How Big Does My Storage Unit Need To Be?

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Since the birth of the box truck people have been asking, “How big of a rental truck do I need?” But the same question now goes for the rising trend of renting a self-storage unit. The answer, of course, is no different.

It depends on how much stuff you have.

To help you figure that out, we need to ask one question: how big is your home?

While no two homes are exactly alike, there are some reliable estimates for how much storage space your home requires.

how big should my storage unit be
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For example, on the graph above, a heavily-furnished studio apartment (or a lightly-furnished one-bedroom) will require between 50 sq. ft.-75 sq. ft. of storage space, while a two-bedroom house or a three-bedroom apartment is looking at a 150 sq. ft. or more, on average.

To help you get a clearer idea of how much space your stuff might require, check out this cool storage calculator our friends over at PODS have created.

how big should my storage unit be
PODS storage calculator

Protip: Packing your storage unit efficiently saves space and, therefore, money. Hiring moving labor for a couple of hours may save you hundreds in unneeded storage fees.

Other Frequently Asked Questions About Storage Units

How much do storage units cost?

Again, how much storage units cost depends on how much stuff you’ll be storing and for how long.

Our friends over at Sparefoot tell us that a 10’ x 10’ unit averages $95.00 a month.

It may depend on what kind of storage you need for your things. Common types of storage units include:

  • Temperature control
  • Climate control
  • 24-hour access
  • Simple exterior-access garage-like unit

(To some extent, the price will also be impacted by where you live. In short, California costs more than Kansas.)

Packing your storage unit efficiently saves space and, therefore, money. Hiring moving labor for a couple of hours may save you hundreds in unneeded storage fees.

The bad news is that no matter what size unit you rent, storage does not come much cheaper than that. Again, your cost may differ, depending on a variety of factors.

But the good news is self-storage costs actually seem to be decreasing after reaching their peak in 2017.

What can you not put in a storage unit?

Animals, food, soil, and stuff that can catch fire.

Okay, there’s more to it than that, so let’s run down the list.

  • Animals – Alive or dead, a big no-no. (Stuffed animals, like your childhood Snoopy? No problem.) Animal food should also be kept out of storage
  • Food – Only the canned stuff. Some folks will say dry pasta and rice is okay. We take a more cautionary approach. Eat it, give it to your neighbor, or donate it to your local soup kitchen or food bank
  • Flammables – Basically anything that is used for fuel (e.g., propane, gasoline, lighter fluid, camping stove fuel cans), anything meant to be lit (e.g., lamp oil, fireworks, matches), or anything under pressure (spray paint, hair spray, cooking oil, cheez whiz). Paint, paint thinner, fertilizer, motor oil, car batteries, cleaning products, ammonia and bleach will also run you afoul of your self-storage facility guidelines. If you aren’t sure, check!
  • Plants – All of them, along with soil, peat moss, seeds, sprouts, bulbs, even dried flowers. Likewise, check any outdoor/gardening equipment for dirt and moisture. A little leftover water in a watering can or a garden hose can lead to mold, bacteria, and some nasty smells over time
  • Yourself – That’s right. It is absolutely illegal to live in a storage unit, or even work out of one part-time (in case you were wondering)

Protip: (Non-flammable) liquids are often given the okay, but on the off-chance something leaks you’ll decide too late that it wasn’t worth it.

how big should my storage unit be

What size storage unit do I need for a 1-bedroom apartment (or my dorm room)?

~ 5 ft. x 10 ft. Unit. (50 sq. ft.)

As the graphic up top suggests, if you have a studio or a one-bedroom apartment, you’ll also have no problem fitting everything into a hundred square foot unit.

What size storage unit do I need for a 2-bedroom apartment?

~ 10 ft. x 10 ft. unit (100 sq. ft)

Likewise, a 10’ x 10’ unit might accommodate a moderately-furnished two-bedroom apartment.

What size storage unit do I need for a 2- or 3-bedroom house?

~ 10 ft. x 15 ft. unit (150 sq. ft.) OR 10 ft. x 20 ft. unit (200 sq. ft.)

This will depend on the density of your place, which is why you may need to use a calculator to double-check.

Can I make sure how much space I need at home?

Whatever you’re planning on storing, help yourself visualize how all that stuff will fit (or not) by marking off a 10’ x 10’ corner of floor with masking tape.

Then start piling your world into that corner. It’s certainly easier if you’ve already packed up your belongings into boxes and disassembled your bed, but even if you haven’t you can still get a good idea of what a hundred square feet looks like. From there you’ll be able to make a more educated guess.

Note: storage units may vary a bit in height, but your standard 8’ high ceiling makes for a reliable model, giving you an idea how much you can cram into that taped-off corner of your living room or bedroom if you stack stuff up to the ceiling.

If you have a couple of moving pros handling the job, your chances of everything fitting in a 10’x10′ storage unit increases.

A 10’x10′ unit might also be the go-to size for storing all that miscellaneous stuff that won’t stack up nice and neat, like :

  • Bicycles
  • Sporting equipment
  • Weight sets
  • Patio furniture
  • Lawnmower
  • Snow blower
  • Skis and snowboards
  • Golf clubs

Can I fit a car into a 10 x 15 unit?

Well, guess what? It depends. How big is your car?

You probably need around 200 sq. ft.

But does the self-storage facility allow vehicle storage? Most don’t, but there are a few speciality storage companies that may accommodate this. And of course, it’ll likely need to be drained. Do your research on storage businesses near you first.

Are there storage unit discounts?

Self-storage is a highly-competitive industry, and those competing for your business often throw in attractive extras, such as giving you your first month heavily-discounted (if not free), complimentary use of one of their moving vehicles, and off-season specials.

