Different types of storage and when you need them

You may be surprised by how common storage use is – almost 10% of American households are currently renting a unit. A big reason for that is the versatility of storage. Storage comes in handy in a wide variety of situations, from renovating to moving to starting a business. How is it possible that such a seemingly simple solution resolves so many problems? Well, there are many different types of storage, all suitable for different things. All told, you can store just about anything for just about any amount of time in just about any way you want. You just need to find the right type of unit! If you make sure that you’re renting from the best moving companies on top of that, you can rest easy knowing your belongings are well taken care of—there are really no downsides.

Different types of storage based on service

Storage space for rent is typically provided by specialty storage providers and moving companies. The basic idea of storage rental is the same regardless of the provider – you temporarily rent space that belongs to the company for the purpose of keeping your belongings there. However, different storage providers may offer different services with regard to storage. Depending on the services included in the offer, you can rent thus rent:

  1. Full-service or self-storage
  2. Temperature-controlled or climate-controlled units

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Full service vs self-storage

The first thing you’ll have to ask yourself is this: Do you want to pay extra for the storage provider to handle your belongings, or would you rather rent at a cheaper rate and deal with your own packing and transport? To avoid the hassle of packing and moving boxes into and out of storage, look for full-service storage. With this type of service, the company you hire will handle every step of the process (for a fee) – packing your belongings, transporting them to the storage unit, maintaining the storage facility, and transporting your belonging to a new location when you’re done using their storage. If you opt for self-storage, however, the storage provider will only rent out the space to you; you will have to pack your own boxes and move them how you see fit. Consequently, this is the less convenient but cheaper option.

Man packing a box for one of the types of storage
Don’t want to pack things? Rent full-service storage instead.

Both full-service and self-storage have their own advantages and disadvantages – the choice will depend on your priorities. For those who prefer convenience and can afford it, full-service storage is an excellent choice. It’s especially handy if you already have a lot on your plate, as is the case when you are moving long-distance. This is why some long-distance movers include full-service storage in their services when you’re moving cross country with a family. If you’re using storage for a longer period of time and aren’t too busy with other things, then it pays off to do a bit of work yourself at the start and save money in the long run with self-storage.

Temperature-controlled and climate-controlled units

Most items you store won’t require too much special care. However, if you’re storing sensitive or valuable things, you should invest in a temperature or climate-controlled unit. These protect your belongings by maintaining the same conditions in the storage at all times. In temperature-controlled storage, the temperature in the unit will stay the same, whereas climate-controlled storage maintains the same temperature and moisture levels. According to consumer opinions and expert advice both, this kind of storage is the best and safest option. However, it comes at an extra cost. So it’s best to reserve it for items like musical instruments, family heirlooms, expensive tech, and antique furniture – valuable things that would be damaged by fluctuating temperatures and moisture.

Different types of storage based on unit location

If you’ve never used storage before, you probably imagine it as a row of garage-like units in a large warehouse. That is certainly one option, but there are other kinds of storage on offer, including:

  1. Indoor and outdoor storage solutions
  2. Drive-up storage

Indoor storage vs outdoor storage

Depending on whether the space you’re renting is a part of a warehouse or a unit located outside of a building, storage can be:

  • indoor storage: Typically, this type of unit is built into a warehouse. However, it can also take the form of a storage container kept inside a warehouse. It is the most common type of storage to rent as it is suitable for most items. Climate and temperature-controlled units are always indoors, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you should focus on indoor storage providers. However, keep in mind that your access to indoor storage units may be limited to the facility’s opening hours.
  • outdoor storage: Outdoor storage comes in several forms – it can be a storage container stored outside, a reserved space in a (typically covered) parking lot, or a (covered or uncovered) cage. While cheaper, it is also only suitable for certain types of belongings as it is less safe and doesn’t provide much protection from the elements. As such is not recommended for valuable items or anything sensitive to changes in atmospheric conditions. However, it may be your only option if you’re storing hazardous materials or large vehicles.
One of the types of storage - outdoor storage containers.
You can store your belongings in indoor or outdoor conditions.

