How Much Is a Storage Unit—and Is It Worth the Cost?

Or, should you find something else to do with your stuff? Here's everything to consider.


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There are many reasons why people need storage units, and the demand for them is increasing. According to a Research and Markets report, in 2021, the global self-storage market was a $51.32 billion dollar industry. It is expected to expand to $71.37 billion by 2027. 

Storage units offer a safe and convenient solution for securing your household items or valuables when you don’t have enough space to house them yourself. Over the long term, the cumulative cost of a storage unit can surpass the value of the items inside. But, in the short term, people can use storage units when renovating, relocating, or downsizing. Businesses can do the same to store excess office furniture, files, and office supplies. Inherited antiques or acquired art that needs temperature and humidity control could also be well-suited for the appropriate storage container. The same is true of cars that shouldn’t be moved.

However, if you're considering using a storage unit, you must decide how much you’re willing to pay to hold onto items that you do not find essential to your daily life. Below, experts break down what you need to know about storage units, how much they cost, and how to assess if they are worth the expense.

What is a storage unit, and how does it work?

Storage units are empty, often cube-like spaces where you can store various items, including household furniture, appliances, vehicles, or other personal or business belongings. Generally, there are two types of storage facilities: full-service and self-service. 

Full-service storage companies will pick up your belongings, handle transportation logistics, and inventory the stored items. This level of care tends to have a higher cost, which may include replacement or damage insurance. However, full-service storage facilities limit access to your belongings. Because you didn’t place the items in the unit, you won't be able to access your items at any time of your choosing. Often, you’ll need to schedule a time to visit the facility with a staff member, and you can work with a moving company to have specific items from the inventory list dropped off at your home or office.

Self-storage units are much more ubiquitous. Often, these are in parking lot-style facilities or buildings that are fully automated. You can use a code or key to enter the storage facility whenever you want. You are in charge of moving, documenting, and storing your belongings. Although the company may have rules about what can and cannot be stored in these spaces, it is up to the customer to inventory their own items and comply with the rules. 

Types of storage units

There are different types of storage units. These are the most common:

  • Climate-controlled: Sometimes, protecting your belongings from wind and rain is not enough. These units prevent moisture and mold, especially during the hot and humid months. Guaranteed temperature and humidity controls can be ideal for fine art, antiques, wooden furniture, electronics, and important documents.
  • Outdoor and drive-up: Similar to home garages, these units are enclosed spaces that are accessible from outdoors and provide a high level of convenience. Just like the name suggests, you can easily drive up to load or unload items. 
  • Indoor: These units can only be accessed inside of the building they're in. The buildings may be a few floors tall, with each floor holding several units along each corridor. These units offer more protection and convenience from rain, snow, etc.
  • Portable containers: Mobile storage is an excellent choice for people on the go. Companies like Pods offer the option to use these containers on wheels during your relocation process. You can offload the items in their new home or store them at a commercial warehouse for later access.
  • Vehicle storage: These house family and personal use vehicles. They can also house show cars, antiques, trailers, service trucks, RVs, boats, and more. When traveling between countries that have different wheel side drive, it may be necessary to keep a car in storage until it can be used in an appropriate place. Vehicle storage may entail basic maintenance service to turn the vehicle on every week and move it occasionally, to ensure it stays in working condition.

How much does a storage unit cost?

Storage unit prices vary based on type, size, location, security, and other climate features. The estimated average unit cost for renting a storage unit is about $190 per month, but this will vary based on many factors. According to a 2022 Consumer Affairs report, the estimated cost per unit size is about $90/month for a 5 by 5 foot unit, $160/month for a 10 by 10 foot unit, and $290/month for a 10 by 30 foot unit.

Many storage companies offer introductory rates that are irresistible. But it only turns out to be a steal if you use the storage unit for a brief time. You’ll need to read the fine print. Even facilities that have a monthly rent may have a mandatory minimum rental period. The true cost of the unit isn’t the monthly fee, but the cumulative cost over the entire life of use. 

Does renter's insurance cover storage units?

In general, yes, renter's insurance covers items kept in a storage unit—but there are limitations. In order to be covered, the items in your storage unit must have been lost or damaged as a result of a covered peril—which may include theft, vandalism, weather-related damage, or more. Additionally, items kept in a storage unit may only be covered up to a certain limit, whether that's a percentage of your personal property coverage or a flat dollar amount. So, if you're considering storing valuables in a storage unit, make sure to get clear on the terms and conditions of your insurance.

So, are storage units worth it?

If the items you're considering storing are just extra clutter, Ann Fechner of Guerilla Realty says no. “The cost of a storage unit exceeds the value of its content when the content has become unnecessary to your everyday life and forgotten from your mind,” she says.

However, if you’ve inherited items that you’re not ready to unpack or if you’re planning a short-term housing pivot, a storage unit can be a smart move. Rather than throwing away valuables on a whim, storage buys you time—so long as you actually come back to it.

Shavon Roman, an Atlanta-based Financial Coach, advises not to pay more than 20 percent of the value of the contents for the entire duration of the storage contract. To do this, she says, “Explore all the costs. The advertised monthly fee usually does not include insurance, sales tax, and climate control.”

For most homeowners, it would be wise to just sell or donate any household items that will need to be stored longer than 12 to 24 months. Styles and tastes change so fast that by the time your sleeper sofa is out of storage, you may not even want it anymore—or, you could buy a replacement for less than it cost you to keep the old one in storage.

However, Fechner says that short-term storage is very valuable in real estate transactions. If you're trying to sell your home, storage units can come in handy when you're staging your home and need to get some of your own items out of the way. “Investing in a stager and in a $150/month storage fee for a couple of months will result in a faster and higher sale—a great investment of any seller's money,” Fechner says.

Similarly, small businesses that need to stock inventory or rotate big items could chalk up storage to a normal operating expense. In this case, so long as the revenue generated far outweighs the cost of the unit, a storage unit’s worth is undisputed. 

No matter the scenario, it is always best to proceed with caution when locking into a storage unit contract. “It is rare for storage facilities to report monthly on-time payment status to credit reporting companies,” says Roman. “However, if you do not pay your rental fee, the storage facility can send your account to a collection company that can report the default to a credit reporting company. This will hurt your credit score.”

This can also lead to storage unit auctions, and things can turn out ugly. “Depending on a lease, a storage facility will try to recuperate the money owed by auctioning off the unit," Fechner says. "If the auction price is below the amount owed, and the balance remains unpaid, one's credit might get affected, making it challenging or more expensive to rent or buy later on."

As an alternative to storage units, consider gifting, donating, or throwing out anything that you haven’t used in over a year. It can be cathartic to say goodbye to items that no longer hold value. If you’re really in a bind, Roman suggests using crowdsourced storage through apps like Neighbor or non-contractual arrangements, like asking family or friends to use space in their attic, basement, or garage.  

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