How to Choose a Lock for Your Storage Unit

Tim Schlee | Dec 17, 2013 @ 04:09 PM

So you’ve finally found the storage unit you want at the right location with the right size and amenities. Everything’s great. Except now you have to figure out how you’re going to keep it locked. Will a regular padlock do? Do storage units have their own special kinds of locks? Are the locks sold up at the front desk any good?

It might not seem like the most important thing, but choosing a lock can be tricky, and you might not think of it till the last minute. If you need some help figuring out what kind of lock to buy, StorageFront is here to help.

What kind of locks can I use?

There are a number of different locks available for a self storage unit. They vary in price and in overall security, so think about how confident you are in the security measure already in place at your storage facility. If you’re paying more in rent for added security measures, you might not want to dish out the money for the most expensive lock on the market. (If your facility is really fancy, you might not need a lock at all.) And be sure to examine the kind of door and latch on your unit, so you can find a lock that will fit.

Closed-shackle padlocks

A closed-shackle padlock.

A closed-shackle padlock. Courtesy of Locks Online.

Ordinary padlocks are cheap but not the most secure locks, especially for a self storage unit. While you’re probably the only one who has a key, they are the easiest kind of lock to cut open. Closed-shackle padlocks are very similar to typical padlocks, except the shackle (i.e. the U-shaped bar that locks shut) is shorter and thicker and has a protective casing to deter bolt-cutters. These might be a bit more expensive than normal padlocks, but you probably don’t want to buy anything cheaper.

Disc locks

A disc lock is much harder to cut than a padlock.

A standard padlock is much easier to cut open than a disc lock. Courtesy of A-1 Surfside Self Storage.

Disc locks function very similarly to regular padlocks, but they have a round shape that makes them very difficult to break into. They are easily purchased at most hardware stores and offer great security. It takes a lot more than bolt-cutters to open a disc lock. The ease and security makes these the industry standard for self storage (although you’ll want to double-check that your lock fits the latch on your unit). For added security, try to find a bump-resistant lock.

Cylinder locks

A cylinder lock in a storage unit door.

Cylinder lock on a storage unit door. Courtesy of Walla Walla Self Storage.

These are the types of locks found in a normal door. They are the most difficult to break into but also the most difficult to install, and only certain sizes will usually fit a standard storage unit door. Their use in storage is a more recent development, so not all facilities will be equipped to install cylinder locks. Those that are might handle the installation themselves and issue keys to their renters. Be sure that if your facility does this, the manager provides a brand new lock for each tenant. You wouldn’t want a previous renter walking around with a copy of the key to your lock!

What kind of locks should I avoid?

The locks listed above are the best for self storage. Ordinary padlocks, single combination padlocks, and multiple combination padlocks (e.g. a bike lock) cannot be recommended as secure options. We also recommend that you invest in a lock made with high-quality materials, even if it’s a bit more expensive. Cheap locks are cheaper because the manufacturer cuts costs through low-quality metal.

Where can I find a lock?

Fortunately, all the locks listed above are easily found at most hardware stores. For convenience, many storage facilities sell locks at their front office, but make sure you do your research. Not all facility managers are lock experts, and some might look to cut costs by ordering cheaper locks that you’d do better to avoid.

A lock is, luckily, not the most important security measure taken at a storage facility, but it is the last defense against a potential break-in. As such, you’ll want to make sure you have a quality lock that works for your unit. If you have any more questions, check out our tips page to find the answers!