How to Find a Storage Unit to Rent
June 12, 2023
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The Best Ways To Find A Storage Unit That Meets Your Needs
Do you have an overflowing closet at your home? A basement full of clutter? Or perhaps a dedicated “stuff” room, packed to the brim with Uncle Freddy’s old furniture or niece Sally’s retired dorm furnishings?
In times of change and transition, many of us end up with belongings we no longer have room for in our homes. If this sounds familiar, it may benefit you to rent a storage unit.
Storage units have many purposes: They help people get organized during a move, university summer, downsizing, divorce, or another transition. They can be a temporary place to store items until you can sell them or a more permanent home for your vehicle, boat, sporting equipment, small business materials, or other property.
If you’re on the hunt for a storage unit, this article will help you learn how to find the best one for your needs.
Choose a Size
Before you begin your search, you need to decide on the size of your unit.
Storage units are priced based on square footage, and they come in a variety of dimensions. The most common storage unit dimensions are 10×10, 10×20, and 10×15. These dimensions are considered medium sized, ranging from 75 to 150 square feet, and can hold up to three typical bedrooms’ worth of property. In comparison, a small storage unit (5×5 or 5×10) can hold around one room’s worth of items, and a large unit (10×20 or bigger) can hold five or more rooms.
Before reserving a unit, be sure to estimate or measure the property you’re planning on storing so that you know the appropriate size to rent.
Decide on Amenities
You’ll also need to decide which amenities you want/need for your storage unit. Here are a few to consider:
- Climate control – Climate-controlled units keep your belongings insulated from mold and mildew by maintaining a consistent internal humidity and temperature (typically between 55- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit).
- Electricity – You might need a unit with electricity and power to safely store certain types of property, such as refrigerated items.
- Kiosk/mobile entry – Facilities that offer kiosk or mobile entry allow more freedom to access your unit, pay rent, or reserve a new unit on your own.
- Drive-up options – Drive-up or outdoor access units allow you to park your vehicle immediately in front of your storage unit for easy loading and unloading.
- Smart locks/security – For extra security, look for a facility with smart locks, video cameras, or other high-tech security features.
Unless you’re renting out-of-town for a special purpose, you will most likely want to search for local storage units. A nearby storage unit (within a few miles) gives you access to your belongings when you need them without having to drive for hours to get there.
If you live in an urban area, there’s a good chance there’s a storage unit facility relatively close to where you live. In cities with the most self-storage units like Dallas, New York, and Houston (each with more than 14M square feet of storage space), you’re likely to find a storage unit within a few miles. However, investors are starting to build more facilities in rural areas as well.
You might find out about local storage facilities via flyers, recommendations from friends, local business directories, or by simply keeping an eye out for storage unit facilities as you drive around your town.
Browse Storage Unit Listing Sites
While you might start with a basic Google search query like “self-storage in Austin,” you’ll find it much more effective to use self-storage listing sites and directories to find a unit. Directories have thousands of self storage listings you can browse and filter based on location, size, or amenities. Here are a few sites to explore:
- SpareFoot– This site has listings from over 20,000 facilities and is one of the most popular self-storage directories. You can also search for car, RV, or boat storage on the site. Think of it like the “Zillow” of self-storage.
- Storage.com – This site allows you to search for facilities by zip code, compare storage facilities based on price or amenities, and reserve a unit online.
- U-Haul – U-Haul started offering storage space in 1974 and now rents out more than 490,000 units. You can search for available units on U-Haul’s site by location, size, or type.
- SelfStorageFinders – Another comprehensive directory for self-storage seekers.
- Neighbor.com – A peer-to-peer (P2P) storage marketplace with an emphasis on local, cheaper, and safer storage. Individuals register their empty garage, warehouse, or other space as rentable to their local community.
What Else Do I Need to Know Before Renting a Storage Unit?
Once you’ve found a facility with a vacant unit that meets your needs, there are a few more steps involved in finalizing the rental. Here are a few other things to know before renting your first storage unit:
- You might be required to purchase storage unit insurance. Many facilities require customers to purchase renter’s insurance to cover liabilities or damage to your stored belongings. If storage units are covered under your existing renter’s or homeowner’s policy, ask the facility manager or landlord whether you’ll need to purchase additional coverage.
- There are usually value limits on stored property. A typical value limit for a self-storage unit is between $2,500 and $5,000. This represents the maximum value of property you can store in a single unit. Remember that the storage facility staff have the right to enter and inspect your unit to ensure that you aren’t storing prohibited materials or items.
- You will be charged a fee for late rent. Just like you would while renting a traditional residential unit, you will be charged a fee if you don’t pay your rent on time. Late fee amounts and limits vary by state and could be a flat fee or percentage of the rental amount due.
- You could be charged a sales tax. In some states (like Michigan and Ohio), you could be charged sales tax on the rent for your self-storage unit. Even though self-storage associations are lobbying against the laws that establish these taxes, be sure to check your state’s individual self-storage legislation or ask the facility for a breakdown of all charges.
- The lien/auction process varies by state. If you stop making rent payments for your storage units, after a certain amount of time has passed, the facility has the right to place a lien (or claim) on the belongings in your unit. In most states, if you don’t pay rent or move out of the unit, the facility then has the right to sell your belongings at a public auction. However, the notice period and requirements vary by state.
- It’s illegal to live in a storage unit. In every state, living in your storage unit is illegal. Not only is it dangerous, but you will almost certainly be caught. If you are discovered sleeping in your storage unit, you will be asked to leave and soon after evicted.
Knowing how to find and prep your storage unit will make the renting process much easier. But even as a first-time storage unit renter, you’ll find the process straightforward and the benefits of renting one well worth the initial research.