Moving to a new home or office that isnt yet ready? Crowded out by stuff
thats too valuable to part with? Need temporary storage for any of a host
of other reasons? The self-storage industry wants to meet your needs.
Self-storage facilities are set up for the purpose of renting or leasing
individual storage spaces to customers to store personal property on a
self-serve basis. At these facilities, operated by national companies like
Public Storage and Shurgard Storage and by various local companies, you
rent a space and can move your things in and out as you please.
We have shopped a sampling of facilities in the Washington areacentrally
located facilities and facilities farther out in the suburbs, national-chain-run
facilities and locally operated facilities. This table shows some of the prices we found for: (1) taking a space with
a six-month minimum commitment and then keeping it for one year, and (2)
taking a space just on a month-to-month basis.
The following are a few findings from our shopping, along with some shopping
and storage tips for you
Shop prices. You will find big price differences. For example, when we
checked prices at a sample of facilities in Fairfax County, for one years
use of a five-foot by 10-foot storage space (roughly enough for the contents
of a studio apartment), we found prices ranging from $843 at the Shurgard
Storage facility in Herndon to $1,321 at the Public Storage facility in
Falls Churcha difference of $478. For facilities we called in Montgomery
County, for one years use of a 10-foot by 20-foot storage space (roughly
enough for the contents of a three-bedroom house), we found prices ranging
from $2,208 at Private Storage in Silver Spring to $4,260 at Security Public
Storage in Bethesdaa difference of $2,052.
Check different locations. Even among facilities owned by the same company,
you will find substantial price differences. For example, we found a $1,400
difference between two of the Storage USA facilities we checked for use
of a 10-foot by 20-foot storage space for one year.
Consider remote locations. In general, you will find lower prices as you
get farther out into the suburbs. But the suburbs are not always cheaper
than the city. If you will not be going back and forth often to move stuff
into and out of storage, you may save by considering facilities that are
in fairly remote locations.
Check both chains and independents. There is no consistent rule of thumb
as to the relative price levels of facilities operated by national chains
as compared to independent facilities and facilities operated by smaller
Check several chains. Among the four chains we shopped, none had consistently
better prices than the others.
Winners and losers differ by unit size. Just because a facility has good
prices for a specific size of unit doesnt mean its prices will be equally
competitive for other sizes. For example, the Shurgard Storage facility
in Laurel had the lowest price we found for a five-foot by 10-foot unit
but its price for a 10-foot by 20-foot unit was only about average. Prices
for each size of unit are affected by supply and demand; a facility with
a lot of small units in an area where most customers need larger units
will mark down the smaller units to a low enough price to get them rented.
Consider floor level. Ground floor storage may be more convenient, but
storage on higher floors often costs less. So long as units on higher floors
are elevator-accessible (and almost all are), the savings may justify the
Consider indoor versus outdoor access. At some facilities, you may have
a choice for certain sizes of spaces between outdoor access (drive your
car up and unload directly) or inside access (located on a hallway). Outdoor
access may be more convenient but is often more expensive.
Climate control costs. Some facilities offer climate-controlled units.
That makes them more comfortable to be in when youre moving goods in and
out. Climate control may also reduce risk of damage to your goods, for
instance, from mildew, from freezing if you will be storing liquids, or
from heat damage to glues if you will be storing antique furniture. But
you pay for climate controloften more than 30 percent above what you would
pay for similar facilities without climate control.
Ask for discounts. Many facilities offer discounts. For example, without
your even asking, you might be offered 50 percent off your first months
rent or the first month for $1. But be sure to ask. We found that some
facilities became more forthcoming when our shoppers said they would be
calling other facilities looking for the best price. It was only with that
kind of a nudge that some offered a $1 rental for the first month or a
free truck and driver to help us move. So, do shop around, and be sure
to tell each facility thats what youre doing.
Consider a long-term commitment. Some facilities will offer a discounted
monthly rate or other special deal if you agree to prepay for, say, six
months or a year at a time. Some firms that wont offer discounts on their
rates might offer other incentives, such as a free lock for the unit, free
use of a moving truck, or waiver of their administrative fee. The one-year
costs shown on the table on the left reflect
any discounts we were offered before we said we would be shopping elsewhereincluding
discounts based on making a six-month rental commitment.
Check websites. Check whether any facility you are considering has a website.
Several facilities told our shoppers that they could go to the facilitys
website and print out a coupon offering, say, a free lock or half off the
first months rent. Some facilities also offer a discount if you register
for a unit online.
Beware of extra fees. Most facilities charge a one-time administration,
set up, or processing fee of $10 to $20, due when you sign the lease.
Most require you to supply your own lock or buy one from the facility.
Those are the only up-front charges youre likely to encounter. But be
sure to ask each facility to tell you any and all ancillary charges.
When you pay. Similar to renting an apartment, you will probably be expected
to make a security deposit that should be returned to you at the end of
the lease if you leave the premises in good condition. You will be expected
to pay your first months rent before moving in and pay each month in advance.
Check actual unit size. If you think you will be close to filling up a
unit of some advertised size, be sure to check the units actual size.
We found, for instance, that some facilities units that were listed as
five-feet by 10-feet actually proved to be only five-feet by nine-feet
when checked with a tape measure. Also, be sure to ask about height. Depending
on what you will be storing, you might be able to fit substantially more
into the 10-foot high units found at some facilities than you can fit into
the seven-foot high units other facilities offer.
Get needed insurance. Consider whether you will want to purchase insurance
against damage or theft of your goods while they are in storage. If you
have a homeowners or renters policy, that policy may include coverage up
to a specified dollar limit for personal property at locations other than
your home; call your insurer to get the details. If the coverage you already
have is not sufficient, most facilities will offer special policies for
goods stored on their premises. For example, one facility we checked was
offering $2,000 of coverage for $6 per month and $5,000 of coverage for
$13 per month.
Beware of late fees. Be sure to ask how much the late fee will be if you
dont make a monthly rental payment on timeand be sure to set up some
reminder system to assure that you dont miss payments. You are storing
stuff, after all, to get it out of your life for a while, so it is not
surprising that you might not think about it each month, but late fees
might add 30 percent or more to your monthly costs.
Check hours of access. If it will not be convenient for you to access your
unit during normal working hours, look for a facility that has longer hours.