3 Tips for First-Time Storage Unit Renters

People rent storage units for all kinds of reasons, from a complicated move to decluttering their home. If you’re considering self-storage, here are three tips for first-time storage unit renters, whether you need a temporary or long-term storage solution. 

1. Choose the Right Self-Storage Unit

Since people rent self-storage for a range of reasons, it only makes sense that there are a variety of self-storage unit types to meet those needs. Think about each of the following as you figure out which option is best for you:

Location, Location, Location

A storage facility on the outskirts of town might cost you less, but how much are you going to spend in time and gas getting there? Weigh convenience against your budget in determining which facility is best. Live near Paterson, yet work in Manhatten? Try our Haledon self-storage location.

Also think about the hours of access – will you be able to get into your storage unit whenever you need to, even in the middle of the night?  

Most people are limited to a certain part of the country when choosing a storage unit. However, if you have some geographic flexibility, look for facilities in areas that don’t experience extreme temperatures or heavy rains and flooding. 

Take a Tour

If possible, visit potential facilities beforehand. This will let you check out the security, amenities, staffing and maintenance efforts. Looking at a website is great, but won’t show you everything you might want to see.

Look for the following signs of a great self-storage facility:

  • Surveillance cameras in multiple locations
  • Fencing around the property
  • Gated entry requiring personalized codes
  • Good lighting
  • Cleanliness
  • Properly functioning doors, lights, security, etc.
  • Climate-controlled options
  • Indoor and drive-up units
  • Knowledgeable, friendly staff

Research the Reputation

Spend time online looking at the Better Business Bureau and consumer reviews to ensure that self-storage facilities have a solid reputation. Don’t hesitate to bring up any concerns when you’re talking to staff. 

Select the Right Self-Storage Unit Size

Too little space could be a real problem, while too much space will cost you extra money. Look at what you need to store and measure how much space you’ll need. The more efficiently you pack, the less space you’ll need. 

For example, if you have to store the contents of a one-bedroom apartment, ask the facility what they recommend. If your belongings are already packed, measure the square footage they take up. Generally, units come in 5-foot increments, such as 5 feet by 10 feet, 10 feet by 15 feet, 10 feet by 25 feet and so on.   

Certain items would benefit from climate-controlled self storage, especially in an area with extreme temperatures or high humidity. If you’re storing electronics, wooden furniture, important papers, paintings or anything sensitive to temperature fluctuations and humidity, consider a climate-controlled option. 

If you need to store a car, RV, motorcycle or boat, ask about specific options for vehicle storage – many facilities have great solutions for your classic car or camper.

2. Know What You’ll Need

Putting your things in a self-storage unit requires more than simply loading the unit and driving away. Chances are you’ll have some paperwork and other details to muddle through first.


Generally, a storage facility will require a form of identification, such as a driver’s license, passport or other photo ID. If you are storing a vehicle, proof of ownership, insurance and registration will likely be required. This helps the facility ensure they’re not helping anyone hide stolen goods.   


Some self-storage facilities require you to insure your stored items. Often, this coverage is included in homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, so check your policy (which you’ll probably need beforehand if you want to make a claim). 

The storage company is not liable for your belongings unless they are negligent (leaving the main gate unlocked, for example), so be certain your coverage is appropriate for what you’re storing.  


Some self-storage facilities provide security locks on individual units but some do not. Be sure you understand what’s provided and what isn’t, and take steps to get a high-quality lock if needed. Some low-quality locks are relatively easy to break or pick.  


Be familiar with the payment systems at the storage facility. Know when your payments are due and how you’re able to make them. Inquire about:

  • Automatic payments
  • Paying online
  • Late fees
  • Discounts
  • Payment forms (check/credit card/cash/etc.)

Also ask about the policy for ending your rental contract – do you need to give a notice to avoid charges for the following month? Are there minimum or maximum caps on rental periods? Is your rate locked in or might it increase over time?

Be aware that amenities like a larger unit and climate control will increase your monthly rate. 

3. Load the Storage Unit Properly

When you’re ready to fill your self-storage unit, do it properly to save space, keep things accessible and protect your belongings. 


Pack your belongings as efficiently as possible to reduce how much space you need. Disassemble bulky furniture, fill drawers and cabinets, etc. Make sure all boxes and bins are closed and well taped.    

Create an inventory and take pictures of the things you’ll put in your storage unit, especially any high-value items. This will help you remember what you have, and come in handy in the case of an insurance claim.   

Also, know what things are not allowed in the self-storage facility. Typically, the following are prohibited by a standard storage company:

  • Flammable and hazardous materials
  • Weapons and ammunition
  • Drugs
  • Perishable foods
  • Living plants or animals
  • People living or working in the storage unit
  • Working on vehicles on site

Use plastic bins when you can, as they hold up better than cardboard. Never use cardboard boxes that previously contained organic materials, such as produce, other plant matter or anything animal-related. 

Finally, be sure to label all of your bins and boxes; you’ll appreciate that when you’re unpacking.   

Organize the Unit

Place everything atop pallets and/or shelving to protect it from spills or other moisture on the floor. 

Anything you’re sure not to need or things that are bulky and hard to work around can go in the very back of the storage unit. Highly valuable items should also be toward the back. At the same time, put things you might need toward the front. 

Make the most of your space by stacking things as high as you can, as long as it’s safe. This will also make it easier to leave aisles where you need them, as well as a little space between stacks for better ventilation.  

Create a map of your storage unit. Especially if you’re storing things items for a long period of time, this will help you remember where everything is.  

Finally, keep a ladder at the front of your storage unit to make retrieving high-up items a snap. 

Before You Leave ...

Many self-storage unit facilities have an on-site shop where you can purchase boxes, tape and other last-minute packing supplies. They may also keep dollies and carts available for customer use. 

If possible, check on your self-storage unit periodically to check on your belongings and make sure the facility is still well-managed. 

Last but not least - don’t forget to lock your self-storage unit!