7 Tips For Renting A Storage Unit (If You Decide To…)
With the title of this post you probably all think I’ve gone crazy. After my last post & years of saying how much we regret paying for a storage unit, I’m writing a post with tips on how to get one???!!
Well, I’m still partially sane, I swear I am.
As I mentioned in my last post, whether or not to store stuff is not always an easy question and many fulltime RVers agonize over it when they go on the road. The obvious answer is bleeding obvious. If you know you’ll be on the road for many years it makes absolute sense to get rid of as much of your stuff as possible, and the ideal scenario is not having a storage unit at all. It’s a lot of $$ that would be far better spent on travel. We sure wish we’d followed that advice when we started out.
But for some folks the answer isn’t that obvious, and it truly wasn’t obvious for us either. When we first started out we had no idea we’d be RVing for more than a few years. In fact, we didn’t even know we could make a long-term lifestyle out of it. Could we handle living together in a small space? How would we finance it? How would it work? Hindsight is always 20-20 and if we’d known then what we know now….but that’s life, isn’t it?
Also, not everyone goes RVing with an open-ended plan like us. Some people get on the road with the firm knowledge that it’ll only be a short-term thing. Or they have some special items (e.g. art, antiques) that they simply can’t part with, no matter what. So, the universal advice of “just get rid of everything” may not make sense for everyone. It’s really a very individual decision.
So let’s say (despite everything) that you decide to put some stuff into storage? Also lets go one step further and say you don’t have a family member or friend who can store it for you (which would obviously be a better choice). This past 6 years of renting a storage unit has taught us a thing or two which I feel might be useful to others. Amongst other things, selecting your unit carefully and doing some up-front work will make your life infinitely easier down the line, no matter which way you go.
So should you decide to be as crazy as us and actually rent a unit, here’s my top tips and how we’ve fared in our own choices:
1/ Pods Or Traditional Building Storage?
When you start looking at storage units you have 2 basic choices out there. Pods/containers or traditional storage (in a building of some sort).
Pods/containers make moving out of your house super easy. Basically the company drops off a container at your home, you fill it up and they take it away for you. No moving or truck needed. There are multiple companies that offer this kind of service, the best-known of which is probably PODS. Personally I think that this is a great option for temporary storage or cross-country moves, but not for longer-term storage and it all comes down access. If you decide to downsize or need stuff from your pod down the line, you can only get access to your unit by appointment with min 24-hour notice! That’s a major hassle and makes it a poor choice for mobile folks like us IMHO.
Traditional building storage is definitely more hassle up-front. You have to haul your stuff from your house to the storage building which means you either have to hire a company to move you in, or you move yourself with the help of a moving dolly (absolutely recommended) and your own two hands. What you DO get however is open access to your stuff whenever you might need it down the line, which is huge bonus for fly-by-the-wheel nomadic types like us. There are many well-known companies that offer this type of storage including Public Storage, A1 Self-Storage etc. and they all offer a very similar products with a ton of locations everywhere.
Fee-wise Pods are much more expensive than traditional storage for small containers (e.g. they quoted me $150/mo for 7 ft x 7 ft compared to $50/mo for a 5 ft x 5 ft at Public Storage), but prices are comparable in the larger sizes (typically $160/mo and up). If you decide to go with traditional storage do quote around since prices can vary quite a bit by location, even within the same company & city.
How Did We Do? We went with traditional storage, mostly because we knew we needed easy access down the line. That turned out to be a very wise choice, especially once we decided to downsize.
2/ Go As Small As You Can
Smaller storage is definitely better not only because it’s easier, but also because it’s waaaay cheaper. Traditional building storage costs typically go anywhere from $40-$50/mo for a 5 ft x 5 ft (the smallest out there, about the size of a closet) to over $200/mo for a 20ft x 20ft (one of the larger sizes, can fit several bedrooms of a house). Plus you have to factor that your storage price will be jacked up 7-8% per year (guaranteed!).
When you’re looking at units it can be super tempting to get the bigger one, just to make life easy. After all, if you have more storage space you’ve got less downsizing to worry about. But think about the costs for a minute. If you’re paying $200/mo, you’re paying $2,400 per year and if you’re on the road for 4 years that’s almost $10,000 in storage costs!! Is your stuff worth that much to you? Perhaps it is. But run the numbers before you decide on the bigger unit.
Also having a smaller storage will make life infinitely easier when/if you decide to move out down the line. Smaller storage means less stuff to sort through if you’re downsizing, and much lower moving costs (if you’re paying someone to move) once you get out.
How Did We Do? We went with a 10 ft x 15 ft storage not quite the largest, but the next step down. Way too big, in retrospect.
