Self-storage companies operate more than 50,000 facilities across the country. That’s more locations than McDonald’s, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts have in the U.S.—combined, according to local search marketing company EZlocal.com.
Given the sheer number of storage facilities, trying to decide where to stash your furniture and other belongings can be mind-numbing. But we’re here to help you. Here are eight questions you should ask when you’re shopping for a self-storage facility.
How close is the facility to your home or office? You probably don’t want to be carting stuff to and from a facility if it’s 20 miles away, even though it may offer the biggest bargain.
Price is one of the primary concerns for self-storage renters. If it’s one of your concerns, then dig for details. For instance, can you get a discount if you rent a unit for 12 months instead of six months?
Some people may need the smallest unit available (typically 5×5), while others may need more space to accommodate more belongings. Keep in mind that some facilities may not offer some sizes, or may not have any unoccupied units available in the size you want.
Obviously, you want your possessions to be as secure as possible. Has the facility installed surveillance cameras to deter crime? Is the facility surrounded by fences? Is there a security gate that limits access only to people who have a gate code? Is the facility well-lit at night? Is the neighborhood safe?
For instance, climate control is important to many self-storage customers, particularly those in hot climates, as they want to protect heirlooms, wine and other weather-sensitive items. Not all storage facilities offer climate-controlled units, however. So if climate control matters to you, be sure to ask about it.
If you want to grab some of your old high school yearbooks at 2 o’clock in the morning, will you be able to enter your storage unit? Not every facility provides around-the-clock access. Make sure you put 24-hour access on your checklist if that’s important to you.
No one wants to store stuff at a dirty facility. If you can, visit the facilities you’re considering to see how tidy they are. Is the facility’s office neat? How about the units themselves? If you spot evidence of roaches, mice or other pesky creatures, scratch that facility off your list.
Will you be treated well over the phone or at the front desk? Check with friends and relatives to see whether they’ve had experience with customer service at the facilities you’re considering. Also, look for online reviews about the facilities, and visit the Better Business Bureau website to see whether any complaints have been lodged against them.
John Egan is editor in chief 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.