5 Mistakes People Make When Renting a Storage Unit, According to Experts

published Feb 24, 2022
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Self storage warehouse with single storage unit open, boxes inside
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If you’ve decluttered your home but find that it’s still busting at the seams with stuff, a storage unit could offer some breathing room. Renting storage space is easy enough to come by, but with an average monthly cost ranging anywhere between $20 and $450, according to Home Advisor, it’s not the right move for every budget.

Jeff and Denise Henick are the husband-and-wife team behind New York City-based Stop & Stor. Here’s their expert advice on how to avoid the more common mistakes made when renting storage.

Mistake #1: Focusing on price only.

It’s not a bad thing to research storage pricing online first, Jeff says. But a major blunder is when people focus on snagging the lowest price rather than the best size and type for their needs — they often end up with a storage locker that’s roughly the size of a safety deposit box at a bank, he says. It pays to ask questions and use the storage facility’s size guide (usually available on the company’s website) to figure out your storage needs. While he and his staff avoid overselling customers on storage space, Jeff says, “Nobody’s storing a one-bedroom apartment in a $19 [unit].”

Denise says some customers will need a climate-controlled unit depending on what’s being stored. “If you put something that’s quite expensive and delicate, like a piece of art, in an outside unit, that’s going to be affected by the inclement weather,” she says. Climate-controlled units add to the monthly cost, but it could be necessary.

Mistake #2: Choosing an inconvenient location for your storage facility. 

Location typically reigns supreme when buying or renting a home, but Henick says it should for choosing a storage facility, too. He says that some customers visit their storage units every day, viewing them as extensions of their homes or offices. 

If you envision only two trips to the storage facility — the day you drop off your stuff and the day you pick it up — then location might not be as important. But if you need regular access to your belongings, you must factor in travel time and transportation costs. Jeff says that as with just about all products and services, storage space will likely cost more in cities versus the suburbs. However, renting storage at a cheaper facility that’s harder to get to might actually cancel out that savings, so choose your location wisely.

Mistake #3: Overlooking convenient access to your storage unit within the facility.

It’s also important to have easy access to your unit once you’re at the facility. Loading docks often have limited parking space, and elevators need to be shared with other customers. And yes, you might have to wait outside in a long line of cars to get to your unit. “It’s very important to understand the features [of a storage facility],” Jeff says. “They’re not all the same.”

Mistake #4: Not purchasing adequate insurance.

Jeff says storage facilities typically offer some sort of limited protection plan to customers. But depending on the value of your items, it might not be enough. He recommends calculating the value of your items — keep receipts wherever possible — and adding on your own insurance as needed. More insurance companies will raise your monthly costs for storage, but it could be worth it for the peace of mind.

Mistake #5: Skimming over the fine print.

It’s important to read the contract when renting storage space. Denise says that many customers rent storage in the aftermath of a stressful life event — such as a divorce or a loved one’s death — that they neglect the details of their storage space. She recommends paying close attention to when rent will be charged, if and when monthly rates will rise, and when late fees will be charged.

A storage unit can help you lighten up an overcrowded space. However, it pays to do your research so you don’t wind up paying each month for a service that doesn’t fit your needs.