s easier said than done if you do run into financial pressure. But as with any kind of debts, if you find you’re struggling to make your payments, be proactive and get in contact with your facility and let them know what’s happening. If in doubt, move your stuff out. The big difference between getting in financial trouble with a storage company and being late paying your other bills is that the storage facility can quickly take control of your valuables.
Best self storage companies
There are hundreds of different local and national self storage brands. Some are independent local operators running their storage facility as a small business. Others are huge national companies. Here are just some of the best local and national brands.
American self storage
American self storage (www.americanselfstorage.com) is a leading storage company with facilities in New York and New Jersey. They have a great reputation for service and security and most of their basic mini storage units are affordably priced. All American Self Storage facilities offer online payments, prepayment discounts, 24-hour video surveilance, climate-controlled storage units, free hand carts to move your stuff around and free parking. If you’re a first time customer, you can also (usually) use a 13′ box moving truck to move your goods. Their NYC storage facilities even offer free pick-up and a truck driver (subject to availability etc). American Self Storage also offers a ‘Diamond Protection’ storage insurance plan starting at $10 a month.
American Self Storage also boasts a nice referral program. If you refer a new customer you get a $50 rent credit on your storage and the person you refer gets their first month of storage for $1. And there’s no limit on the number of people you can refer.
EZ Storage (www.ezstorage.com) have over 41,000 storage units in Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC and Baltimore. In fact, EZ Storage – which has been operating since 1987 – is the largest self storage company in MD, VA and Washington DC.
EZ self storage units are recognized as being clean and secure and the company is known for offering great customer service and their prices are reasonable.
Some other features of EZ Storage self storage units include:
- state-of-the-art environmentally friendly LEED certified facilities
- climate controlled units
- resident managers
- drive up access
- vehicle, RV & boat parking.
Metro Self Storage
Metro Self Storage (www.metrostorage.com) opened for business in Chicago in 1973 and is now one of the biggest self storage operators in the United States with over 75,000 customers. Metro storage opened the first self storage facility in Illinois and now operates in 78 locations in 11 States. Metro storage locations are spread across Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pensylvania, and Texas. The Metro Self Storage corporate office is located in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Metro Self Storage facilities are open every day of the year and offer competitive rates on a variety of mini storage units, including:
- Household storage – for storing personal belongings like furniture, clothes, sporting equipment, tools and personal files.
- Business storage – commercial storage for retail stores, restaurants, sales reps, contractors and all kinds of businesses.
- Climate controlled storage units – to protect your property from the effects of temperature and humidity. Ideal for storing electronics, fabrics and art.
- Boat and RV parking – outdoors parking with a private lockable door for your recreational vehicle and boat. Also available for motorcycles, campers and delivery vehicles.
- Wine storage – keep a wine collection in the correct climate without having to custom build an appropriate climate controlled room in your home, club or restaurant.
- Record storage – store personal or business documents and files securely.
PODS storage units (www.pods.com) are a great way to move or store your things without having to lease a fixed storage unit. PODS are portable storage units that are delivered to your house or business (or anywhere you need them). The container is then left with you for as long as you need to pack. When you’re ready, a truck comes back and takes the container to a secure storage facility until you want it delivered – either back to the same location or a different one. You then keep the pod until you’ve finished unpacking it.
PODS provides portable moving storage units that are packed at one location and unpacked at a different destination. Pods moving units are great if you don’t want to be tied down to a removalist’s schedule and if you want to take control over packing your own things. It takes the risk of packing in your own hands and is very convenient.
PODS self storage is an alternative to leasing a storage unit. You can’t access a pod while it’s kept at the secure facility, but then neither can anyone else. It’s a very safe and secure way to store your possession. Usually with PODS self storage you pack and unpack the container at the same location. This is a great idea, for example, if you’re planning a renovation and you want to pack all your furniture and things away for a few weeks or months and then unpack again when you’re done. It’s a great self storage solution because you don’t have to transport your things to a storage center – the center comes to you!
How much does PODS cost?
PODS storage units cost is worked out depending on the size of the container you need and how many days you need it for. PODS pricing is very reasonable and definitely comparable to regular self storage or removalist rates (though a storage unit is rented monthly, while a portable storage container is rented on a daily basis). PODS rates are charged on a daily basis so you can take as long as you need to pack, store for as long as required, and take as long as you need to unpack. You just pay for the number of days in total. PODS cost about the same as a storage unit, but you get the flexibility of having a container brought to you, delivered where you need it, or kept secure for a few days or a few months.
