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Self Storage Buyer's Guide

When it comes to storage, don’t just go with the first company you find. There are lots of different ways of storing your items, which may or may not be right for you. The three main storage types are:


  • Self storage units – these are individual rooms varying in size, usually located within a warehouse on a fenced site.
  • Shipping containers – these are usually out in the open on a fenced site with other shipping containers.
  • Crate storage – these companies will pack your items into a crate for you which will then be placed on a rack within a warehouse.

Each of these facilities offers different benefits depending on your requirements, so we’ve put together this list of questions to help you determine which is most suited to you.


How secure do I want my items to be?
If security is you top priority then we suggest you use a self storage unit. This gives you multiple layers of security because your items will be kept in a locked room, in a locked building, on a locked site. These types of facility usually have CCTV as well and are manned during the day for that extra level of safety. Shipping containers are also a secure means of storing but you lose the extra protection of having a building in which your items are stored. Crates are also a relatively secure option but it often depends on the type of warehouse as to whether it is manned during the day and whether they have CCTV.

How much access do I need to my items?
If you want to be able to access your items at all times then self storage units are probably the way to go. Some sites like SureStore Self Storage, will give you your own gate key so that you can access your unit 24hrs a day 7 days a week. If this is something you require, make sure you check with the facility before taking out an agreement as not all of them offer this service.

If you’re looking at storing items that you will only ever need once in a blue moon, then the crating option could be right for you. Because the crates are placed in a rack which can only be reached using a forklift you have very limited access to them but this is usually reflected in the price.

How easy is it to load/unload my items?
Different facilities offer different benefits when it comes to loading and unloading your items. If you choose to store in a shipping container you can usually drive right up to the doors, making unloading very easy. If you choose to go with a self storage unit they will usually have a roller door which allows you to drive into the building. This means that you may have to carry your items a little further but you do have the benefit of being able to unload indoors, which can be a real blessing when it comes to the British climate.

How long do I want my storage for?
The minimum contract for most companies tends to be one week. However, some companies offer a month long minimum contract. Most companies will also require at least a weeks’ notice when you leave so check ahead and make sure you only pay for the length of storage you require. If you are unsure of how long you will be staying, most companies will offer a rolling contract. Some companies will offer discounts for long stays and upfront payments. For example, SureStore Self Storage offers up to 20% off for pre-pay contracts and 20% off for fixed minimum periods.

What size room do I need?
Standard shipping containers used for storage are usually 20ft (6.1m) long by 8ft (2.44m) wide so you don’t get much choice of size.

Self storage units come in a range of sizes from cupboard size to warehouse. Most self storage facilities construct their rooms to utilise all of the space in their building so you will often find lots of different, non-standard sized rooms. This means you will only pay for the space that you need.

Crates tend to range in size but are generally smaller than the majority of self storage units and much smaller than shipping containers so should only be considered for small amounts of storage.

If you’re not sure how much space your items will take up, we recommend you take a look at SureStore’s room size guide.

How fragile are my items?
If you are planning to store fragile items then self storage units are usually your best bet. Crates have to be handled by forklift and could therefore take knocks while shipping containers are exposed to the extremes of weather. Most shipping containers are watertight but there is the possibility of condensation build-up on hot days and they can freeze during the winter which could cause irrevocable damage to some items. Damp can not only ruin non-waterproof items like photographs and important documents but can warp furniture and damage paintwork or lacquer. Being inside a warehouse, self storage units are protected from the elements making them a safer choice for fragile items.

How much do I want to pay?
If you’re looking for the most cost-effective storage then storage crates are usually the cheapest option reflecting the smaller size and the minimum access. Shipping containers are also usually fairly inexpensive and give you more space. Self storage units are at the more premium end of the market but this reflects the added benefits of lighting, heating and extra security.

Do I want to pay for insurance?
Some storage facilities require you to insure your items as part of your rental agreement either through the facility or with an external insurer. It’s always a good idea to check as this can add a fairly substantial sum to your fees.


If you ask yourself all these questions, you should have a clear idea of what you need from your storage facility. Now all that’s left to do is to call up your local storage company and check that they offer everything you need. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make sure you get the right type of storage for your needs. Happy storing!