Types of Storage Units & How to Choose

We accumulate a lot of objects over the course of our lives. While we may not need all our belongings — like furniture, toys for kids, business supplies during a downturn in productivity – on a daily basis, a lot of it still retains too much potential use to be discarded. The best solution? Finding a storage unit.

Renting a storage unit is a common practice whether you own or rent your home. In fact, 10% of households use rental storage options. The global self storage market reached $51.32 billion last year and is projected to grow to more than $71 billion by 2027.

There are a variety of reasons you may decide to rent a storage unit. But determining what type of unit meets your needs might be a challenge. If this is your first experience renting a storage unit, you might be surprised to find there are a variety of facilities and units to choose from. To find the best type of storage unit for your situation, read this guide. It will help you learn about specific unit options with consideration to what you’re storing and how long you expect to keep your belongings in storage.

Types of Storage Facilities

Before choosing the type of storage unit you need, it’s a good idea to decide what type of storage facility you’re most comfortable with. There are two main types of storage facilities, and both have a variety of options for renters. Compare the benefits of full-service storage vs. self storage to decide what type of facility best suits your style for renting a storage unit.

Want an in-depth comparison of all your options? Find out which type of storage facility best suits your needs.

Full-Service Storage

Full-service storage takes a lot of the work off your hands and can be a valuable asset if you don’t have the resources to move your own belongings. Also known as on-demand or managed storage, a full-service storage facility will pick up your belongings and take care of all the logistics of storing them for you.Also, many of these facilities create an inventory of your belongings with photos. With this option, you’ll likely be able to take care of all your storage details and access your inventory list from your smartphone.

While full-service, on-demand storage providers can be helpful, this option removes your ability to access the items at your own convenience and requires you to schedule a time and pay for the provider to drop off any items that you’d like to use.

National on-demand, full-storage providers include Clutter and MakeSpace.

Self Storage

Self-storage puts you in charge of moving, documenting, and storing your belongings in a secure rental unit. This is the most widely available and most popular method of storage. A self storage unit provides you with an affordable space to store your belongings if you don’t mind taking care of all the work. When you choose a self storage facility, you’re responsible for the entire process of delivering your items to the storage facility, moving them into the unit, and accessing the items when needed.

There’s also the peer-to-peer version of self storage, which is becoming increasingly popular. Instead of putting your belongings in a dedicated storage facility, this method entails finding people with space to spare in their own homes or other private properties, and stashing your belongings there.

Neighbor, for instance, links storage seekers with residents of their own communities who have the extra space to accommodate them. This is often more flexible and half the cost of traditional storage options.

Need a self storage solution without the high cost? Find affordable self storage units near you.

6 Scenarios Where You Might Need Self Storage

The relatively low cost and independence of self storage units mean that they are beneficial in a wide range of scenarios. These are the most common:

  • Seasonal storage. Want to store all of your Christmas decor until you need it in summer? How about gardening equipment during the winter? Self storage allows you to be flexible.
  • Home remodeling. Self storage allows you to keep your furniture in a protected space until your home is ready for it again, especially during larger remodels.
  • Selling your home. When staging the home for sale, many of your possessions (like toys or those comfy blankets) may need a temporary space. Put them in self storage until you’re moving into your new home.
  • Temporary moves. When deploying for the military or for other types of temporary moves in your career, a storage unit allows you to keep your possessions safe until you return to the status quo.
  • Decluttering. Sometimes, storage needs are as simple as getting some dear but unnecessary items out of your home. That old heirloom makeup station might not fit into your bedroom, but it can survive in the right storage unit.
  • Business storage. Keep your business supplies or inventory in a safe space that allows you access to it only when needed or sales are made.

How to Choose Between Full-Service and Self Storage Units

Most often, your personal situation will dictate your storage choices. Self-storage provides the most affordable option and the ability to do everything at your own convenience. For most individuals with easy access to a vehicle, this is the obvious choice. Still, for some people, the benefits of full-service storage go a long way. Residents in urban areas often depend on public transportation and live in high-rise buildings that require the use of elevators or stairwells when moving belongings. In these situations, the convenience of full-service storage can quickly make it worth the added cost.

Types of Storage Units

After you’ve settled on your choice of full-service or self storage, it’s time to consider the type of unit that will best protect your possessions and suit your needs. Not surprisingly, there are many options to cover the various types of belongings that spend time in storage. These are the most common types of storage units available:

Climate-Controlled Storage Units

While all indoor units are climate controlled to a degree, they don’t promise the use of heat or A/C — or any guaranteed temperature range. Climate-controlled units are insulated. They also guarantee that temperatures will be above freezing and below 80-90 degrees. Some units also offer humidity control. While indoor storage is sufficient for most items, you might want to consider the added protection of climate control if you’re renting a storage unit for sensitive items like:

  • Fine art
  • Musical instruments
  • Antiques
  • Wood furniture
  • Electronics
  • Important documents

Need a temperature-controlled storage solution? Check out climate controlled storage units near you.

