The Complete Guide to Choosing a Lock for Your Storage Unit

Jon Fesmire | July 19, 2018 @ 8:00 AM

When you rent a storage unit, you need a lock. Not just any lock, either. You need a secure lock, probably more secure than any you’ve used on a school locker, for your bike, or to lock a desk.

The good news is that the vast majority of storage facilities sell locks right in the office where you rent your unit. Some even provide them for you. Either way, if you’re given a choice, how do you determine the best lock for your storage unit? Here’s a quick guide to the different lock options.


This is the first type to avoid.

These are not secure enough for self storage. The locking bars on padlocks tend to be thin and made from cheaper, lighter metals. Because of this, they’re easy to cut. Even closed-shackle padlocks, which have thicker closing bolts, don’t always measure up to self storage standards.

Combination Locks

We’ve all used these growing up. Combination locks are basically padlocks that with a rotating dial instead of a key. You turn the dial to predetermined numbers, and the lock opens. Like padlocks, combination locks are also not appropriate for self storage. The bars are just as easy to cut open as padlock bars and there are also ways to hack combination locks by touch.

Disc Locks

Now we’re getting into the locks that self storage facilities recommend, and for good reason. Disc locks were specifically invented for self storage units.

First, the bolts are extra-thick. Second, they’re made from stronger steel than the previous types mentioned. Third, there’s little space where the bolt exits one side and enters the other, locking in place. It’s essentially just enough to go through the holes in the latch plate. Because of this, not only does its thickness make it tough to cut with bolt cutters, it’s practically impossible to get a grip on the bar when a door is locked with it.

Disc locks do cost more than padlocks and combination locks, but they’re worth it.

Cylinder Locks

This is a type of lock you see everyday but probably don’t think about much. The lock on the front and back door of your home is a type of cylinder lock. It perfectly fits a hole in the side of your door frame and is bolted from the inside. With no bar to cut, it’s difficult for anyone on the outside to break in.

There are also cylinder locks for self storage doors. While many facilities sell cylinder locks for their units with roll-up doors, not all do. If you rent such a unit and the facility doesn’t sell these, check to see if the latch plate supports them. It will probably support both cylinder and disc locks. Ask if you can use a cylinder lock, and consider getting one at a hardware store before you move anything in. Though disc locks are also excellent for roll-up doors, cylinder locks are the slightly better choice.

One Important Feature

If you purchase a lock from somewhere other than your storage facility, make sure that it has an an anti-drill plate. You don’t want to make it tough to cut into the lock, yet have a thief drill into the lock and take it apart instead. An anti-drill plate will cause a drill to simply spin on the surface of the lock and gain no traction.

There you have it, the essential things to know about getting a lock for your storage unit. Just remember, we recommend disc locks for most self storage doors, and cylinder locks for roll-up doors with lock plates that are compatible with them.

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