PODS have locations all over the country and like any franchise you should check with your local office to ask if they offer any kind of discounts or promo code. PODS are known to run promotions regularly. You could also try searching the internet to look for a PODS promotional code.
The PODS website allows real users to leave reviews of the service. You’ll also find a lot of PODS reviews in online forums.
Public Storage (www.publicstorage.com) is a storage company established in 1972 and operating over 2,000 storage facilities in the United States and Europe. With so many locations there’s a good chance you can find a Public Storage facility in your area. You can access a location finder from the publicstorage.com. For most units the cost is only $1 for the first month rent so you can try Public Storage for virtually nothing.
Features of Public Storage facilities:
- a wide range of storage unit sizes
- reliable brand with over 40 years experience
- reasonable prices
- 24/7 online access
- free reservations
- no long-term commitment
- 365 day access
- climate-controlled units
Public Storage facilities offer personal, business and vehicle storage solutions that range in size from lockers to RV and boat storage spaces. You’ll also be able to talk to a property manager at each facility to get advice on choosing the right size unit and make sure you have everything you need to help you move in (including access to handcards and moving dollies).
PublicStorage.com also has a useful size guide to help you estimate how much storage space you’ll need.
Reserving a storage unit
Public Storage has a great, easy system for reserving a storage unit. You simply go online, call or drop in to your local facility. You don’t need a credit card or deposit and you can have your reservation in place for 7 days before you move-in at most locations. You can even reserve multiple storage units if you think you’ll need them and there’s no obligation if you change your mind.
Packing supplies and locks
Public Storage also offers a wide range of moving supplies like all kinds of boxes, hanging wardrobes and packing materials like tape, bubble wrap and covers for mattresses and furniture. They also sell padlocks and cylinder locks (you should check with your local facility to see which types of locks they require).
Simply Self Storage
Simply Self Storage (www.simplyss.com) aims to be a full service storage unit rental organization, offering variable length contract terms, online rental management, 24 hour customer service, budget packing supplies and even moving truck rentals. With over 100 locations in the United States Simply Self Storage is a reliable option.
One thing I love about Simply Self Storage is that on their website you can find links for every one of their facilities nationwide. Each facility has its own page where you can see pictures of the facility itself, find its location, contact numbers and email, office hours and gate hours. They also have a map to help you find it. The facility pages also provide a description of the facility and list all of that facility’s features.
Each Simply Self Storage facility page also provides a list of their storage unit prices.This is really something you don’t see on very many websites. Usually the best you can hope to find in terms of detail on a company’s website is a list of the locations and a way to get an online quote. Personally, I love to see the price printed in black and white on the page without having to submit a request for a quote (and usually when you do this you have to provide your name and contact details).
You can also find Simply Self Storage reviews and testimonials from real customers on their website.
U-Haul Self Storage (www.uhaul.com/storage) is one of the most recognizable names in the business. In fact, U-Haul probably has the most storage units in the United States than any other company. You can find U-Haul storage locations right across the country. Offering secure self storage unit facilities and U-Haul storage pods (called a ‘U-Box’), as well as packaging supplies and access to the company’s other moving services, U-Haul Storage is a highly reputable and full service company.
U-Haul Storage is a budget self storage company, so the prices are reasonable and with the size of the company it’s likely you’ll be able to get a great rate for any size storage unit or U-Box (U-Haul portable storage container). You can also get car storage at most locations.
As well as having storage unit facilities, U-Haul has a portable moving and storage container service. This is like the PODS service in that U-Haul deliver a container to your home or business and you pack it yourself. A truck then picks up the container when you’re ready, stores it for as long as you need, then delivers it wherever you need it. Renting a U-Box is easy and convenient.
- 24/7/365 access
- climate controlled units
- no deposit
- payment online
- budget storage options
- one month free with one-way equipment rentals at some locations
U-Haul provides a lot of online services to customers. Yo can manage your payments, manage your access and contact a facility manager all from the convenience of your computer.
U-Haul offers personal and enterprise self-storage. If you’re a business you can manage everything from one corporate account for your company.