With a growing population and trend towards high-density apartment living, more Australians are turning to self-storage as a short- or long-term solution for lack of space. Given there's a large number of self-storage operators and facilities both in the inner city and out, how should you go about finding the facility and options that are right for you?

Location

Storage facilities are available in a variety of areas, but there's a big difference between what you'll pay to house your stuff close to the city centre compared with its outskirts.

  • If you'll need access on a regular basis, it may well be worth paying extra to have it closer to your home or office.
  • If you need storage for an extended period, and you won't need to access your stuff, search further afield.

Type of unit

When you visit the facility, make a note of inclines, uneven surfaces or steps on the way to the unit. Units may be located on the ground floor, directly accessible from a vehicle, or situated on a higher floor with lift access.

If you have a lot of bulky and heavy items for storage, it might be worth paying more for a directly accessible or ground floor unit.

If you're planning on renting a lift-accessible unit, check for gaps between the lift and the floor – what may seem like just a small step for man may become a giant leap for man-pushing-heavy-trolley.

Security

Ask about the security features at the storage facility. Are they patrolled by security guards? Do they have cameras installed? Are there regular checks to make sure lockers haven't been broken into?

Insurance

It's important to consider worst-case scenarios when it comes to storage. What happens if there's a fire or pest infestation, or water damage? Who's responsible for theft? In many cases, storage centres absolve themselves of responsibility for loss or damage of your stuff or place low limits on their liability, so it may be worth checking whether your home and contents insurer will cover your stuff while in storage. 

Self-storage operators may also sell insurance for loss incurred, with premiums based on the value of the goods you're storing.

Specialist units

If you're planning on storing wine, for example, consider a climate-controlled unit. If you've got important documents, collectibles or fine art, some storage facilities will have special units that are both temperature and humidity-controlled.

Pick up and drop off storage

If you're likely to find travelling to a storage location difficult (if you don't have a driver's license, for example), some operators now deliver a storage crate to your home. You pack it up (or pay them to do it for you), and they take it away to their facility.

Specialist movers

Depending on how much you have to store and how difficult the job is, you might consider a specialist mover. Some storage companies will be able to provide one for you, but whoever you go with, make sure they have experience in storage. A specialist will be able to make the most of your unit size and may well save you money in the long term by being able to fit more stuff into less space than you could yourself.

What to bring on moving day

Consider the extras you'll need to keep costs low. Collect blankets, bubble wrap, newspaper, old sheets and towels to use for wrapping and padding your stuff. Source cardboard boxes that are sturdy, stable and similarly-sized, so you can stack them up without too much trouble. And invest in a good lock to ensure your stuff stays safe.

Self-storage checklist

  1. Always inspect the facility before signing your storage contract.
  2. Ask to see a few units for the sake of comparison.
  3. Make a note of inclines, uneven surfaces or steps on the way to the units.
  4. Check for gaps between the lift and the floor of a lift-accessible unit.
  5. If the stuff you're storing is valuable, make sure it is insured either with your home and contents policy or independently.
  6. Separate heavy things from light and fragile items to protect them against scrapes and scratches.