When it comes to cheap storage, seven-foot moving containers and small mini-storage units are convenient and inexpensive. With the latter, first or second-floor units without climate control are the cheapest, as are ones outside urban areas like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, where demand and prices are high. But thankfully, for cash-strapped families looking for bargains, there are even more affordable storage options.
Here we’re talking about:
- Eliminating storage altogether
- Using a container service like PODS
- Storing items at your home or business
- Storing items at somebody else’s home or business – like a friend or family member’s
- Storing items in a storage facility like U-Haul, Extra Space, and Public Storage
- Using a storage website like SpareFoot
- Buying an overseas container and using it for storage
- Using a consignment shop for temporary storage
- Lending or making a temporary “donation”
Finding suitable storage solutions can take time and effort, whether you’re storing a boat, priceless antiques, important business documents, or construction equipment during a home renovation.
If storage is part of an upcoming move, using a moving cost calculator is a great way to get an idea of moving container and storage unit prices. Whether you’re planning a long-distance move cross country or a local move within 50 miles, there are several options to choose from.
Let’s take a look at the cheapest storage options.
1. Just Say “No” to Storage
How it Works
The best way to reduce pricey storage is to eliminate it altogether. Easier said than done, right?
A little soul-searching may help you realize that you don’t need and won’t miss most of the items you plan on storing.
When downsizing, consider the 6 Month Rule –
If you haven’t used or thought about an item in 6 months, it should be donated or discarded.
- Start this process in your garage, attic, or basement
- If downsizing and decluttering are too overwhelming, get help from patient friends, coworkers, and family members
- Don’t rush the process or start at the last minute – doing it in small doses over multiple weeks is better
2. Use a Portable Storage Container
How it Works
Talk about easy.
With container storage companies (like UPack, 1-800-Pack-Rat, and PODS), you choose the container size you want and call or schedule your delivery online.
The company then delivers an empty container to your home or business. Once loaded, you can leave it on-site, take it to the company’s secure facility for local storage, or even move it to another state until you are ready to move in to your new home.
- Some container storage companies have limited service areas compared to others
- Ask if the companies you’re considering have pick-up, delivery, and fuel charges
- Consider seasonality, moving during the non-peak season between September and March for the best rates
3. Store Things at Your Home or Business
How it Works
This one is pretty straightforward.
If eliminating storage isn’t an option, you can save tons of money in the long run by downsizing and storing items at your home or business.
Attics, garages, basements, guest bedrooms, and offices often have unused storage locations in sheds or under the deck, perfect for household goods or boat storage, tools, or construction materials.
- Consolidating attic and basement contents may free up sufficient storage space.
- Sensitive items like antiques, important documents, and artwork may need to do better in attics and garages where humidity and temperature fluctuations are the highest.
- When storing items outside, use tarps and pallets to protect your property from the elements and ground moisture.
4. Store Things at Someone Else’s Home or Business
How it Works
This is the same concept, but you use somebody else’s storage space instead of your own. This usually works best if you only need short-term storage. After all, you don’t want to burden a friend by keeping things there long-term.
Start by asking close friends and family members, then broaden your search with a Facebook post if that doesn’t work.
- When asking, include a deadline for removing your items, like one month.
Sweeten the deal with free lunch, dinner, or a movie or consider bartering, like – “If you store my living room set for three months, I’ll clean your gutters in the spring.” You likely won’t have 24 hour access to your belongings, but the price is worth the tradeoff.
5. Store Your Items at a Public Storage Facility
How it Works
Though it’s not the cheapest option, public storage is one of the most convenient because storage facilities are everywhere and getting average prices online, in person, and over the phone is easy.
Just like you would with moving quotes, get multiple estimates, and make sure you compare apples to apples with storage unit prices – for example, all first-floor, storage unit size, access hours, climate-controlled storage units with drive-up access.
A few of the largest storage providers are –
- Public storage – more than 125 million square feet of self-storage facilities across the country
- Extra Space Storage – 1,500+ locations
- U-Haul – is way more than just a truck rental company, offering lots of storage solutions as well.
- CubeSmart Self Storage – 1,000+ storage facilities nationwide
- Check for storage discounts on Groupon and in the free magazines in front of grocery stores to get the lowest price possible.
