A Beginner’s Guide: How to Rent a Storage Unit

Renting a storage unit can be affordable or expensive depending on the size, the business, and your belongings.

Just like hiring a moving company, renting storage facilities is a process of trial-and-error. Do you choose a large storage unit or a smaller one? How about a storage space that’s climate controlled and comes with an insurance policy? Storage unit rates have remained high even during the pandemic, which is a testament to their usefulness.

We’re going to break down how to rent a storage unit, including tips on avoiding common mistakes and staying within your budget. Once you’re finished, you’ll be on your way to your new home in no time!

We also have similar resources below that expand on storage and packing topics:

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How does a storage unit work?

The first part of understanding how to rent a storage unit is knowing how they work. The function of a storage unit is to store your belongings for a period of time while you’re transitioning to a new place. These units are rented out by a third-party company that’s usually (but not always) separate from your moving agency.

Each storage unit comes with certain specifications or perks, which we’ll detail below.


Depending on the extent of your move, you can choose several storage unit sizes.

For example, a five by five-foot storage unit is ideal for moving a small, single room. A five by fifteen foot storage unit is usually for two rooms (or three smaller rooms). We’ll break down which size you should choose for your apartment or house in the following sections.

Learning how to get a storage unit means decluttering first. Downsizing will not only make it easier to buy a cheaper storage unit, you’ll have less to unpack when you arrive at your new home.

Climate control

This type of storage unit comes with the handy feature of maintaining a certain temperature at all times. If you have belongings that are sensitive to extreme cold or extreme heat, this add-on is a must.

Do I need climate-controlled storage?”, you might be asking. Below is a brief list of items that are usually impacted by extreme temperatures:

  • Any items made of wax, plastic, vinyl, or paper
  • Sensitive fabrics like silk
  • Rare, original pieces of art
  • Antiques
  • Cosmetics

Insurance policy

While storage units are safe and reliable, they’re still not immune to the unpredictabilities of life. Third-party storage unit companies provide insurance policies to reimburse you if something happens to your items under their watch.

While insurance for storage units may seem like just another cost, they’re a prime investment if you have valuable or expensive belongings.


Have you factored in storage unit time alongside your moving budget? The longer you use your storage space, the more money you’ll have to pay.

Storage unit companies rarely have a time limit on how long you can use a storage unit. In fact, some people like to use storage units for the foreseeable future as a backup garage. Depending on how you like to pay for things, you can do weekly or monthly contracts.

Vehicle storage

Are you storing a car or a boat? While most storage units are for furniture or clothes, some are specifically designed to protect a vehicle.


Last but not least, location will affect how expensive or affordable your storage unit is. Rural or suburban areas tend to be lower in price, while urban areas are more pricey.

What kind of storage for rent types are there?

Do you prefer to handle all the moving yourself or do you need a little help? Just like choosing a moving service, storage for rent provides a few flexible options to meet you halfway.

(Also, keep a close eye on specials when learning how to rent storage space! Storage unit companies love to add discounts or seasonal storage bonuses to hook customers in.)


This popular option provides you with the means of handling the storage yourself, such as filling up the unit or taking items out of the unit. The high degree of flexibility makes self-storage similar to having your own closet or garage.

Self-storage units are also quite affordable, ranging between $70 to $300 per month depending on how many belongings you have. To incentivize more people to work with them, some self-storage companies provide the first month for free. Self-storage is subject to the same variables that affect price such as time, location, and add-ons like climate control features.

The downsides to self-storage mean you’ll have to keep a close eye on your belongings. Storage facilities don’t always provide protection for self-storage options, so anything damaged or stolen may be your responsibility. Research your company carefully and always ask them about self-storage insurance options before committing.

Full-service storage

If you’re concerned about the safety of your items or need more help with the physical moving aspect, we recommend you look into a full-service storage unit.

Full-service storage companies give you more assistance with relocating your belongings, giving you skilled workers to transport and store your items. You can easily schedule a pickup over the phone or through text, freeing up your schedule to complete other tasks. If those benefits weren’t good enough, full-service storage workers will take photos of your items for inventory.

When you need as much flexibility and freedom during your move as possible, full-service storage is the way to go. That said, this service is also more expensive. Most companies will charge based on the square feet of storage you’re using.

How much does it cost to rent storage units?

Now that you know how to rent a storage unit, it’s time to talk about storage unit cost. Renting a storage unit is usually more affordable in the long run due to how much flexibility you get for other necessities like work or taking care of your children.

The most affordable storage units are small, self-storage units for individual rooms or tiny apartments. These range from $57 to $79 depending on details like climate control features. Comparatively, very large units will cost between $234 to $238.

