Many of us, at one point or another, will use self-storage. Whether it be for college, moving, general storage or downsizing, self-storage remains a viable option for those with simply too much stuff.
Though, if you’ve never used self-storage before, the process can seem overwhelming: What is climate control, and do you need it? What should you bring on the day of move-in? Will you end up on Storage Wars? If these questions have ever crossed your mind, keep reading for a comprehensive guide to renting a storage unit.
Where to Start
If you don’t already have a storage facility in mind, the Yellow Pages, Google and websites like SpareFoot are wonderful places to start. Many local facilities offer promotions, deals and discounts on storage, so it can be valuable to do research on the various options in your area before making a choice.
Understanding Climate Control
With more and more storage facilities offering climate control, it’s important to understand exactly what it is and how it can help you. The most basic level of climate control guarantees that your storage unit will remain within a certain temperature range. This will often mean anywhere between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Some facilities also offer humidity control in tandem with climate control, so ask your facility representative if you’re unsure.
If you’re storing temperature-sensitive items like wine, wood or leather furniture, vehicles or artwork, climate control is a must; swings and extreme highs or lows in temperature can affect the quality of your possessions. Additionally, you may want to avoid plastic bags — a sealed plastic bag can foster humidity, especially if you haven’t properly dried whatever item you’re storing before wrapping it in plastic.
Renting a Truck
Again, depending on the amount and size of possessions you’re looking the store, you may or may not need a truck. Many storage facilities offer deals involving free or discounted trucks and other necessary moving equipment, so make sure you make a point to ask.
Know Your Insurance Plan
It’s crucial to insure your belongings if you’re planning to store for a long term, and especially if you’re keeping expensive items in storage. Check with your agent first to clarify if your existing homeowners or renters insurance policy will cover your stored possessions; while most do, the extent of coverage can vary by insurance company. In many cases, the storage facility may also offer its own coverage. Regardless of which provider you choose, make sure you read the respective insurance policy and rental lease carefully for any fine print to make sure you understand.
A Word on Storage Auctions
If you’re worried about ending up on Storage Wars or Auction Hunters, take note: Storage facilities can only auction off the contents of a unit when the tenant stops paying rent. Even then, the storage facility is required by law to notify the tenant through either public notice, post or electronic mail. The delinquent tenant can pay for their unit at any point during this process, thus cancelling the need for the auction.
The process can vary slightly by state, though, so if you’re worried that your chaise will end up on TV, make sure you familiarize yourself with your state’s laws. Overall, however, if you pay your fees on time, you shouldn’t ever have to worry about losing your valuables to an auction.
Before you commit to a storage facility, take a tour and ask about the electronic systems. Do the grounds have video surveillance? Is there gate access? Ask about the neighborhood, or do some research online if you’re unsure.
Most self-storage facilities will require you to use your own lock, so don’t let that be the one thing you forget on move-in day! Stay away from standard or combination padlocks, as these can be easily picked or broken. Stick with a closed-shackle padlock, disc lock or cylinder lock.
If you’re storing heavy or large objects, it can often be worth the extra money to rent a unit on the ground floor. Additionally, choose a larger-sized unit if you plan on “visiting” your items often. This gives you walking space and will make your life exceptionally easier.
Don’t forget to take advantage of the height of the unit, which usually ranges from 8 to 12 feet. Store vertically, with heavy boxes on the bottom and lighter boxes at the top.
As always, if you’re unsure about the best size for your belongs, describe your stored items to your facility or a SpareFoot representative, and they’ll help you figure out the appropriate size.
Know What You Can’t Store
This includes animals, perishables, firearms (varies by state, make sure you check first), explosives, flammable items, noxious or hazardous materials, and stolen property. Again, if you’re unsure, ask the facility manager before going forward.
Jenny Zhang is a writer at SpareFoot, the online marketplace where you can find and reserve a self-storage unit with comparison shopping tools that show real-time availability and exclusive deals.