Indoor Storage Units

Indoor storage units are located within a building without direct access from the outdoors. While you can’t drive right up to an indoor unit, they often provide more protection from the elements. Indoor storage units offer some climate control, the advantage of not worrying about the weather, and no exposure to outside elements when you open the door.

Outdoor Storage Units

Outdoor storage units are still located within a building, but they offer direct access from outside. Instead of needing to enter a building to access your unit, you can drive your car right up to the door. This provides convenience when you’re moving a lot of stuff or paying movers by the hour. However, outdoor storage units may have limited climate control. Also, opening the door exposes your belongings to outdoor weather and the elements, making your possessions more vulnerable to dampness and dust.

Portable Storage Containers

Also known as mobile storage, this option provides you with a storage container at your home or business. This is a common option for individuals who are in the process of moving and wish to put some belongings in storage for a short time. Portable storage containers are stored at a commercial warehouse after loading and only allow limited access to your belongings while in storage.

Warehouse/Commercial Storage

Typically meant for commercial use, warehouse storage is suited to the large-size storage needs of various businesses. These commercial storage units usually have loading docks to provide ample space and easy transport for large items. Due to the large amount of space required, warehouse storage units might not be as easily accessible as other types of storage units, forcing individuals to travel further to access stored items.

Need a commercial-sized storage solution? Find available warehouse storage units near you.

Types of Vehicle Storage

When you need to store a vehicle for more than a day or two, you need to find a place that’s secure and will be properly monitored. Depending on the provider, this might be (from least to most expensive):

  • A simple parking lot
  • Lift storage
  • Large vehicle warehouses that provide significant weather protection and increased security

These are the three main types of vehicle storage:

Indoor Vehicle Storage

This option provides the most protection and means your vehicle will be parked in a completely enclosed building. One indoor option — enclosed vehicle storage — provides a single unit that will essentially act as a personal garage, while the more common vehicle storage option places your vehicle in a large building with other vehicles.

Outdoor Vehicle Storage

This is the least expensive type of car storage. It’s essentially a parking space in an open area where you can safely leave your car. However, this type of storage leaves your car completely vulnerable to the elements. Potential security risks may also be an issue.

Covered Vehicle Storage

A form of outdoor storage, covered vehicle storage provides a roof-covered space where you’ll park your vehicle alongside other vehicles. Some of these structures have three walls, and others have less protection. Still, this option provides a roof to offer protection against the worst of nature’s elements.

Need an affordable solution to store a vehicle? Check out nearby car storage units, larger RV storage units, available garage spaces, vacant driveway parking, and more.

Factors to Consider When Renting a Storage Unit

Not all storage facilities are created equal. Here’s what you should think about before committing.

Storing Duration

Most storage facilities rent from month to month, but some may have minimum renting periods. The cost of storage adds up over time. It’s also essential to consider that your possessions are more vulnerable to the elements when stored for long periods of time.

While the average rental duration of a storage unit is about 14 months, you’ll usually have the option for shorter or longer term contracts.

Storage Unit Tenant Duration

Size of the Unit

The square footage and ceiling height of storage units can vary widely. Sizes generally range from 25 square feet, where you can expect to fit a few boxes and small furniture items, to 300 square feet, where you can fit heftier furniture from multiple bedrooms, or even a car.

Upon measuring total square footage, you generally want to rent a unit that provides extra space compared to what you think you’ll need. This gives you a buffer for potential miscalculations and just in case you decide to add more items to the unit. However, larger units are more expensive, so you want to avoid getting a unit significantly larger than the space you need.

Calculate the square footage you need to rent the optimal storage space.

Storage Unit Prices: What to Expect

As you might expect, the prices of storage units vary drastically based on their size and type. Depending on what you pick, you can pay anywhere between $60 and $250 per month for a unit. Fortunately, a few important factors can help you narrow down exactly how much you can expect to pay:

  • Unit type. Expect to pay up to 20% more for indoor storage or 30% more for climate-controlled units.
  • Availability. Naturally, an area with fewer available storage spaces is able to bring up the pricing due to higher demand.
  • Location. Facilities in urban areas are typically more expensive to make up for higher leasing prices and more limited space.
  • Provider. For example, finding a self storage solution through Neighbor can significantly lower your costs.
5×5 5×10 10×10 10×15 10×20
Average Monthly Price $60 $70 $110 $130 $180
Climate-Controlled Average Monthly Price $75 $88 $138 $163 $225
What Fits Several boxes or furniture items, seasonal items, or college summer storage. Studio or small 1-bedroom apartment items. Small 2-bedroom or larger 1-bedroom apartment items. Larger 1-2 bedroom house items, a compact car, or small recreational toys. 3-4 bedroom home items or a standard-sized vehicle.

