Are you unfamiliar with the term ‘self storage’? Learn more about what self storage is and find out how the storage rental process works. 

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What is Self Storage?

Self storage is an affordable storage option for temporary and long term storage. To find self storage near you, search for local businesses known as storage facilities. These companies provide customers with a variety of storage spaces in the form of storage units or storage lockers.

Once a person decides they need extra storage, they can rent a storage unit. Most storage units are leased on a month-to-month basis. To get started, you’ll need a form of ID and a lock to gain access to your unit. Some storage facilities, like Life Storage, are now offering online rental options. You can sign your contract online and gain access to a storage unit without needing to see anyone.

The following steps will explain how self storage works, so you’ll know what to expect during the rental process.


How to Rent a Storage Unit


1. Choose a storage facility.

Most storage units work the same way. You sign a contract and then rent a storage space for a specified amount of time. However, each storage facility has different standards. For instance, some companies might have more security measures in place.

Learn about some essential security features that a storage facility should have in place. If you find these components lacking or generally get an uneasy feeling on the property, then pick a different storage facility.


2. Determine what size unit you need.

The biggest mistake customers make is choosing the wrong size storage unit. If you rent a storage unit that is too large, you’ll lose money. On the other hand, you’ll create more work for yourself if you select a space that is too small. This space estimator can help if you have a hard time conceptualizing space.


3. Rent a storage unit online or in person.

Decide whether you will rent a unit online or in person. If you rent online, you’ll save yourself time. However, you might want to see the storage unit in person if this is your first time renting. Call ahead or check the company’s website to see what policies they have in place.

Renting Online

At Life Storage, our online rental process is seamless and convenient. However, only certain spaces are available for instant access. Head to our online database and search for a designated Rent Now space. You’ll need some basic information on hand like an ID and access to any applicable insurance policy.

Things to know about online renting:

  • You can complete a rental even if the storage facility is closed. This feature is helpful when you are ready to rent in the middle of the night or on the weekend.
  • Your storage unit will be ready and waiting for you. However, your rental starts the day you sign your agreement. You should plan to sign the contract no more than a day or two before you’re ready to move in, so that you don’t pay for the time you don’t need.

Renting In Person

Determine what you need to bring to an in-person appointment. Some companies might offer walk-in leasing, and others might require you to make an appointment. Not every storage facility will have an available leasing agent on hand. When in doubt, call ahead.

Things to know about renting in person:

  • If you want to rent a space into the future to ensure the spot is guaranteed, you can reserve the space online. However, you’ll need to come into the Life Storage location to complete your rental agreement in person.
  • If you have trouble navigating spaces, a storage manager can help you locate your unit during your first visit.

4. Complete your rental agreement.

At the heart of how self storage works is the rental agreement. Rental agreements will include all the terms of your lease, and this agreement will set the tone for what’s expected of you. Make sure you review all the terms before you sign. You’ll either sign this agreement in person or online, depending on the circumstances.

We technically can’t give you any legal advice regarding lease terms. A storage manager can help explain the terms. However, if you have specific questions about the contract, we recommend that you seek legal counsel.

What’s in a rental agreement:

Pro Tip: You’ll need renters’ insurance.

Most storage facilities will also require some form of renters’ insurance. This requirement is in place to protect both the tenant and the landlord. At Life Storage, property tenant insurance is provided by a third-party. This requirement can be waived in some cases if you have homeowners or renters insurance in place that would cover your belongings in a storage unit.


5. Make an initial payment.

Once you sign the lease, you’ll be responsible for your first-month rent. Future monthly payments can be made online. Some companies also offer in-person or auto payments.

Make sure you are diligent with payments every month to prevent late fees from building up. If you are late on payment for a couple of months in a row, your storage unit could be repossessed.


6. Access your unit and move in.

Gaining access to your unit will depend on whether you rented online or in-person. If you rented a unit in person, a storage manager will guide you to your unit and make sure you have an appropriate lock in place.

If you used Life Storage’s online rental system, here’s what you can expect:

  • You’ll be provided with a personalized key code to gain access to the facility.
  • We’ll send you a digital map to help you find your storage unit once you’re on-site. Also, keep an eye out for signage on the property that includes maps and building numbers.
  • The storage unit will be closed with a plastic seal. Break the seal and gain access to the unit.
  • Online rentals include a secure lock, which will be placed inside. If you have a different lock you want to use, you can return the provided lock for a full refund after you move in.

Take your time when you move in! You’ll thank yourself later. If you’re not sure where to start, check out this guide for organizing your storage unit.


This guide covered the basics of how self storage works. However, if you have more questions, check out our frequently asked questions guide to see if we answered your query there. If you want to make the most of your rental, check out these storage unit tips for new renters.

About the Author

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Lauren Thomann

Lauren Thomann has written about self storage and moving since 2015, making her our storage expert. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and Linguistics and has published over 150 articles on moving, storage, and home organization. She is also a contributing writer at The Spruce and Martha Stewart.

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