Storage 101: The Basics of How Self-Storage Works

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A U-Haul self-storage professional showing a storage unit to an older couple.

If you have never rented a storage unit before, you might have some questions about getting started, like “what size unit do I need?” or “how much does self-storage cost?” Luckily for you, we have plenty of answers. As an industry leader, U-Haul offers a variety of resources to help you make an informed decision and select the right storage space based on your needs and budget. Use this storage guide to learn more about self-storage prices, types, sizes and much more.

What is Self-Storage?

Self-storage is essentially an extension of your garage or shed; a clean, dry and secure space located in a storage facility used to store your belongings for as long as necessary. Most storage companies including U-Haul rent self-storage units on a month-to-month basis so you only pay for the time you need. For anyone who wants to de-clutter or needs extra space during a move, self-storage is a viable solution. With the industry quickly and continuously growing, there is likely a U-Haul self-storage facility near you.

Reasons for Renting Self-Storage

There are many reasons people utilize self-storage, and it often goes beyond simply having too much clutter on hand. In many cases, common life events can necessitate short- or long-term storage.

Common Reasons People Rent Self-Storage:

  • Seasonal storage – Many people keep lawn equipment, winter clothing, recreational vehicles, holiday decorations and other seasonal items in storage during the offseason to save space.
  • Remodeling – Home projects can take weeks and create a lot of clutter around the house. Storage is a great way to keep everything organized and secure until your project is completed.
  • College storage – Students who want to avoid lugging their dorm room belongings home for the summer often store their items in a storage unit near campus for maximum convenience.
  • Moving – During complicated moves, self-storage is frequently used as a temporary home for furniture, appliances, clothing and other household items until the new home is available.
  • Military deployment – Service men and women can keep their belongings in a safe place during their deployment. This also goes for military families, who are often on the move.
  • Extra vehicle storage – Storage isn’t just for furniture and boxes; many U-Haul storage facilities are equipped to store RVs, boats, cars, motorcycles and other motorized vehicles.

What Size Storage Unit Do I Need? Different Storage Sizes and Types

Selecting the right size storage unit is a critical part of the process. After all, you don’t want to pay for more space than you need, and you certainly don’t want to end up with too little space for your items. Luckily there are some easy ways to determine which size is best ahead of time – or at least get an idea.

Start by taking an inventory of your belongings. Count how many boxes or plastic storage bins you will be storing, as well as any appliances and furniture while making note of oddly shaped or non-stackable items. Once you have an inventory, a storage professional can likely recommend a size for you.

You can also estimate the size you need by stacking your belongings in your driveway or garage similar to how you would in a storage space. Use a tape measurer to determine the dimensions of your pile and compare that with available storage unit sizes. Or, if you’re transporting your belongings in moving truck or van, simply make note of the vehicle’s dimensions or size and use that to get an idea. Check out our self-storage size guide for help.

Common Storage Unit Sizes

Most U-Haul storage locations offer a wide variety of storage unit sizes; from small storage lockers to spacious 10’ x 30’ rooms. View our self-storage size guide to get a better idea of what sizes are available, what they are commonly used for and what vehicle will work best for transporting items to that space.

Indoor Storage Units

Indoor storage units are climate-controlled storage spaces housed inside of a single or multi-story building. These units are often used for storing items you want kept indoors and protected from the elements. Indoor storage units offer the most security and are accessible via hallway.

Outdoor Storage Units

Outdoor storage units are similar to a backyard shed or garage; your belongings are completely covered and locked away, but the unit is outdoors with no climate control. On the plus side, outdoor storage units typically have drive-up access, so loading and unloading is much more convenient.

What Options Does U-Haul Have?

There are a variety of storage options available at your local U-Haul storage facility; each caters to customers’ needs differently. Knowing what options are out there is key to finding the right storage unit and getting the most out of your purchase. Keep in mind that not every location has the same options.

Climate Controlled Storage

Climate controlled storage spaces are indoors and maintain a temperature between 65 and 85 degrees year-round. This feature is ideal for items that are sensitive to extreme temperatures or humidity. This includes clothing, electronics, antiques, photos, musical instruments and more. Review our climate controlled checklist to see if your items need a climatized storage unit.

Vehicle Storage

Vehicle storage is an indoor or outdoor storage space specifically for storing cars, RVs, boats, ATVs or any other vehicle that you don’t want or can’t store at your property. There are three types of vehicle storage available: open vehicle storage, covered and indoor/enclosed. View more details on vehicle storage options at U-Haul.

24-Hour Access

Just as the name implies, 24-hour access allows you to visit your storage unit at your convenience. Facilities with this option available will typically provide you with an access code so you can manage your storage space after the facility’s office is closed and outside of normal access hours. Inquire with the facility manager for 24-hour access availability at your storage center.

Drive-Up Storage

Drive-up storage units are located outdoors on street level, meaning you can park your vehicle directly outside your storage space for maximum convenience. This option is ideal if you need frequent access to your belongings and you don’t require climate control.

How to Rent a Storage Unit Near You

After you determine which type of unit and size will accommodate your needs best, you can begin searching for a space near you. Start by visiting the U-Haul storage page where you can quickly find an available storage unit that’s right for you.

Here’s how:

1. Find a Storage Location Near You

Enter either your zip code, address, city or state to find and view storage facilities in your area. Be sure to also select the storage option(s) that you need so the search results are more relevant to you. This is important, as not all facilities have the same storage features.

2. Determine your Budget and Research Self-Storage Prices

Storage unit prices can vary. Factors like indoor vs. outdoor, climate control, facility location and unit size play a crucial role in determining the monthly rental price. It’s important to determine your budget so that you can get an idea of which facilities and/or units are suitable for you and compare prices.

3. Things to Do for Move-In Day

Have you reserved your storage unit? Great! Now you’re ready to move in. Moving into a storage unit may seem pretty self-explanatory, but there are some details that you should be aware of beforehand. Check out this move-in day checklist so you’re up to speed on what to do before move-in day.

4. The Dos and Don’ts of Self-Storage

Did you know there are some items that you can’t store in a storage unit, or that you can manage your storage unit online? There might be a lot about renting a storage unit that you don’t know! Take a moment to review these dos and don’ts of self-storage and optimize your storage space.

5. Storage Payment Methods

Most self-storage facilities rent units on a month-to-month basis, meaning there are no long term leases or contracts. In most cases, you can set up an account and conveniently make your monthly payments and manage you storage unit online. You can also set up autopay for added convenience.

6. Self-Storage Insurance

Most storage facilities require customers to insure their stored belongings. You can apply homeowners or renters insurance, but it’s recommended that you purchase stored property insurance from the facility, as not all homeowners and renters insurance cover personal property stored in a storage unit.

View more self-storage tips or find a self-storage facility near you today!

Have more questions? Check out our frequently asked questions or call your local storage facility.