Use The Smarter Way To Store! Up To 50% Off + FREE 1st Month!*

Use The Smarter Way To Store! Up To 50% Off + FREE 1st Month!*

The Ultimate Guide to Renting a Self-Storage Unit


Whether you’re in the process of moving, preparing for a new baby’s arrival or retiring, you may find yourself running low on space and needing somewhere to store extra belongings. Instead of parting with items that have sentimental value or may be needed down the road, you can rent a self-storage unit to keep those belongings safe and secure until you’re ready to use them next. If this is your first time renting a storage unit, we have several helpful tips to help you simplify the process and find the right size and type of unit. Read on to learn how to rent a storage unit that’s right for your needs.

In This Article:
  1. Why You May Need Self Storage
  2. Types of Storage Units
  3. Storage Unit Sizes
  4. How to Choose a Storage Unit
  5. First Time Renting a Storage Unit? Additional Resources

1. Why You May Need Self Storage

No matter what stage of life you’re in, a storage unit can be a valuable resource. Here are some of the most common reasons you might benefit from temporary or long-term self storage.

  • If you’re looking for a secure space to keep seasonal items, including boats, RVs, sports equipment, patio furniture and more.
  • If you’re a college student looking to keep your belongings in a unit when you’re home for the summer or studying abroad.
  • If you’re a new parent who is clearing out space for a nursery and could benefit from stowing excess items in one easily accessible location before your baby is born. Alternatively, storage units can be helpful if you want to keep toys, baby clothes, cribs, carriers and other items safely tucked away until you welcome your next child into your home.
  • If you’re a retiree who may benefit from putting some of your treasured items in a unit as you prepare to downsize your home.
  • If you’re a hobbyist looking for a space to store your favorite crafting supplies. 
  • If you’re a small business owner who needs a place to keep extra office chairs, desks, supplies or even inventory as you search for a bigger office space or prepare to hire new employees. 
  • If you’re in the process of redesigning or renovating your home.
  • If you need more space in your house but don’t want to part with family heirlooms and other items that have sentimental value.
Note: It may be tempting to try and cut costs by living in a self-storage unit since it’s much cheaper than renting an apartment. However, storage units are unsafe to live in because they do not have adequate ventilation, heat, air conditioning, windows, natural light, electricity, or running water. Because of these safety risks, they are illegal to live in. They should only be used for storing belongings, not as a makeshift home.

2. Types of Storage Units

Renting a storage unit is not a one-size-fits-all project. Instead, you can easily find one that meets all of your needs. Here is a list of the types of storage units you can consider. 

  • Indoor units with climate control are ideal for storing all your belongings, including items that need to be protected from humidity, heat and cold. Depending on the size of the unit, you can store several boxes’ worth of items, the contents of a multi-room house, a vehicle, a boat and more. 
  • Outdoor covered units are great for people who want to protect their vehicles — including collectible cars; low-speed vehicles (like scooters and golf carts); boats; and RVs and campers from rain and other outdoor elements. 
  • Outdoor uncovered units are best for boats, RVs and short-term vehicle storage, or for individuals who aren’t worried about exposure to the elements.
  • Lockers are a great option if you need to store documents, family heirlooms or other small items. 
  • Wine storage is the go-to option if you’re looking to keep bottles of your favorite wines safely stored at the proper temperature. 
  • Business storage is an ideal way to store office furniture and other belongings so you can free up space in your office. If you’re looking for an office that’s close to your storage unit, some facilities also offer professional office space that’s perfect for small teams, client/partner/investor meetings and more.
Ready to find a self-storage unit? Explore facilities near you.

3. Storage Unit Sizes

One of the perks of renting a storage unit is that you get to decide exactly how much space you need, and then choose the perfect-sized unit. If you’re wondering what size storage is right for you, you can keep these helpful guidelines in mind. 

Small units

Small units come in two sizes: 5’ x 5’ or 5’ x 10’. 5’ x 5’ units generally fit the contents of a hall closet or half bathroom, while 5’ x 10’ units can accommodate the contents of a dorm room, large walk-in closet or studio apartment.

Medium units

Medium units come in three sizes: 5’ x 15’, 10’ x 10’ and 10’ x 15’. 5’ x 15’ is like a large walk-in closet, and is perfect for one-bedroom apartments and large patio furniture, while 10’ x 10’ is like the size of a small bedroom and 10’ x 15’ is like the size of a small office. (Compact cars may fit in a 10’ x 15’ unit.)

Large units

Large units come in three sizes: 10’ x 20’, 10’ x 25’ and 10’ x 30’. 10’ x 20’ units are like large bedrooms — perfect for 1-2-bedroom apartments, large appliances, canoes and cars — while 10’ x 25’ and 10’ x 30’ units are like the size of a one-car garage and extra-long one-car garage, respectively. Large units are great for low-speed vehicles, cars, large furniture or a mix of items.

Unsure of what storage unit size you need? Use our helpful Size Guide to calculate the best unit for your needs.

4. How to Choose a Storage Unit

Before renting a unit, it’s important to ask yourself the following four questions:

  1. What are you planning on storing?
  2. How much access will you need to your stored item(s)? Do you need to open your unit late at night or early in the morning, frequently or only occasionally, etc.?
  3. How much space do you need for the items you want to store?
  4. How long do you need to store your item(s)? 

Based on your answers, you can determine whether you need an indoor or outdoor unit, and whether your unit needs to be climate-controlled or simply air-cooled. You can then assess what size unit is best for your needs and whether the facilities closest to you offer the amenities you desire. 

Some self-storage facilities don’t require you to commit to an entire year-long lease. At SmartStop, for example, you can enroll in a flexible month-to-month contract — meaning that you can store your items for as long as you like, without penalties.

Note: You typically can’t store explosives, flammable items, fireworks, firearms or very valuable items in a unit, but it’s important to check with the facility as well as your state’s laws to ensure sure you are complying with local regulations.


For more things to keep in mind before you rent a unit, explore our blog: Looking for Storage? 10 Things to Keep in Mind Before You Rent a Unit

5. First Time Renting a Storage Unit? Additional Resources

Renting a storage unit is the smarter way to keep your belongings safe and organized so you can create room in your home for the things that matter. Here are some additional resources that may help you on your journey:

For additional inspiration and information on all things related to storage, organization, home improvement and more, check out our blog.

Related Articles
Live Chat