3/ Make Sure Your Storage Has Easy Access
If you decide to store, choosing a storage with easy accessibility (open long hours, easy parking, easy access) is so very important. Not only will it make moving into the storage easier, but it will make downsizing (if you chose to do it) or moving out easier too. You definitely want security (of some kind), but you don’t want the security to be so prohibitive that you can’t easily get stuff in/out. Plus anything that makes it easier to move on-site will be super helpful moving off-site too.
How Did We Do? We did well! We got a unit on the 3rd floor of a Public Storage building. It has 2 huge elevators, free on-site moving carts, it’s open super long hours and it has a large, free parking lot outside. Also it has security codes to get into the actual building, but no gate.
Now that we’re selling stuff we are soooo thankful for all this. We can have people meet us at the storage without any kind of hassle and we can bring stuff downstairs to the parking lot easily. If the storage had a security gate, or wasn’t easy to access (or hours were limited) this would be a royal pain in the b**t!
4/ Get a Storage Close to an RV Park
When getting a storage unit for the first time, many folks get a storage unit close to their stix & brix house. This makes perfect sense for move-in, but what they don’t think about how they’re going to handle everything when they move out of the unit x-number of years later, and honestly this is just as (if not more) important. If you decide to store stuff I’d highly recommend getting a storage that is close to somewhere you can park the RV. This way, if you decide to downsize the unit or move again in the future you can stay close to your stuff in your home and not have to drive hours back and forth to address it.
How Did We Do? Honestly we didn’t even think about this when we chose our storage and it’s total dumb luck that our unit is only 15-20 mins from our favorite San Diego RV Park. This lucky coincidence has been KEY to keeping our sanity, especially during our current downsizing process. We’re constantly driving back/forth to meet buyers (often last-minute) and whipping stuff between the RV, storage and charity. If we weren’t this close I would be tearing my hair out.
5/ Packing Well Is Well Worth The Time
One of the things we did do right when we went on the road was to pack our storage well. We put “like” items together (books in one place, kitchen items in another), labeled all our boxes, stacked “like” pieces of furniture together (and kept whatever hardware went with them in the same place, also labeled) Plus we wrapped anything fragile & made sure stuff was efficiently packed inside the unit. Now that we’re downsizing this has made things soooo much easier. We’re able to quickly sort thro’ boxes and we’re able to list & sell furniture items without searching for all the “bits”.
How Did We Do? We did good on this one. Apart from a few mysterious disappearances, we’ve found most of the stuff we’ve needed within easy reach and have been able to sell items without searching hours for all their “bits”.
6/ Take Pics of Your Stuff Before You Put It Into Storage
Here’s another gem that most folks don’t think of. Before you move out of your house, take pics of everything you’re storing especially the larger (e.g. furniture) and more valuable items. Not only does this help assess what you have, but it is critical for insurance claims (should you ever need it), and (here’s the extra hidden benefit) it can help you downsize or sell stuff if/when you are ready to get rid of it.
You see when you list stuff online, or contact consignment agents they always want pics of what you’re selling. If your stuff is crammed into a storage unit, it can be really difficult to access it. Plus getting good pics of stuff in storage is really hard -> the lighting is bad, you’ve got to clear lots of heavy boxes to get a decent shot, you might have to re-assemble pieces to shoot them etc. it’s a royal pain in the backside!
How Did We Do? This is another place we totally lucked out. A few years before we went RVing I took pics of everything in our house to show my parents what our place looked like. Those pics were like gold when we started to sell furniture 2 weeks ago. I can’t tell you how much hassle they’ve saved us!
7/ Don’t Wait Forever To Address Your Storage
So here’s one thing we didn’t do well. We waited 6 years to attack our storage despite knowing by our 2nd year that we weren’t going to get off the road anytime soon.
Why 6 years??!! Well it just seemed like such a big, daunting, exhausting job that every time we thought about it we just couldn’t wrap our heads around it.
Why now??? We can’t see a specific end to our travels & we finally, fully acknowledge that.
This year we’re going East, next year we’re likely coming back West. That means we’ve got at least another 2 years on the road and at least another 2 years before we’re anywhere close to our storage unit again. Plus we have no idea if we’re going to settle down after that, so we’re probably looking at a minimum of 3-4 years before we even think about a regular house again. That’s a lot of storage $$ and a lot of unknowns. Taking a hard look and making that realization was finally enough to prompt us to attack the job.
How Did We Do? We took waaaay too long to address this. I’m very happy we’re downsizing now, but I still really wish we’d done it sooner. Don’t be like us.
That’s it folks! For those of you looking into storage hopefully this helps you in your choices and gives you some tips that’ll make life easier down the line. Feel free to share any tips in the comments that I’ve missed. May the downsizing force be with you!SPONSORED LINK:
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