Renting a storage unit can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before.
Many storage companies will take advantage of you. Others will claim to be secure, but fail to live up to their promise.
Expert guidance can help demystify the storage-hunting process. Bargain Storage President Barry Raber has more than 20 years of experience in the storage industry.
Check out his advice on things to look for (and avoid) before you rent a storage unit, including:
Choosing a convenient location
Opting for a local company over a national chain
Finding a property manager who cares
Carefully assessing the property and its security technology
Selecting the safest unit at the property
Packing your storage unit with care
1. Pick a Storage Facility That Is Near You
Barry recommends selecting a storage facility that is located on the way to or from work or within three miles of your home, for easier access on weekends. You may need to hold onto your storage unit longer than you initially intended, so one of these choices makes it convenient to access.
2. Save Money with a Smaller Storage Company Over a National Chain
Small, local storage companies are often better than national companies because they’re invested in their communities, and often cost much less.
When choosing between storage facilities, look at the reviews. Barry says you shouldn't settle for a storage facility with less than a 4.5-star rating.
Local self storage companies can save you up to 10% compared to a national chain. Ask the storage facility staff how often they raise their prices. An answer like “not often” or “every few years” is what you want to hear.
If you pick a national chain, go with Extra Space. They are the best in class for national operators. Realize that the national companies will cost you more with higher rent, fees, frequent rent increases. They will require you to pay $10-$20 a month for their insurance which rarely pays claims. These things will add up over time.
3. Find a Manager Who Cares
You can tell a lot about a storage facility by how its property manager behaves. In the best-case scenario, the property manager will live on-site in an apartment attached to the property. A resident manager provides greater security and ownership than a manager who is just there by day.
Barry recommends paying attention to how the property manager cares for the facility. If the facility is clean, that means the staff take good care of it — and will also take good care of you and your belongings.
Lastly, ask the property manager if they do a daily lock check. If they say no, look for another storage company. That’s a sure sign they didn’t take security seriously.
4. Assess the Property and Its Technology Carefully
A storage company’s number one priority should be protecting your things. Take a careful look at the state of the property, and its security technology, to verify whether or not what the company says about itself is true.
Barry recommends choosing a facility that has no less than 20 working, high-definition security cameras on site. You’d be surprised how many facilities put cameras up and don’t fix them if they break.
Ask the staff how many days their DVR (digital video recorder) captures. If they don’t know, they probably don’t care about the security of your items. You want a facility with a minimum 30-day DVR recording so that it can roll tape back of something that happens to your unit.
As you tour the site, pay attention to surveillance warning signs. The more signs there are on the property, the more effective they are at deterring thieves.
5. Your Unit Location Matters
Once you’ve found a storage property you feel confident in, you can pick your storage shed. Be sure to choose your unit’s location strategically.
Barry says that the most important factor in selecting a storage unit should be whether or not it’s in direct view of a working security camera.
If someone tampers with your things, the police can’t prosecute them unless the perpetrator’s face can be clearly seen in security footage. High-definition security footage will make it possible for you to press charges for theft.
Barry also recommends choosing a unit that is in a high traffic area, like near the property manager’s apartment or the facility entrance.
6. Pack and Access Your Unit with Care
How you organize the items in your storage unit, as well as when and how you access the unit, are important for convenience and security.
How to Pack Your Items for Storage
Dust, water, moisture, and rodents are possibilities in any storage facility.
Here are Barry’s recommendations for organizing your unit to maximize safety and efficiency:
Pack your belongings in plastic totes and label them well.
Avoid putting anything on the floor that would be damaged if it got wet, including mattresses and cardboard boxes.
Place bamboo charcoal odor absorbing bags around your packed items to combat any musty odors seeping in.
Opt for a disc lock over a padlock. Padlocks are easy to cut, while disc locks are not.
How to Safely Access Items in Storage
If you’re storing things in clear containers that reveal valuable contents, move your items in during off-peak hours. That way you won’t tempt thieves who could be spying for their next break-in.
Maintain an empty aisle in your unit so that you can easily access items throughout. This aisle doubles as a security feature. It lets you access items in your unit without taking them out, putting them on full display to anyone who passes by.
If you have valuable items you can’t conceal, you can take maximum caution by closing the door of your unit after you enter and accessing items with the help of a flashlight.
Most importantly, if you would be deeply upset by a particular item being stolen or damaged, Barry advises against putting it into storage. Keep your most precious items at home.
Final Thoughts: 6 Tips from a Storage Company Owner to Read Before You Rent
Selecting a storage facility to trust with your belongings can be a big decision. While it may seem like all of the companies promise maximum security and high value, that isn’t always the case.
Follow these tips to distinguish those who just talk the talk from those who also walk the walk:
Opt for a smaller self storage company over a national chain.
Choose a location that is convenient to where you live or work.
Find a property manager who cares.
Assess the property carefully and ask about its security technology.
Choose a unit that ensures maximum security and protection from the elements.
Take care when packing and accessing your items.
Looking for a highly-rated, local self-storage company? Find a Bargain Storage near me.