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How to find the best self-storage

Running low on space? Choose the right storage facility to keep your stuff safe.

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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. With so many self-storage operators, which facilities and options are right for you?

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Location

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

  • 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 for a cheaper deal.

Accessibility: ground floor, lifts and more

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. A good facility should have:

  • Regular security guard patrols
  • CCTV cameras
  • Key or PIN access control to the building itself
  • Back-to-base alarms on individual units (at least on some units, so that you can book one of these units if needed)
  • Regular checks to make sure units 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 for wine, art and more

If you're planning on storing wine, for example, consider a climate-controlled unit. If you've got important documents, collectables or fine art, some storage facilities will have special units that are both temperature and humidity-controlled. Other types of specialised storage units are also available, such as for firearms which have strict legal storage requirements, and large units for cars and boats.

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. 

Most major moving companies will have experience in packing items into a storage unit, but it can depend which people you get on the day. An experienced 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. Movers usually have their own blankets to help protect larger items such as furniture, but it will help if you have your own.
  • Source cardboard boxes that are sturdy, stable and similarly-sized, so you can stack them up without too much trouble.
  • Invest in a good padlock for the storage unit door to ensure your stuff stays safe. Storage companies often have padlocks for sale if you need one. All-steel padlocks are generally considered stronger than padlocks with a brass body. Shrouded padlocks are a good high-security option; these cover most of the shackle – the U-shaped steel loop – with a steel casing to make it harder to break. Check that the unit's door latch or bolt is also in good condition and slides home securely; no point in buying a good padlock if the door itself can be easily defeated.

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.
  7. Get a good padlock for the unit door.