Ultimately, it’s always best to do your research. Weigh the costs of storage against the features that are most important to you, and always make sure you factor in any fees, insurance costs, and potential consequences of late or missed payments.

Finding out exactly how much you have to store and what a unit at that size and in the right environment would cost can go a long way towards finding a solution that helps you — both in the present and the future.

Storage Features and Amenities

Indoor storage doesn’t necessarily mean climate controlled, and a climate-controlled storage unit doesn’t guarantee humidity control. Don’t assume you get features that aren’t in your rental contract when you’re renting a storage unit.

Also, consider storage features that meet your needs regarding accessibility before you make a commitment. Some facilities have 24-hour access, while others have limited access.


Storage facilities have different levels of security and surveillance on the premises. Determine if the level of security on the premises meets your standards for your property.

Facility Maintenance

The space where you’re considering renting a storage unit should provide sufficient protection from damage. Ask the facility manager how they approach pest control, smoke damage, and mold and mildew prevention.

Customer Reviews

Previous customers can tell you a lot about how a company conducts business. Search out recent reviews to see if other customers are satisfied with the facility you intend to use.

All Your Questions About Renting a Storage Unit, Answered

Whether you’re a knowledge worker relocating to a new city, a college student in need of a place for your belongings during summer break, or an empty nester who needs to stash excess furniture after downsizing, there are numerous reasons to lease a self storage unit.

However, if it’s your first time renting one, chances are that you don’t know the ins and outs of the storage industry. We are here to help. From usage rules to unit pricing, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know before appending your signature on the dotted line and renting a storage unit.

What Should You Look Out For When Renting a Storage Unit?

While the safety and security of the storage unit are a top priority, there are a few other factors to look into before committing and renting a storage unit. They include:

  • Security. You should ensure that there are adequate security measures to prevent intruders from gaining access to your unit. These should include video surveillance, locks, security gates or doors, and in-person surveillance.
  • Accessibility. You should also have 24-hour access to the contents of your storage units, including on the weekends.
  • Availability. Suppose you need a specific type or size of unit. It’s crucial to ensure that the storage facility you choose to work with has the right kind available.
  • Pricing. Take note of any variations in the contract to get the best value for your money. Also, be sure to ask for specials and online discounts.
  • Location. While a storage facility closer to a metropolitan area may be more convenient, ensure that you balance convenience and price based on how frequently you’ll need to access the unit.
  • Reviews. More than ever, reviews play a significant role in buyers’ purchasing decisions. Current and former clients’ perceptions do matter. Robbery reports, grumpy staff, and one-star reviews are red flags that a particular storage facility isn’t suitable.

What Do You Need to Provide to Start Renting a Storage Unit?

Just as with leasing a house, you’ll need to furnish the storage facility with a valid, government-issued form of identification to lease the storage unit. Below are your options:

  • State ID
  • Military ID
  • Driver’s license
  • Passport

Besides that, you’ll also need to sign a contract or storage unit agreement — be sure to read it in its entirety! — and heed the regulations laid out.

What Are the Available Storage Unit Size Variations?

Self-storage units come in different sizes. With that in mind, you need to have a general idea of how much space it will take to fit your belongings before deciding on a storage unit size. As a rule of thumb, you should always go one size bigger to minimize the chances of running out of space. Here’s an outline of some of the common storage unit sizes:

  • 5’×5′: This unit is the size of a small closet. A 5’×5′ storage unit can fit a small mattress set, a dresser, and several medium-sized boxes.
  • 5’×10′: The 5’×10‘ is the size of a small walk-in closet. It can fit the contents of a mid-sized bedroom.
  • 5’×15′: This unit is the size of a large walk-in closet. The 5’x15‘ can fit the contents of a single bedroom, including a dresser, a queen-sized bed, golf clubs, a television set, and several medium- to large-sized boxes.
  • 10’×10′: This is arguably the most popular storage unit. The size of half a standard one-car garage, the 10’×10′ unit can fit the furnishings of an entire family room or two full bedrooms.
  • 10’×15′: The 10’×15‘ unit can fit the contents of three full bedrooms.
  • 10×20: The size of a standard one-car garage; the 10’×20‘ can fit the furnishings of a multi-bedroom house, including a couch, refrigerator, dining room set, and several large boxes.
  • 10’×30′: This storage unit is as large as a one-and-a-half car garage. It can fit the furnishings of a three-five bedroom house.

