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Is Automated Self Storage Right for You?

Krista Diamond | August 9, 2017 @ 9:00 AM

You check in at the airport with a kiosk. You check out at the grocery store with a kiosk. You withdraw money at the bank from a kiosk. In certain magical places, you can even get cupcakes from a kiosk. In today’s self-service world, automated technology is rapidly spreading to make all of our lives easier. Is automated self storage the next step?

Whether you’re thinking about renting a storage unit or you’re already enjoying the convenience of one (but wouldn’t mind if it was even more convenient), automated self storage offers the promise of 24 hour access, a largely paperless experience and modern technology. The trend is starting to take hold in urban areas and is often touted as the future of self storage. If you’re wondering if automated self storage is right for you or you’re just wondering how the heck it even works, here’s everything you need to know.

How Does Automated Self Storage Work?

Kiosk-centric automated self storage facilities often get compared to ATMs, but there’s a little bit more going on than that.

An automated storage facility allows tenants to rent storage units on-site using a kiosk, but the option of renting online— especially on a mobile-optimized website that lets you rent online while you’re at the facility—is usually still available. The kiosk allows tenants to browse available units, see different prices and select the features they want. After they’ve selected a storage unit, tenants can complete lease documents, and purchase self storage insurance. The kiosk will dispense a lock and will often dispense a map of the property showing where the storage unit is.

These kiosks can accept storage unit rent payments in cash, credit card or check and often even have the option of getting help from a live person via phone who can answer any questions.

How Unmanned Is It?

Automated self storage facilities are sometimes referred to as unmanned storage facilities. If you’re the kind of person who repeatedly yells “Representative!” into your phone when dealing with an automated customer service agent, you might bristle at the thought of not having an actual human being to talk to.

Fortunately, automated self storage facilities don’t force you to rely on the kiosk alone. Some automated storage facilities have on-site management or part-time employees dedicated to monitoring the property, assisting walk-in customers and answering questions. You might even find an automated facility that utilizes a full-time staff during the day and then switches to automated self storage after business hours are over. Even completely unmanned storage facilities rely on call centers to answer tenant questions and a small staff to clean out storage units and perform lock checks.

Is Automated Self Storage Safe?

Automated self storage facilities use the same security features as regular storage facilities. You can expect surveillance cameras, LED lights, gated access and in some cases, a security team.

If you’re concerned about break-ins and your own safety after dark, avoid using automated self storage (or any type of self storage) in a high crime area or in an area that makes you feel uncomfortable. An automated self storage facility may use electronic locks on units, but if you’re using a regular lock, make sure it’s the most secure one.

What About Cost?

Because an automated self storage facility has less overhead than a fully staffed storage facility, you should be able to find competitive prices. Automated storage facilities often roll these savings back into upgrading facility grounds and offering cutting-edge features. If value is important to you, this is worth keeping in mind.

Is It Worth It?

Just like those self checkout lines at the grocery store, some people love automated self storage while others would prefer the more traditional version.

Automated self storage may be right for you if 24-hour access is the number one thing you’re looking for in a storage unit. It may also be right for you if you’re a tech-savvy person who appreciates modern innovations, or if you’re familiar enough with self storage that you don’t require much assistance. Or hey, maybe you’re just an introvert who would prefer less customer service interaction. Who doesn’t feel like that sometimes?

Automated self storage is probably not for you if talking to a living breathing human being is important to you when renting a storage unit. It might also not be right for you if you’d like less technology in your life or if you value a lot of add-on self storage services like truck rental, and an on-site retail store.

However you feel about automated self storage, don’t be surprised if you start to see modern advancements at storage facilities in your area. It’s clear that the self storage business is evolving. After all, it’s an industry already based on convenience, so if technological innovations are the future, than automation and self storage just might be a match made in heaven.

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