Full-Service Storage vs. Self Storage: A Guide To Your Options

Whether you’re moving across the country, embarking on an ambitious home renovation, or simply need more space in your current or new home, full-service storage solutions can be a convenient way to hold onto your valuables without having to do a lot of legwork.

Full-service storage companies offer everything from small storage lockers holding a few boxes to massive units holding cars and belongings to fill multi-bedroom homes. Let’s dive deeper into the world of full-service storage. When you understand the ins and outs, you’ll be able to make the best decision for your storage needs.

What is full-service storage?

Full-service storage — also known as on-demand, valet, or pick-up storage — offers convenient access to storage without having to hire movers or do all the packing, loading, driving, and unloading yourself.

Full-service storage can offer more options and flexibility than traditional self-storage storage, and savvy providers do a great job incorporating innovative technology like apps and social media for customers to prepare inventories, schedule services, and even track their items.

Full-service storage vs. self-storage

Self-storage facilities are exactly what they sound like. You have to do all the hard work on your own.

Here we’re talking about:

  • Packing
  • Inventorying
  • Loading
  • Driving
  • Unloading

And if accessing your stored items is necessary, you’ll need to take time out of your busy schedule to visit the facility and find what you’re looking for. The best self-storage companies often have very competitive pricing, which can make them compelling if you have a lot of other expenses, but remember that you generally get what you pay for.

There’s also the added hassle and expense of renting a moving van if you store more than just a few boxes and can’t fit them in your regular vehicle.

With full-service storage, trained staff take care of many or all of those tedious and time-consuming tasks, so you can spend more time on the fun things in life.

Pros and cons of full-service storage

To choose the best full-service storage facility for your needs, you’ll first need to consider the pros and cons of the broader industry.

  • A diverse range of storage options to meet various storage needs
  • Most companies will do the packing or deliver packing supplies if you’ll be doing it yourself
  • Items are inventoried and usually photographed, which customers can access online
  • Ability to schedule, reschedule, and cancel services online or by app
  • More secure than self-storage facilities
  • Not always the best short-term storage solution
  • May not be able to access items while in storage
  • Services often have to be scheduled in advance, and there’s usually a wait
  • Companies may store your items at a third-party warehouse

How full-service storage works

There are a number of competing business models in the full-service storage world, so it’s important to determine your priorities and vet each company individually to confirm it can meet your needs.

True full-service storage companies will pack, inventory, load, store, and deliver items on request, and customers can choose which services they want, and which they’d rather do themselves.

It’s important to note, though, that some companies require customers to do some things themselves.

Insider’s tip:
Asking the right questions during the screening process is the best way to ensure you’ll have access to the services that are important to you.

Let’s take a look at each more closely.


Packing is often provided built into the storage plan. Many full-service storage companies use heavy-duty plastic bins that are durable, reusable, and environmentally friendly compared to cardboard boxes.

Alternatively, customers may have bins and other packing supplies delivered to pack themselves or use their own boxes or bins.


On DIY storage moves, you often have to create your own inventory to receive a free quote. With full-service storage, the company has to ensure that everything is accounted for between pick-up and delivery to minimize their liability.

Many companies pack and inventory containers, furniture, and loose items before taking them to the storage facility, while others allow you to do it yourself using handy phone apps. Either way, the extra step of submitting an inventory makes it easier to know exactly what you have in your storage unit.

Padding and protecting furniture

Many full-service storage companies pad furniture just like professional movers, but in some instances, it’s the customer’s responsibility. If so, it’ll add extra time and expense.

When booking your reservation, make sure you ask what steps the movers will take to protect your furniture, so you can plan ahead.

Storage facility

Some full-service storage companies have their own facilities, while others rent space at third party warehouses. It’s worth asking where your items will be stored and if you can tour the location before signing a contract. This extra step can ensure your items are kept in a secure storage facility.

Price fluctuations

Like traditional moving companies, full-service storage providers experience significant spikes in demand during the peak season between May and June. This usually results in price increases, which is common at the end of the month and on weekends, too, so make sure you factor some wiggle room into your storage plan.