The chart below provides a breakdown of which storage sizes are most popular.

Self Storage Unit Size Distribution (U.S.)

Is It Possible to Rent a Storage Unit for a Week?

Whether or not you can rent a unit for a week will depend on the individual company. Some storage companies don’t require a storage contract. So you can lease for a weekly or other short-term basis. However, there’s a catch — you should expect higher daily rates for this type of storage.

That said, other companies offer storage rental agreements on a month-to-month basis with no minimum stay or long-term commitment.

How Do You Transport Your Belongings to a Storage Unit?

You can opt to move your belongings to your storage unit on the trunk of your truck. But it is advisable to take advantage of the free truck rentals from select storage companies. Truck rentals enable you to move bulky items in a single load, so you can reduce the transportation time (and headache) associated with moving into or out of a storage unit.

Tempting as it may be, using your storage unit as an office or a dwelling is illegal and amounts to the violation of the lease contract.

You can only use your storage unit to keep files and other business-related items. However, many storage facilities have on-site business centers where clients can work, mail packages, and print documents.

Do You Need Insurance Coverage to Store Goods in a Storage Unit?

If your possessions aren’t covered by homeowners insurance, renters insurance, or another type of coverage, you’ll want to learn about the insurance policy options that may be provided by the facility and if their policy meets your coverage needs. Then you can decide whether or not you need insurance coverage for your stored belongings.

Some storage companies mandate that customers furnish them with an insurance plan before signing a contract—no insurance, no coverage. On the other hand, some companies let their customers decide whether to get self storage insurance coverage depending on how valuable the items they’ve stored are.

Need help navigating insurance coverage? Use our storage insurance guide to help you ensure your items are protected.

How Can You Save Space in a Storage Unit?

How you pack your items will determine how much storage space they occupy. Efficiently packing your items may mean you can rent a smaller storage unit. Here are some tips to help you save space as you’re renting a storage unit:

  • Disassemble bulky furniture: Remove table, chair, and bed legs to stack and store them in less space.
  • Stack your items: Storage units usually have high ceilings, so make use of stackable bins and arrange various items to fill the space all the way to the top.
  • Leave an aisle: Leave a space to easily access your goods whenever you need them while you’re renting a storage unit.
  • Fill up: Fill wardrobes and dressers with smaller items to maximize space.

What Items Can You Store in a Storage Unit?

Storage units are designed to hold personal, business, and household goods such as clothing, files, furniture, refrigerators, and bicycles. They are not built for anything dangerous, toxic, or alive. Some of the things that you shouldn’t store while renting a storage unit include:

  • Hazardous materials
  • Combustible or flammable materials
  • Food or items that attract bugs
  • Living things (humans, animals, and plants)
  • Weapons, explosives, and stolen items
  • Wet or scented items

Can You Repair a Car in a Storage Unit?

Most reputable storage companies are not willing to let you use your unit as your personal auto repair shop, given that cars contain flammable and hazardous chemicals. Moreover, since most storage units don’t have electricity, you can find it challenging to fix your car.

That said, reputable storage facilities may offer vehicle storage units. So, whether you’re stashing your Porsche 911 or keeping your Mazda safe while you’re on a long trip, storage units can be an ideal place to park your ride.

What Action Should You Take When Your Storage Unit is Broken Into?

Your storage unit can be equipped with the best and latest security features. But theft can still occur when you’re renting a storage unit. Suppose you become a victim of a robbery while renting a storage unit; you’ll only be able to make an insurance claim if you acquired a policy before placing your items in storage.

Suppose you opted out; chances are that you won’t receive any compensation, given that the storage facility isn’t liable unless the theft occurred due to their negligence (such as its employee leaving the gate or door unlocked). If you’re insured and theft occurs, you should make a claim the moment you find out what’s missing.

Renting Storage Space With Neighbor

Finding and renting a storage unit that meets your needs is too often an overwhelming process that’s more difficult and more pricey than expected. With this in mind, Neighbor is your modern solution to self storage. Neighbor is a revolutionary company that connects residents who have extra storage space with the renters who need storage units. Neighbor provides local storage solutions that are up to 50% less expensive, 14x safer, and more reliable than traditional storage facilities.

Browse all our helpful storage guides:

  • Storage Unit Size Guide
  • Average Monthly Storage Unit Costs
  • Types of Storage Units
  • Storage Unit Insurance Guide
  • How to Calculate Square Footage

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The post Renting a Storage Unit: How to Find the Perfect Extra Space for All Your Extra Belongings appeared first on Neighbor Blog.


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