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How To Choose A Self-Storage Facility

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How do I choose a storage unit?

Self-storage can be a great temporary solution during highly transitional periods, such as moving house.

Self-storage can be a brilliant problem solver for anyone who happens to just finds themselves at a crossroads in their lives. If you are about to move to another home, downsize your house to an apartment or move in together after marriage, renting an affordable extra storage space where you can store some of your prized possessions – not far from your home, safely monitored, and conveniently and easily accessible day or night (up to 24/7), can simply be the best solution to any possible insufficient space problems that you may be experiencing at the moment.

And while there are some indisputable benefits of self-storage, the questions of how to choose a self-storage facility and what you should look for when choosing a self-storage facility remain wide open on the table.

Read our tips for choosing a self-storage facility so that you know what to look for when searching for practical ways to expand your storage space.

Making The Right Storage Decisions: What To Consider When Choosing A Self-Storage Facility

Unless it’s your super lucky day, you can’t just choose a self-storage facility randomly and expect to be happy with your choice in the end. There are plenty of factors to consider when choosing a self-storage facility – one that will fit your budget, fulfill your specific requirements and meet your expectations. The right storage solution for you requires some serious consideration and a comparative analysis – two time-consuming but highly rewarding tasks to complete before you take the mandatory tour around the storage facility and see what you’re dealing with in person.

“Can I afford self-storage?”

The very first question that you must ask yourself, way before you begin the hunt for a suitable storage facility, is whether you can afford self-storage or not. As you can probably suspect, self-storage facility costs are not unified and they depend on a number of fundamental factors, such as:

  • Self-storage unit size. Usually, the smallest space you can rent at a storage facility has the dimensions of a standard small-sized home closet (5’ x 5’) and you are free to go up in size according to your budget and needs. As far as self-storage unit costs go, expect to pay a monthly rent of somewhere between $60 and $100 for the tiniest of storage units but have in mind that the exact sum will be calculated after all of the price determining factors are weighed in.
  • Location. Where a specific self-storage facility is located plays a major role when the monthly charge is calculated. As a rule of thumb, storage locations in big cities tend to be more expensive than relatively rural ones, but there are always exceptions to this rule. Also, the exact location within the city limits can also influence the final price one way or the other.
  • Storage company. It’s a fact that some storage companies are more expensive than others. In an ideal world, that would mean that the costlier the services of a storage company, the more high-quality storage-related services they would offer and the better their customer service would be. Sadly, our world is far from being ideal, so it’s up to you to figure out whether the higher prices of a certain storage company are justified or not.

“What type of self-storage do I need?”

choose the right size self storage unit

It’s important to choose the right size of self-storage unit for your prized possessions.

Another essential question whose answer you need to know before you go out there and visit possible storage facilities is what type of self-storage you actually need.

  • Self-storage unit size. Clearly, the number and dimensions of the items you plan to place in storage will determine the size of the unit, but that task at hand can be rather tricky. If you rent a self-storage unit that is too big, you’ll end up paying for non-optimized storage space and thus lose money in the process. On the other hand, if you opt for a smaller storage unit and it won’t fit in all your stuff, then you’ll be losing money again as you will have to rent another unit to accommodate your belongings. To avoid this vicious lose-lose situation, prepare a detailed list of all your goods intended for storage and ask storage company specialists to choose the right unit size for you.
  • Climate control. Climate-controlled self-storage units are usually more expensive to rent for obvious reasons, but that type of storage may be exactly what you need for your prized possessions. Consider climate controlled storage if
    1. most of your items are sensitive to temperature fluctuations /antiques, cosmetics, collectibles, leather furniture, important documents, electronic devices, photographs, medications, musical instrument, etc./;
    2. you choose long-term storage and your possessions will be subjected to the whims of all 4 seasons;
    3. your geographic area is notorious for its extreme temperatures /really cold winters in the northern part of the country or higher levels of humidity in the southern states/.

“How far should my self-storage facility be located?”

Here is another key question when you’re choosing the right storage unit for you. The distance to your self-storage facility does matter but the more important puzzle to solve here is how often you will need to have access to your stored items.

If you need your stuff on a regular basis, then choosing a storage facility that is far away from your home doesn’t make a lot of sense. Think of all the time you will waste on the road and the additional expenses for fuel which can really hurt your budget in the long run? And what about the wear and tear of your own vehicle?

