How Much Does a Storage Unit Really Cost?

Krista Diamond | Nov 27, 2017 @ 10:00 AM

Thinking of renting a storage unit for the first time? If you’ve never had a storage unit before, you’re probably wondering how much they actually cost. After all, you’ve already got plenty of other bills. How much should you expect to shell out for a little extra space? Is the cost going to be similar to your monthly cable bill or is it going to be more like your monthly car insurance bill?

Self storage prices fluctuate depending on where you live, what amenities you need and how large of a unit you require. The good news is, with the increased availability of self storage, facilities are often competing for customers, meaning that it’s not hard to find affordable storage that meets your needs.

We took the time to factor in discounts, fees and rent increases to give you an idea of how much self storage really costs.

Discounts

Keep an eye out when driving around town and you’ll see the same discount advertised on signs outside of pretty much every storage facility: “$1 for your first month of rent!”

This is the typical self storage discount, though you may find a place that will give you your first month free. You can also find additional discounts as a college student or military member, which are usually around 10%.

Less common discounts may be offered seasonally or may be offered to you in exchange for signing a longer lease or signing up for online bill-pay. You should also ask about discounts that may be offered to loyal tenants who renew self storage leases if you plan on renting for more than a few months. And don’t forget to look on Facebook and Twitter for exclusive social media discounts.

Rent

Let’s talk about rent itself. How much does the average storage unit cost?

Rent prices depend on where you live and the availability of self storage. If you live in a place where you feel like you see storage facilities on every corner, rent is going to be cheap. If you’re in a rural area with only one storage facility in town, it might cost you a little more.

The average 5x5 storage unit (the size of a walk-in closet) costs approximately $50 a month. A 10x10 costs about $100. You could end up paying as little as $30 or as much as $200, and you should always factor in whether or not you need climate control, as this typically adds about 25% to rent.

In other words, budget for about $75 a month for self storage rent, but allow for fluctuation.

Fees

In the interest of ensuring that no fees are hidden fees when renting a storage unit, here’s a breakdown of what you may be expected to pay in addition to rent:

  • Admin fee: This is a fee you pay up front when signing your lease. It’s usually about $15 and is non-refundable. Some storage facilities may throw in a free lock with this or waive it if you sign up for online bill pay.

  • Security deposit: This fee is a refundable deposit you pay up front that will be refunded to you when you move out, assuming you honor the terms of the lease. It’s usually about $30.

  • Late fees: This is the fee you get hit with if you don’t pay your rent on time. If you haven’t paid rent in 30 days (or whatever period your storage facility defines as late), you will typically owe an extra 20% on top of the rent. Some states have laws determining how high of a late fee your storage facility can charge you.

  • Lien fees: These are the fees you get charged when you go beyond late and move into the territory of being delinquent on your storage unit. The storage facility will pass the fees associated with auctioning off your storage unit on to you, including advertising the auction, hiring an auctioneer and sending you notices about the lien process.

  • Lock cutting fee: Habitual key loser? It may cost you. The storage facility might charge you around $15 to cut your lock, though many will be happy to do it for free.

Obviously, these won’t all apply to you. Not all facilities charge admin fees and if you’re never late you’ll never have to deal with paying a late fee. Ask about fees before signing a lease to get a more accurate picture of the how much you’ll be spending on the storage unit.

Rent Increases

If you’ve ever renewed a lease on an apartment, you know how frustrating an unexpected rent hike can be. Fortunately, unlike that sketchy landlord you once had, a good self storage facility will communicate with you about rent increases and won’t raise the rent so much that it forces you to move out.

Your self storage lease should mention that the storage unit is subject to periodic rent increases in line with inflation. It may even say how much these increases will be. If that information isn’t there, ask what you can expect and when you should expect it.

A typical rent increase should be around 5%, meaning that a $70 storage unit will go up to $73.50. Rent increases of over 10% per year are excessive, though if a storage facility raises rent every few years instead of every year, this number will be higher.

Expect the storage facility to inform you of rent increases at least 30 days in advance via letter or email.

Ways to Save

It’s always possible to save money on self storage. The first thing you can do is use our size guide to make sure you’re renting the right unit. After all, why should you pay more money for space you don’t need?

Another way to save money on self storage is to share a storage unit with another person. It’s kinda like sharing an apartment with a roommate to save money—except you don’t have to live in it together. Just make sure both of your names are on the lease that way you can both access the storage unit. And never share a storage unit with someone who is sketchy about paying rent.

You can also save money on self storage by renting a little further away from where you live than you might ordinarily consider. Storage units on the outskirts of a major city often cost less than those in super convenient locations. If you won’t be visiting your storage facility super often, renting 10 or 15 miles away won’t be a big deal.

Lastly, don’t forget about the other things you can save money on. Many storage facilities rent moving trucks and sell packing supplies on-site. These may be available to you at a discount, especially as a new customer.