Company employees vs. contractors

During the pre-move vetting process, you’ll want to ask whether the companies you’re considering have actual employees or use subcontractors. Though one isn’t necessarily better, how workers are screened and trained is important.

You can also take a deeper look at general service quality by looking at customer reviews. Inconsistent reviews can indicate that the company uses contractors or has high employee turnover.


Many full-service storage companies pride themselves on flexibility and low turnaround time. You’ll also want to know how far in advance services need to be scheduled, and if it can be done online or using a mobile app.

Full-service storage cost

Like with self-storage and professional movers, full-service storage costs can be all over the board.

Some companies have all-inclusive pricing, while others charge extra for each service using hourly or flat-rate pricing. You can verify the pricing structure when you request a quote.

Full-service storage cost factors

There are several factors that impact your quote price for full-service storage:

  • Selected services
  • Pickup/drop-off and associated distance
  • Partial “redeliveries” when customers need access to their items
  • Bulk items too large for a two-person crew (like safes and hot tubs)
  • Type of storage unit
  • Time of year
  • Climate control or not
  • Added storage unit insurance
  • Location of the storage locker within the facility (more convenient units often cost more)

Costs can also vary greatly between rural and metropolitan areas, and for now, full-service storage is more widely available in large urban centers.

Full-service storage often has very competitive pricing compared to self-storage, especially if you plan ahead and inquire about all relevant discounts. Full-service storage solutions are usually much less expensive than professional moving services.

Insider’s tip:

The only way to get an accurate idea of how much you’ll pay for full-service storage is by using cost calculators on providers’ websites or giving them a call to request a free quote.

How to find the best full-service storage facility

You’ll need to do your research on the front end before trusting just any company with your valuables. Here are a few tips to make sure you choose a reputable full-service storage facility:

  • Find the industry leaders. Companies like Clutter, ClosetBox, and MakeSpace have gained a lot of traction in the full-service storage space.
  • Ask for referrals and read reviews. If you know anyone who’s previously used a storage unit, ask them what they liked and didn’t like. First-hand customer reviews provide excellent insights into the service quality you can expect.
  • Compare services. Take your time to find out the included service options and what’s available as an add-on. If one company includes more in its base package, you may get more bang for your buck.
  • Tour the facility. If you can, visit the storage facility and talk to a live person before making your reservation. Look for signs of pests, vermin, and cleanliness issues that may indicate the facility isn’t well-maintained.
  • Inquire about insurance. Homeowners and renters insurance policies rarely provide full replacement value coverage when items are stored off-premises. Additional insurance options can provide valuable peace of mind when your items aren’t in your care.
  • Request several quotes. Similar to comparing services, requesting quotes can help you zero in on the best value. Cheaper isn’t always better, but some companies may price-match if their competitors undercut them.

FAQs about full-service storage

What are the advantages of full-service storage?

The advantages of full-service storage include convenient scheduling with experienced movers who can pack, load, and transport your belongings for you, which results in saved time, more efficient use of storage space, and a thorough inventory of your unit’s contents.

Who needs full-service storage?

Full-service storage can be a great option for:

  • Business storage
  • Travelers who won’t have a permanent address for some time
  • Antique collectors and dealers
  • Empty nesters who are downsizing
  • Beneficiaries who have yet to distribute their loved one’s estate
  • Anyone moving long-distance that doesn’t immediately have a new home lined up

The best storage companies will have knowledgeable representatives who can discuss your storage needs with you and arrange a free quote.

What is the monthly fee for full-service storage?

The monthly fee for full-service storage can depend on your geographic location, time of year, and elected services. On average, you can expect to pay around $140 monthly for a 10 x 10-foot non-climate-controlled unit.

What is the minimum size of a full-service storage unit?

The minimum size of a full-service storage unit is usually 5 x 5 feet, or 25 square feet. This size can be ideal if you’re holding on to a few items from a small apartment, such as a twin-size mattress, dresser, or seasonal items.

How often are the units cleaned?

The units are usually cleaned between rentals, but you may be able to hire another company to do a deeper clean when you move out of your unit. You can reduce cleanliness concerns by tarping or packing your items to protect them from dust, not storing food, and periodically wiping them down when you visit.

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