On the other hand, if you know you will rarely need your stored items, then selecting a self-storage facility outside your local area can be a good choice, especially if that long distance storage facility satisfies your strict requirements. Besides, most self-storage facilities of a more rural nature tend to offer bigger discounts and just better conditions as a whole simply because they don’t have to compensate for the big city overheads. Either way, take the distance to your storage facility in serious consideration before your final decision.

“What type of self-storage access do I need?”

The last factor to consider before you make that necessary trip to the self-storage area is what type of self-storage accessibility will work best for you. You need to understand that not every self-storage facility can be accessed 24/7. Some people may be content with a standard weekday access or access on demand, but that type of accessibility may not be enough in your particular situation.

If accessibility is an essential factor for you, you need to know upfront how often and at what times during the day or night the storage facility can be accessed and see if its business hours fit your own schedule. Think about the scenario when you need a stored item urgently and you just can’t get to it until a day or two later due to the limited hours of operation of your self-storage facility. That is just not good for you, is it?

Doing The Self-Storage Facility Tour: What To Look For When Choosing A Self-Storage Unit

what to consider when choosing a self-storage facility

The entire self-storage facility should look in tip top shape.

If you’re thinking about choosing a self-storage facility based entirely on its cheaper rates even without bothering to see it for yourself, then you should know that you’re about to make a serious mistake.

Number one, cheaper self-storage facilities are usually cheaper for a reason – they may be fairly old and in unsatisfactory overall condition compared to the competition, their security may be insufficient to say the least, their accessibility may be rather limited and they will probably lack a score of additional features and fail to offer good services tailored to your storage needs. It’s definitely not a good idea to compromise the safety of your possessions and your peace of mind just to save a few bucks.

And number two, you must never select a self-storage facility without touring it first and seeing its pros and cons with your own eyes. Choosing the right self-storage unit is a process and picking it out blindly can surely prove to be disastrous for you. Do you remember what happened the last time you went out on a blind date?

What features should you look for when choosing a self-storage facility?

Current overall condition

Without a doubt, there will be a score of things to watch out for and to pay closer attention to as you’re doing the self-storage facility tour. First impressions are important, so let’s start with the features you are likely to notice the minute you have entered the storage area.

  • Buildings. How do the storage buildings look from the outside? They should be in very good shape with no noticeable defects of any kind. Any types and sizes of holes along the structures could be an indication of pest infestations or water leaks. Visible rust anywhere on the storage buildings is also a bad sign that, among other problems, speaks of negligence. Clearly, the entire storage area should look organized, well-kept, welcoming and generally pleasant to the eye.
  • Cleanliness. How clean and tidy the premises look should speak volumes about how the entire self-storage complex is managed. Can you spot any trash lying around or unidentified dirt on the storage buildings? If you can, then that’s trouble. You want the storage company and the property manager in particular to take pride in their storage facility and keep it in tip top shape. How are they supposed to take good care of your valuable possessions if they can’t even take care of their own property?
  • Illumination. Make a mental note to register whether the entire storage facility is well lit not only outside, but inside the self-storage units as well. Sufficient illumination is important for your future problem-free access to your stored items. Can you see everything easily without straining your eyes? A good level of visibility should be offered regardless of the time of day or night.
  • Parking space. When visiting the storage facility, look around you – do you see enough parking spaces on-site that provide easy and direct access to the self-storage units?
  • Occupancy. A good level of occupancy is a clear sign that the storage facility is trustworthy. On the other hand, if there are too many empty storage cells, then there might be something wrong with the storage area in general – something that you don’t realize yet and probably won’t know until it’s too late. Why wouldn’t people take advantage of a high quality storage service that is affordable, convenient and accessible? Think about it.

Having assessed the overall condition of the self-storage facility and having formed a general opinion based on your first impressions, now it’s time to look deeper under the hood and learn more about the 3 essential deal-makers or deal-breakers: security, additional features and customer service.

Security and safety

what should I look for when choosing a self storage facility

While touring a self-storage facility, pay close attention to the level of security it offers to its valued tenants.

The level of protection the storage facility offers is probably the single most important aspect when you’re choosing a self-storage unit. Understandably, the security and safety of your valuable items should have a higher priority even than the amount of the monthly rent. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to pay less for storage if you don’t have a decent guarantee that you’re going to find, if at all, your stored goods in the condition in which you left them there.