Drive-up storage

If you like the ease of access that comes with outdoor storage but want your belongings to be protected like in an indoor storage unit, then drive-up storage is the perfect solution for you. These are enclosed storage units you can easily approach with a car and access whenever you need. They are perfect for organizing a DIY move as they give you both flexibility and security. However, not every provider will have this type of unit on offer. So if you want one, you may need to look a bit harder.

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Different types of storage based on the duration of use

Depending on what you’re using storage for, you may need it for a very short or very long period of time.  If you’re moving cross-country, you may only need storage for a few weeks. But if you’ve recently downsized, you may need the extra space for much longer. To accommodate these different needs, storage providers offer rental contracts of varying duration.

Short-term vs long-term storage

If you are only temporarily in need of storage space, short-term storage is a great solution for up to three months. You will typically sign the contract for it on a monthly basis. You can, of course, extend this contract in most cases. But generally, you should choose this type of storage when you want to access your items sooner rather than later. These units are excellent temporary storage options when moving, renovating, or otherwise in flux.

Calendar for September.
Different types of storage will give you different lengths of contract.

If you’re going to be in need of extra space for a while, you should consider long-term storage as a more permanent solution. You can rent long-term storage for months on end. So if you’ve downsized recently or have some items you need but don’t use very often, then sign a long-term contract. It’ll be cheaper in the long run. But keep in mind that long-term contracts are less flexible, so you might not be able to get your stuff whenever you want.

Different types of storage based on the purpose

Most storage units are all-purpose. You can use them to store just about anything that isn’t dangerous or perishable. So you can rent storage to minimize anxiety during a move, or you can rent to put away your holiday decorations. But in some cases, you may need a special type of unit with a specific purpose.

Student storage

If you are a student moving into a dorm, out of a dorm, or to a new place, you may find yourself with a lot of stuff that you have nowhere to put. Perhaps your dorm room is smaller than you thought. Or maybe you’ve just never moved before and misjudged how many boxes can fit into your car. You may even just want to put away your books from last year that you no longer need. Either way, student storage is a great option. Storage companies that cater to students often have smaller units, more affordable prices, and more flexible contracts. This makes their storage perfect for students who only need a bit of extra space for a little while and can’t afford to rent a regular storage unit.

Military storage

If you’re in the military, you’re probably no stranger to moving. Sometimes orders come on short notice, and you have to be ready. You and your family may need to quickly rent a unit near your current or new base. Storage companies in these areas will typically have special offers for military personnel. You may be able to get a discount on the unit you rent. The company may help you organize transport to your new home as a part of their offer. Or they may offer the service of maintaining your storage unit while you are away on deployment. Since these storage providers have many clients in the military, they typically understand the challenges that military personnel face with renting regular storage units and work to mitigate those.

Soldier sitting.
Some storage providers have special offers for military personnel.

Business storage

When you decide to move your office or business, you’ll have a lot to do. Packing and moving all the sensitive yet expensive equipment won’t be easy. And what if your new space doesn’t have room for all your documents? Or your furniture doesn’t fit in with the new decor? Don’t worry – you can just put everything in storage. Storage providers who cater to business will often have special offers like:

  • longer opening hours or 24/7 access to avoid clashing with your work hours
  • climate controlled units where you can store electronics or furniture
  • document storage where the conditions are perfect for protecting paper from damage
  • extra security to ensure that the documents and equipment you store are safe

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Special types of storage units: storing hazardous and perishable items

When you decide to rent storage, the provider you’ve chosen will often give you a list of items you can’t put in the unit. These restrictions exist to protect you, other storage users, and the storage company. They forbid you from storing anything perishable (like food, plants, or pets) or dangerous (like flammable, corrosive, or toxic liquids and weapons). But what if you do need to store something like that? For those cases, there are special types of storage for things you normally can’t store. Specialty providers have the equipment, knowledge, and licenses that allow them to handle dangerous items. Just make sure you’re working with someone who does know what they’re doing. Check with the American Moving and Storage Association, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or the local government that the company you’ve chosen can legally handle the items you want to store.

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