Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Storage

Why might I need self storage?

Self storage is used for a vast number of reasons. For the general public, the most common uses are:

  • Temporary storage when moving house or flat
  • Temporary storage when redecorating rooms in your home, or putting in an extension or converting a loft
  • Long-term storage of possessions when renting out your house or flat (when working abroad etc)
  • Decluttering your home
  • Storage of furniture when downsizing
  • Holiday storage for students who need to vacate their accommodation
  • Storage of possessions after a death
  • Splitting possessions after a divorce

For businesses:

  • Temporary storage while moving or redecorating offices
  • Storage of files and records
  • Storage of exhibition stands
  • For retailers and product manufacturers, storage of stock
  • Office downsizing
  • Temporary storage for charity donations while they await sorting, sale or transit

 Some more surprising uses for self-storage units include :

  • Workshops
  • Studios for artists, sculptors or designers
  • Sound-studios for musicians
How much does self storage cost?

How long is a piece of string? This is a difficult question because the answer will depend on a number of factors, such as:

  • The location of the self storage facility
  • How busy or full the self storage facility is
  • The size of the unit that you require
  • The length of time that you need the unit for

 For such reasons, self storage companies are very reluctant to provide even ball-park figures for storage costs. They prefer to quote for your specific needs, on a one-off basis; on websites, this means effectively registering with a company to get a quote.

 But let us attempt a ball-park figure. In London, some of the larger companies charge about £40 per square foot per year. Say you need a small unit of 100 square feet, that makes £4000 per year. Shorter periods are approximately pro rata; the minimum rental period is usually four weeks. So you are looking at about £350 per month for a small unit. Scale up from there.

One easy way to get quotes for self storage is to use our self storage quotation service - this will help you contact several nearby self storage centres for further information. 

How much space do I need?

You can plan exactly how much space you will need my measuring every single item to be stored. This is easy enough to do with boxes, less easy with chairs, bicycles, barbecues and large china vases. For assistance in your calculations, use our “ready reckoner”.

But this is only part of the story. You will not necessarily be able to use all available space in a unit because you cannot pack and stack fragile or awkwardly-shaped items to the ceiling, or use every inch of floor space. Also, if you want access to any items during the storage period, you may need to create free spaces or passageways to remove and reinsert those items.

Remember: You will almost always need more storage space than you think!

What is minimum length of time for self storage rental?

Most (but not all) self storage companies have a minimum rental period, usually about four weeks . That is to say that you will have to pay for at least four weeks. But most companies offer full and free access to the units whenever you like – so effectively you can store items for as short a period as you like, provided that you pay for the minimum period.

Remember: You will almost always need the storage space for longer than you think!

Can I have access to my unit whenever and as often as I like?

That will depend on your chosen self storage company. Only some of the larger ones allow access 24/7, whilst others have so called “extended hours access” (which usually means something like 7am–11pm), and many restrict themselves to just normal business hours. This aspect will require careful consideration when choosing a storage company if you want to access your goods on a regular basis. A lot of the big firms will apply a rental surcharge in exchange for extending your hours of access, so out-of-hours use can become an expensive business.

What do self storage units look like?

There are several types of storage centre, but most work on the American model of having newly-built warehouse space that is divided up into small units and is accessed through a central lobby. It is typically rented out on a walk-in basis, so that you can turn up with a van or loaded car. Other storage centres are really converted old buildings, often warehouses, and these have a greater variety of unit sizes. Some storage centres use shipping containers for their units. The advantage of container storage is that the units usually give access direct from the ground and each is self-contained (they are usually also cheaper than the warehouse operators).

How do I get my stuff to the self storage facility?

Most (some 60 per cent) of users of self storage take their possessions to the self storage unit themselves, either in their own cars, or in hired vans. Modern, purpose-built self storage facilities are usually designed to give easy access between vehicles and the storage units. Many self storage facilities offer trolleys, pallets and even forklift trucks to assist you in moving in when you reach the facility.

Alternatively, you can use the professional services of removal companies, or local small-scale man-and-van operators.

If I need storage when moving house, should I use self storage or the removal company’s storage?

Removal companies often have their own storage facilities. These are fine, but they operate on the basis that possessions are stored there temporarily after one house has been emptied and before the next house becomes vacant. They do not normally expect clients to want access to the stored items, and may even expressly forbid it. In addition, their storage facilities are often in remote locations. In other words, if you think you might want access to any of your stored items, you should put them in self storage. Removal companies should be willing to transport your possessions to self storage facilities.