Let’s face it: you don’t need the security level of a maximum security prison but you don’t want a storage facility without the basic precautionary measures either. Let’s take a look at what type of security features you are expected to find at a self-storage facility so that you decide to become their client.

  • Fence. The entire storage perimeter should be fenced and the latter must be in excellent condition – no holes of any kind along the fence, no cuts, no rust and no fallen poles should be visible.
  • Gate. The self-storage complex should be securely gated to keep unauthorized characters from entering it at any time during the day or night. How modern is the access gate? Is it equipped with a state-of-the-art keypad that only the right access code can unlock? Once you’re inside the self-storage facility to place more items in storage or get some of your stuff back home, you need to know that you’re as safe as your own possessions, and that no intruders will be allowed to enter the premises.
  • Surveillance system. Reputable self-storage facilities have modern surveillance systems that monitor and record any unusual or illegal activities not only around the exterior of the complex but inside the storage buildings as well. While touring a storage facility, ask specific questions about the surveillance system that is used there to keep things safe – the number of security cameras and their effective coverage, what type of alarm systems are installed and what exactly would happen if an authorized person were caught on site.
  • Fire prevention. Request more information about what specific fire prevention and firefighting measures are taken to prevent possible damage to your valuables placed in storage.
  • Live guards. The presence of live security guards is a good indicator that you’re about to choose a great self-storage facility that values the safety of their clients’ possessions.
  • Insurance. Make sure you know what type of insurance covers your possessions against possible theft or considerable damage. Anything can happen to your household items and personal possession while they are placed in storage, so don’t say YES to storage companies that refuse to provide adequate insurance for the safety of your items.
  • Storage unit. Before you can reach some sort of an informed decision, request to see your future self-storage unit in person. The unit door should be solid and have no visible defects at all. It should be equipped with a sturdy latch where you will have your own lock, and the door seal should be good enough to keep water from entering the storage space. The storage unit floor and walls should be completely dry, while there’s either a ventilation system in place or suitable gaps at the top of the walls to enable air circulation, which in turn will help prevent the buildup of mildew.

Additional self-storage services

The availability of extra storage features may prove to tip the scales in favor of the self-storage facility that offers them. Besides, who would say no to extra services that would only make their storage experience much more pleasant and more convenient?

  • Loading docks. Loading docks geared for both cars and trucks will definitely facilitate your loading and/or unloading operations.
  • Wheeled moving equipment. Dollies and hand trucks on site is another bonus that shows how much customers are valued and how much thought has gone into making sure these customers remain satisfied self-storage users.
  • Drive-up access. Another additional feature that will make loading and/or unloading much easier.
  • Online account management. Great storage companies offer their clients the unrivaled convenience of letting them manage their storage accounts remotely (online).

Customer service

tips for choosing a storage facility

You need a resourceful property manager as occasional self-storage problems are not out of the question.

All of the above tips for choosing a self-storage facility could mean nothing at all if the customer service is really bad. After all, what’s the point of purchasing a specific service if that service is not offered with a smile and a decent level of professional competence? What you want and need is a storage facility that offers the best possible customer service to their valued tenants.

When touring the self-storage premises, it’s important to get a feel of the level of customer service you will receive in the future.

  • On-site staff. If the on-site personnel are surprisingly rude, ignorantly ill-informed and generally as helpful as a vacuum cleaner on the moon, then you’d better look for another self-storage facility in the area to meet your immediate storage needs.
  • Property manager. It’s good to know that there’s a friendly and resourceful property manager who will come to your aid should any unexpected problems arise.
  • Rental agreement. It’s important to be able to read your rental agreement in full before you agree to become a customer of a particular self-storage facility. The agreement, including its fine print, should be as clear and unambiguous as possible.
  • Discounts. As a possible self-storage customer, it makes perfect sense for you to explore your options for possible self-storage savings. Reputable storage companies tend to offer special offers and discounts to their clients on a regular basis – from first-month-free promotions to long-term storage discounts.

The practical tips for choosing a storage facility above will provide a more-than-satisfactory answer to the puzzling question, “What should I look for when choosing a self-storage facility?”. As you can clearly see, there are so many essentials to consider when choosing a self-storage facility that you could get confused in the end.

Thanks to our self-storage advice, now you are more than knowledgeable to choose the best self-storage facility for you, so do your homework beforehand and don’t forget to ask the hard storage related questions.

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