Tuesday Tips: Choosing a Storage Facility
Man, we Americans have a lot of stuff. Can't even fit it in our houses. Nearly 11 million households are renting a self storage unit, according to the Self Storage Association. And that's 65 percent more homes with self storage than about 10 years ago. Soon I will be joining the throng, as my house has shrunk since bringing two kids into the world. So I talked to some experts to get some tips on how to pick a storage unit:
Tip #1: The first thing you'll need to figure out is how much space you need. Think of the space as a large cube where things can be stacked. Even consider bringing in shelving to be able to stack things more compactly. "If you think about the space in three dimensions, all of a sudden you realize you can fit a lot more than you thought possible," said Mark Bilfield, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Public Storage. "If you put things in a more cubic manner, then you can eliminate the extra space you might purchase."
Tip #2: Figure out the best storage option for your needs. Self storage usually offers a drive-up option where you drive your car or truck right up to your spot and can pretty easily transfer stuff into the space. Some self-storage units are housed in a building with several levels. Be prepared to bring stuff in and out with a trolley and a freight elevator. And then there are the portable containers that get delivered to your home. Those are typically used for temporary needs such as home renovations. But watch out for local laws that may ban having those containers parked outside your home for too long.
Tip #3: Once you figure out how much space you need and the type of storage you want, shop around. Prices for self storage vary widely even within companies and locations. For example, prices for a 5 foot by 5 foot space from Public Storage within a few miles from my house ranged from $113 a month to $191 a month.
Tip #4: Consider looking for storage a little farther out to save some money, especially if you don't have plans to visit your goods on a regular basis. The price for a 5 foot by 5 foot space dropped down between $59 a month to $116 a month just by going out to Springfield.
Tip #5: Don't pick a unit right next to the elevator. Those tend to be slightly more expensive, Bilfield says. And think about if you really need that climate-controlled facility, which can also be more expensive. If you're storing a few boxes of papers, you may not need the climate control.
Tip #6: Look for facilities that have some security features like working cameras. Also think about business hours and whether you'll have access to your storage space after hours.
Tip #7: Consider committing to a few months at a time rather than month to month. Some companies will knock a couple dollars off the monthly rate if you keep your stuff there for more than a month.
Tip #8: Ask the storage company for some discounts or deals. They often will advertise their deals but other times they don't. And always see if you can talk down the price, especially if you can tell a prospective storage company that you're talking to competitors, says Robert Krughoff, president of Washington Consumers' Checkbook magazine. "Consumers benefit from the power of competition," he says.
Tip #9: Many self storage companies offer insurance for your goods. But always check with your homeowners or renters insurance to see if they cover household goods outside of your home.
Tip #10: And always make sure you get the size you asked for. Krughoff says a study done by Checkbook found some units to be off by a foot or more.
So what do you do with your excess stuff? What have you learned from using self-storage or a portable container? Post a comment below.
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