At first glance, self storage can seem like quite a straightforward product.
It’s just space, right? Wrong.
There are lots of different types of storage, and many different features unique to every provider or facility. What days and times you can access your stuff, how easy it is to let someone else in remotely, and how much space you really need (tip: probably not as much as you think) should all be clear before you book.
Read on and make sure you end up in the right self storage facility, and unit, for you.
First things first: do you need self storage at all?
As with everything that costs money, it’s worth asking if you really need it. In some cases you may be able to find free, or at least cheaper, alternatives:
If you’re moving house, it’s worth finding out if you have family or friends with an empty garage or bedroom that you could use. Let them know you’ll repay the favour when they need it, or even offer to pay them a small fee. This will almost certainly save you money and, in some cases, be a more suitable option. A few things to consider in this instance:
- Is your stuff covered by their insurance (in the event of fire or break-in);
- Do your friends/family need the room/garage back by a specific date.
There are alternatives to storing your excess stuff too. If you won’t need it again, selling it on ebay or the Facebook marketplace is a much better option for your bank balance (rather than paying to store, you’ll actually make money by selling!). You could even donate it to a local charity or drop it in for recycling. If it doesn’t have any future value to you, storing it in a self storage facility will simply be a waste of money.
If you’ve considered the above, and you still need self storage, make sure and get these 6 things right before booking self storage.
1. How much space do you need?
How much room do you actually need? It’s a common mistake for people to take out - and pay for - more space than they need. So, best to air on the side of too small rather than too big. Most purpose built self storage facilities will allow you to change room size pretty easily, so if you need somewhere bigger at a later date it shouldn’t be a problem. Another consideration is what you’re planning to use the space for. If you’ll be dipping in and out to access your stuff on a regular basis, it’s probably better to have a little bit of extra space so you can lay things out so they’re easier to find. If you’re simply storing stuff for a few months then collecting it at the end, finding things won’t be important so you can pack your stuff tight and high, meaning you can probably get away with less space.
At our Portadown Store Stuff facility, our room sizes range from 12 square feet up to 250 square feet. There are more details on our room size guide, but we would generally recommend the following sizes:
- Studio flat contents = 35 square feet
- 1 or 2 bed home = 75 square feet
- 2 or 3 bed home = 100 square feet
Large 4 or 5 bed house contents = 200 or 250 square feet
2. How much contract flexibility do you need?
Once you know how much space you need, the need thing to consider is what sort of flexibility do you want on your booking? Some facilities might offer you discounts for a longer term. If you want the flexibility to leave when you want, also check the notice period. Most self storage facilities allow you to cancel within a month, but it’s worth checking if there’s a notice period and, if so, what it is.
3. What days and times will you want to access your stuff?
It’s an obvious one, but always check the opening hours of the storage facility. Many close at 5pm on weekdays, have limited opening hours on Saturday and are closed all day on Sunday. That’s fine if you only want to access your stuff during business hours, but many people will want to move stuff in and out during the weekends or in the evenings. Our Portadown StoreStuff facility is open every day, 365 days a year from 6am until 11pm.
4. If you need to give other people access (like family, colleagues or delivery drivers) how easy is it?
If you’re a business or wanting family or friends to be able to access your unit sometimes, this is a really important, but often overlooked, question. Will you need other people, friends, family, colleagues or even regular delivery drivers to access your unit? If so, how is this done? In a traditional facility you will have a padlock on your unit and you’ll need to get the key to whoever you want to give access to. A good alternative to this is a combination padlock, so you only need to share the combination.
Newer, tech enabled self storage facilities, including our Portadown site, may allow you to provide access to other people via a mobile app. That is the quickest and easiest solution as you can allow multiple people to access your unit without having to share keys, pins or anything else.
5. How close to your house/business?
Are you planning to access the facility on a regular basis or is it a one-off drop and store situation? If it’s a one-off, the location isn’t as important and it’s probably better to be more concerned about finding a safe, secure and low-cost facility even if it means more of a drive (especially if the price is significantly lower). On the other hand, if you intend to access it regularly, proximity is much more important and it may be worth paying a bit more.
6. Do you store in a purpose built facility or a shipping container?
Generally, there are two different types of self storage facilities:
Purpose-built self storage facilities are typically warehouses with lots of storage rooms inside. They’ll typically offer a large selection of room sizes, giving you lots of options and ensuring you don’t end up paying for more space than you need. They’re usually covered with 24 hour CCTV, units tend to be individually alarmed, and access days/times are usually pretty flexible. Some sites include shops that will sell you storage and packing materials such as boxes and tape.
Purpose built facilities best for: storing higher value items, households, businesses looking for flexible access times, avoiding possible damp or condensation issues.
There are also shipping container-based self storage facilities. These are made up of used shipping containers. This usually means a much smaller selection of sizes (160 square feet - 20 feet by 8 feet - is most common) but they will usually be a little bit cheaper on a per square foot basis. However, they can suffer from condensation or damp issues and it may be worth making regular visits to check on your stuff and let air into the container. Some shipping container storage facilities take precautions against damp and condensation, so worth checking with them before making a booking.
Shipping container facilities best for: harder wearing items.
Now you’re ready to book!
Okay, so now you know what to be looking out for and what’s most important for you. You’ve worked out the 6 things to get right:
- How much space you need
- What sort of contract you want
- What times you want to be able to access the facility
- How you can give others access to your unit (if relevant)
- How nearby (or not) you want the facility to be
- What type of storage facility best suits your needs
Now for the fun part - selecting a facility. No surprise here, but the best place to start this is with a google search. Simply enter your town or city followed by ‘self storage’. Lots of options should come up. Sadly, only a few self storage businesses publish their prices and availability online, so you may need to call or visit the site to get them. Even fewer take bookings online, so you’ll almost certainly need to call either way.
Once you get a good idea of availability and prices, and you match that against the important criteria identified earlier, you should be in a position to make the decision. Good luck!
StoreStuff is a secure, low-cost self storage facility based in Portadown, Northern Ireland, servicing Craigavon, Lurgan, Dungannon, Armagh and Belfast amongst others. Check availability, prices and book online at storestuffni.com. Prices start at just £29 per month and we are open daily from 6am-11pm. We provide a lowest price guarantee and promise to beat any comparable quote by 10%.