- Ask about special rates for active or ex-military personnel, law enforcement, teachers, college students, and senior citizens.
- If you sign a long-term contract, ask about promotions like the first month free or a no-cost upgrade to climate-controlled storage.
6. Use a Website That Finds Storage for You
How it Works
SpareFoot’s motto is – “Find your stuff a home.”
In other words, they’re like the Airbnb of storage facilities, and for busy consumers, their services can be huge time and money savers for addressing their storage needs.
With each, enter your address, city, or zip code into their website, and you’ll receive multiple instant quotes instantly.
- Listings include helpful information like hours, drive-up access, security features, and whether units are climate controlled.
- Searches may not include every storage facility or all the types of storage in your area – only the ones that they partner with.
- You may get a better deal by contacting the storage locations on their websites directly.
7. Buy Your Own Overseas Container for Storage
How it Works
According to Western Container Sales, not-so-gently used 40-foot shipping containers cost between $1,200 and $3,000 depending on age, condition, and supply and demand in your area.
You can also buy “one-trip” containers in like-new condition for between about $4,000 and $7,000.
Of course, you’ll have to pay for delivery too, but buying your container is an excellent option if you have the space on-site and need long-term storage.
20-foot containers may be significantly less expensive than their big brothers and take up much less space.
- Shop around for the best container deals.
- Sometimes, buying from a neighboring state with more supply and less demand may be cheaper, even with delivery charges.
- There’s no guarantee that your container won’t leak, so plan on doing minor repairs to bring it up to snuff.
8. Use a Consignment Shop as a Free Storage Facility
Use a consignment shop as a free self storage unit, using the shop as a temporary self storage unit, essentially.
How it Works
Consignment shops sell items for you and take a commission from the proceeds.
Most are antique or thrift shops, but some sell items on websites like Amazon and eBay.
Either way, they may hold onto your items during the sale period, freeing up space and making you a few bucks in the process.
This option only works if you’re on the fence between selling items or putting them into storage, but it’s worth considering.
- Only consign items you can live without because somebody may buy them.
- Consignment shops are better for large items like antiques.
- Businesses that sell items for customers online may charge extra for taking photos and writing product descriptions, so ask before committing.
9. Make a Temporary Donation
How it Works
Donations are usually final, but that doesn’t always have to be the case.
Consider this –
Your church has a new rec room, but there wasn’t sufficient money in the budget to buy much furniture.
If you’re considering storing an old living room set or a patio table and chairs for six months, you could save yourself a few bucks by temporarily donating them to the church until you’re ready for them again.
Sure, they’ll get some wear and tear, but think of all the money you’ll save.
- Make it clear at the outset that your donation is temporary
- This probably isn’t an excellent idea for expensive, breakable, or one-of-a-kind items
- Later on, you may decide to make your donation permanent, in which case you’ll be supporting a good cause
The Best Moving Container Companies
PODS is one of the leaders in the moving & storage industry. They offer three different container sizes: 8-foot, 12-foot, and 16-foot containers. PODS containers offer unlimited storage available on-site or at a PODS storage center. Their containers are available in 45 states so it’s a great option for most people looking for both short-term and long-term storage. They’re not always the cheapest storage options, but they do offer great service.
1-800-Pack-Rat offers hassle and stress-free portable moving containers in 8, 12 or 16-foot sizes. When you plan your move using their storage services, you’ll get 30 days free storage right off the bat. If you need to store your items longer, move at your own pace since there’s no time limit and you can pay for storage for as long as you need it. Some of their containers are climate-controlled and others aren’t so be sure to ask the agent if that’s something you need.
U-Pack offers portable storage units called Relocubes — some of the cheapest storage options around. These containers are 7-feet long, making them ideal for movers that only need a small amount of storage space. The steel containers are ideal for people that are moving between 100 – 250 miles thanks to the great value pricing.
Smartbox offers excellent moving solutions for people who don’t know how long they may need storage for. Storage fees are charged monthly so you can keep the container as long as you need — even if the moving process takes longer than anticipated. Smartbox is a great choice for movers with tight budgets and college students who need inexpensive moving services with or without storage. For the best option for your move, make sure to get a free quote and compare the different services and offerings.
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