How do I get hold of packing materials?

Most of the main storage companies sell packing material even if you are not storing with them. Typically they stock a range of sizes of cartons, tape, bubble wrap and padlocks. Several of the larger ones offer home-delivery as well, making it easy to stock up on packing materials without making an extra trip to the storage centre, and to buy from whoever the cheapest supplier is without having to store with them. 

The easiest way to save costs in packaging is to go to a supermarket and get a free supply of cartons from there. However, you should try to pick out stronger boxes which won't break easily, such as banana boxes. If you can get lots of the same size, it will make stacking and organising your stuff much easier. For more on packing materials, see the article on Packing for Storage.

Is there a knack to packing a storage unit?

There certainly is. The most important thing to remember is this: before you start packing your things into your storage unit, think what you will need to take out first or what you might need in an emergency. These items should be put in last. This can save a lot of time later on, as can stacking things carefully so that as much as possible can be accessed. Depending on how much space you have and how well you stack your belongings, you may be able to leave a central aisle with access to most items. For more on this subject, see the article on Packing a Storage Unit.

How do I know that my stuff will be safe?

All SSA (Self Storage Association) accredited firms have to provide CCTV monitoring and a secure perimeter, in addition to complying with full fire and safety regulations. The individual storage units will usually have a padlock to which you retain the only key, and some providers (such as Big Yellow) have on-site security patrols. One thing to be aware of when shopping around is whether the security cameras are only watching the front entrance or have been dispersed throughout the building, as the former will be less effective at spotting intruders.

How can I get a better deal?

Given that you could rent a West End office for the same price per square foot that some storage companies charge, any and all possible means of reducing costs are worth looking into:

– Speak to several companies before you sign anything important; some companies will badger you by phone after providing a quote in order to push you into accepting it, so stand firm until you are ready to make a decision. Our storage quote finder service can help you to contact several nearby companies quickly and easily.

– Being flexible about location may create savings, as rents are often cheaper in remoter areas, especially outside city centres.

– Try to pay by the calendar month, as most providers charge in four-week periods, which can make the annual rate 9% more expensive than it otherwise would be.

 – Avoid being seduced by short-term special offers, because you’ll inevitably end up using storage for longer than you originally planned.

– Anything that reduces the amount of floor space your belongings occupy will lower rental costs, so try storing smaller objects inside larger ones (such as furniture) and stacking boxes (carefully!) in piles rather than putting them alongside each other.

– Packaging costs can be lowered by getting a free supply of cartons from supermarkets, although weak ones obviously may end up doing more harm than good.

Do I need insurance?

In short, yes. If what you’re storing has significant value, it’s a good idea to be covered, especially since most companies won’t reimburse you otherwise if anything happens to it. But insurance may seem like an expensive option: at £1 per week per £1,000 of value, you are paying about 5% per year, and the usual risks of fire, flood and theft should be pretty remote in a well-run centre. Remember, too, that it can’t replace the sentimental value of lost or damaged items, so the family silver still needs to be well-hidden behind other objects, and have an extra padlock put on the door. The best way of obtaining cover is often to extend your home contents insurance so it protects objects in storage, although, if it already does this, then there’s no need to be insured twice.

How can I find a self storage facility?

Using our Facility Finder. With 750 significant facilities the UK has many options for the would-be user of self storage. However, it’s worth remembering that 73% of these are in London and the South East, so the choice is narrower in other regions.

Are there restrictions on what I can store?

The regulations for this largely obey common sense, so antiques, barbecues and retail stock are all fine whilst firearms, drugs and dead bodies are not. Anything that it’s illegal to possess under British law can’t be stored and could lead to prosecution if it’s found in your unit, with some providers using sniffer dogs to check up on their customers. Forbidden items generally include:

  • Anything polluting, contaminated or toxic
  • Explosives, munitions and firearms
  • Anything radioactive
  • Fire hazards and flammable goods
  • Living animals or plants
  • Food and other perishables (except in some cases by prior agreement; check with the site operator)
  • Waste
  • Securities or cash
  • Anything else that’s illegal

Something to bear in mind is that many people use storage units as extensions of their home, and there is often nothing to stop you from setting up a games room or recording studio during a centre’s opening hours. On the other hand, actually sleeping within a storage unit is still considered taboo by most of the industry – so "self storage" remains a name that’s not to be taken too literally.

The Self Storage Blog