First Timer’s Storage Guide

If you’ve never rented storage, you might be feeling slightly intimidated by the process and asking yourself a multitude of questions. Whether you’re renting storage to house your stuff temporarily while you renovate, move or figure out what to do with your items, or you’re looking for a long-term solution for storing goods, our guide below should help with some basic questions:

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 Self Storage or Warehouse Storage?

You might be confused between self storage and warehouse storage. Self storage is when you rent a unit from a storage facility and only you have access to your specific unit. The renter, with some exceptions, is responsible for transporting his or her items to and from the unit at move-in and move out.

With warehouse storage, a service that is offered by a select group of storage facilities, you never have to leave your home in order to place items in, or retrieve them from, storage. This full-service option often includes packing, labeling, inventory, pickup and drop off. Some facilities will house your stuff along with other people’s in a large warehouse, others will still provide you with a private room. Ask which of these is offered, if it matters to you.

How to find the right facility?

A little bit of Internet research will quickly reveal storage options in your area. Once you have located several that are convenient for you, it’s good to start reading reviews for each one to narrow down your options. If you see any red flags, dig in a little further to find out if that review is legitimate. As always, recommendations are always best, so ask your friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors if they have used a storage facility that they’re happy with.  Make sure the facility offers the right-sized unit, is secure and offers patrols, alarms and closed circuit televisions, is clean, climate-controlled (should you need it) and offers contracts that work with your budget and time constraints.  Don’t sign any contract you aren’t comfortable with and always ask the storage facility managers for help if you don’t understand something.

What size storage is right for your needs?

Storage units come in a variety of sizes, many of which are standard across different facilities, and can measure anywhere from 5’ x 5’ all the way to 10’ x 20’.  Smaller units can hold boxes and smaller furniture. Units 10' X 10' and larger are capable of storing larger furniture and the contents of a one-bedroom apartment. If you need to store the contents of a three- or four- bedroom house, you should opt for larger units, such as a 10’ X 20' room. Once you’ve determined what you need to store, it’s best to check in with a facility member to ask for some guidance on a storage size.

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Should you get additional insurance?

Check to see what the limited liability coverage is in your state and then decide if it’s worth it to purchase additional insurance. Limited liability is typically only available to warehouse storage customers. For those renting self storage, tenant protection coverage or third party insurance are options. In both cases, the decision to buy insurance and amount of insurance required depends on what you’re planning to store. If what you’re storing is of little value—monetarily and sentimentally—then you might not want to purchase insurance. If, however, your items are of value, decide what they are worth and what sort of compensation would satisfy you, should those things get damaged or lost.  

What can you store?

You can store most household items and furniture in a storage unit. You can also rent storage specifically for vehicles, such as motorcycle or boats. If you’re planning to store items such as wine, rare books or art, ask about climate-controlled units and even ones designed for such sensitive valuables.  You should never put food, hazardous material, live animals or plants in storage. Additionally, check with your facility to see what their restrictions are. 

How to transport your items?

Some storage facilities offer free move-ins with specific commitments and room sizes. If the facility of your choice doesn’t, ask them if they offer such a service for a fee. If not, you can either transport items via movers or opt to do so yourself. For smaller items you can use a car but for larger ones, you’ll want to rent a larger vehicle, such as a truck.

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What should you have on hand on day one?

Have your contract handy on move-in day. Additionally, have a good lock on hand to ensure your items are safe.