Learn more about storage unit insurance, what it covers, and get tips on navigating the fine print.

Should I insure my items in storage?

The choice to insure your items is a personal one, but very much worth the peace of mind. Some people are only moving basic furniture and easily replaceable belongings, thus not needing the extra cost of insurance.

If you have rare belongings or expensive furniture, a little extra money now will go a long way in the event of an accident. Fortunately, most storage companies already provide insurance with their package deals.

How do I transport items to a storage unit?

There are a few ways to go about transporting items to a storage unit. If you choose a full-service storage unit, the company will send workers to transport your items.

If you choose self-storage, you can either drive the items in your car or rent a moving truck. Depending on the storage company you choose, they may already offer free rental trucks under your plan. Think about this part carefully, because the last thing you want is to be without transportation when you’re ready to store everything!

How do you store things in a storage unit?

If you’re going for a self-storage option, you need to be keen on storing your items properly. Failing to stock your unit skillfully could leave your items saggy, crushed, or disorganized.

Consider disassembling furniture

While smaller furniture like nightstands or chairs might not need disassembling, very large furniture is tough to move. Consider disassembling the following items before putting them in storage:

  • Wardrobes
  • Mattress frames
  • Exercise equipment

Be clever about stacking furniture

You only have so much space to put your items, so be a little clever. Like a game of Tetris, you can be wise about limited space and get a lot of bang for your buck.

For starters, consider stacking your boxes on a sturdy table or your chairs. Keep your heavy boxes on the bottom and your lighter or more fragile boxes on the top. Any flat items like flat-screen televisions or large canvases should be propped against a wall, not crushed under boxes. You don’t want to risk cracked screens or scratched surfaces.

Put frequently used items in the front

Are you storing furniture for a move or do you want to use a unit as a temporary garage? Either way, put frequently used items in the front and less used items in the back.

Being haphazard about your item placement puts you in the frustrating spot of digging through a mountain of boxes just to get to what you need.

Keep your labels clear and consistent

Save yourself the trouble of digging through endless boxes by labeling everything. Use large white tape and permanent marker to sort items by fragility, category, or certain uses.

If you decide you want to switch to a full-service storage unit, these labels also make the storage unit workers’ jobs easier. Win-win!

Do you need a storage unit to be climate controlled?

The function of climate control just can’t be beat when you have fragile or perishable items. While these units usually cost more, the price is more than worth it in certain scenarios.

You transport a lot of artwork

Are you an artist that needs more space to store your paintings, sculptures, and figurines? Perhaps you’re an art collector that wants to ensure your investments are secure.

Climate control ensures sensitive materials like oil, plastic, or wax aren’t damaged by scorching heat.

You need to store food

While you can’t store perishable food (for obvious reasons), you still want to keep bottled or canned food in a climate-controlled environment. Extreme cold or heat can still drain the quality of food and drink.

You’re worried about damage to clothes

Have you moved to a new place only to find your clothes soaked with mildew or mold? Climate control facilities ensure you won’t have to worry about these nasty surprises.

Just a few of the materials mold loves to grow on includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Fabrics
  • Wallpaper
  • Carpet
  • Bedding
  • Cardboard

What is the best storage unit for me?

The best storage unit for one person may be completely incompatible with the next. Below is a brief size guide on how to rent a storage unit based on your living situation.

Very small moves (one or two rooms)

We recommend a 5×5 or 5×10 for very small moves. You likely won’t have a lot of large furniture and will be able to stack boxes easily.

Small moves (studio or one-bedroom apartment)

We recommend a 5×10 or 10×10 for studios or one-bedroom apartments. These units are slightly larger, but not by much, so you’ll want to use your space wisely.

Medium moves (two-bedroom or three-bedroom apartment)

We recommend a 10×15 or a 10×20 for a medium-sized move, such as a two-bedroom or three-bedroom apartment. These units are rather roomy, but we still recommend disassembling furniture when you can.

Large moves (three-bedroom house or four-bedroom house)

We recommend a 10×20 or 10×30 for the largest moves in a multiple-bedroom house. You’ll have more than enough room to store what you need in the short-term or long-term.

What are the good qualities in a storage unit?

Let’s wrap up this list of how to rent a storage unit with a few more things you should keep an eye out for. The best storage unit facilities should be safe, easy to use, and fit your budget.

  • Climate control features
  • Transparent pricing and contracts
  • Positive online reviews
  • Accessibility (such as being open all days of the week)
  • Video monitoring and reliable locks
  • Insurance policies

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by the endless options for how to rent a storage unit, that’s okay. The best moving container companies will be more than happy to help you select a unit that’s functional, accessible, and keeps your belongings safe.

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