However, there is always fine print. Know what you are actually committing to, and for how long, in exchange for those freebies.

Which is better: Moving Storage Containers or Self-Storage?

how big should my storage unit be

Storage units can be great, but what if all your stuff could exist on your own driveway?

Storage Container Pros

  • Totally portable. A company like PODS will drop your storage container off at your home
  • Extremely convenient access. (Especially if you’re doing an office remodel)
  • Easy to pair with labor. Moving companies work with companies like PODS and 1-800-PACK-RAT all the time and sometimes offer discounts
  • Storage facilities (usually) available. If needed, they can also pick it up when it’s full and drive it away to their own storage facility. (It will probably cost you around seventy-five bucks for the storage fee)

If you have a couple of moving pros handling the job, your chances of everything fitting in a 10’x10′ storage unit increases.

Storage Container Cons

  • Moving costs. Here’s the thing thing though: your PODS unit will ultimately cost a lot more upfront, since you are paying for, well, moving services. If you want to see how much more, check out Moving101 for up-to-the-day storage container prices
  • Space big enough to accommodate that container. If you don’t have a driveway, and can’t get permission to have a container placed curbside or in your building’s parking area, you may be out of luck. Plus, if you opt to keep your things outdoors, the weather may be a variable, depending on where you live

Which is better?

In terms of pure convenience, portable storage is the way to go, especially if you are planning on just leaving it all in there for the duration of your storage contract. If you are storing stuff for a long period of time, and might want to get stuff out from time to time, a self-storage unit will save you money while giving you an extra amount of freedom.

Storage Unit Protips

  • Inquire early during the busy summer months. There’s more available in both numbers of available units and sizes
  • If you’re moving first, load stuff going into storage last (or first) on your rental truck. Besides making sense, having all that stuff in one (neat, tight, safe) pile gives you an idea of how much space it requires meaning you can rent the right size storage unit
  • Leave a little wiggle room if you plan on – or think you might need to – access your stuff while it’s in storage. If you plan on storing everything and leaving it until you move it all out, you can afford to pack it in tight, saving space and possibly money

What’s a Moving Container? A Guide for Everything You Need to Know

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If you’re planning a move and have done the slightest bit of research, you might be wondering, “What’s a moving container?” Most of us can understand rental trucks, which we often see passing by us on the highway.

Well if you’re still confused, think of moving containers as the younger, hipper cousins to rental trucks.

Moving containers (commonly, but incorrectly called moving pods given “PODS” is a specific brand) are basically just portable storage units. They are metal or wood containers in which you can store your stuff.

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Because they are portable, they can be loaded onto a truck for transport down the block (or across the country!). Moving containers make it ultra-convenient for people to load, pack and transport their stuff.

They can be delivered to your home or office, where it remains on the grounds while someone loads it up with your stuff. When you’re ready to move, you can call the company to have a professional driver pick it up and deliver it to the next location. There, you unload the goods and move in! You might have seen them on the grounds of your neighbor’s home or local businesses.

Once you know what they are, you’ll start spotting them everywhere.

What Do They Look Like?

It varies, but by and large, moving containers just look like big boxes. Container sizes vary. Some are as big as 16 feet long, while others are as small as 7 feet long. Their heights differ, too. Some are skinny and taller to take advantage of the height to pack in more stuff. Others are shorter, which is really convenient for loading but, of course, might not allow you to fit as many things.

Where Do I Go to Get a Moving Container?

PODS claims to be the founder of this niche in the industry, and it is arguably the best known of the container companies. But there are other big names, including 1-800-PACK-RAT, Smartbox, and Go Mini’s, to name a few. Even U-Haul has gotten in on the act with U-Box.

What Are the Differences Between Companies?

PODS offer customers the chance to rent up to three different sized containers based on their needs. Others, such as Smartbox, rent out just one size container. (In their case, it’s 8 feet wide and 7 feet tall.) Containers are also made of different materials, depending on which company you choose. PODS are steel-framed. U-Pack’s containers are made of “weatherproof metal.” Some others are made of wood and usually include some weatherproof type of covering instead.

People frequently debate the merits of each type of container. Some say the metal containers – the likes of which can be found at PODS and 1-800-PACK-RAT – are best because of their sturdy construction and ability to stand up to any kind of weather. Others argue they lack air circulation, which can potentially cause mold, mildew, or at the very least, musty smells. The wooden containers, such as the pressure treated plywood ones that U-Haul/U-Box rents, might allow for more ventilation, but they are not necessarily as weather resistant.

If you really want to dig into all the pros and cons of each company, including average prices, reviews, pictures and more, check out the moving container page at Moving101.

How Much Do Moving Containers Cost?

Moving containers can be pretty affordable relative to other moving services. They are especially good for those moving to and from smaller homes and apartments. 

Prices can range between around $500 (to move stuff to and from a small home or apartment in a local move) to $5,000 (for multiple containers making a long-distance move with many items from a large home). The cost really depends on the amount of stuff you plan on transporting and the distance the driver will be traveling.

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HireAHelper.com can save up to 40%, compared to traditional interstate moving companies. Click here to learn how.

How do you figure out exactly how much your containers would cost? These are the questions to ask:

How Big Is My Place I’m Moving Out From?

When you have a bigger home, you generally need to rent more containers, which of course elevates the price.

In addition, you have to be able to park these containers somewhere without violating local ordinances; with multiple large containers, you might have trouble—especially in a city where parking can be challenging. Sometimes, more containers also require more drivers or trucks. This all matters when gathering estimates.

Where Am I Moving To and From?

As you might imagine, the cost also depends on which company you choose, based on which container is better for your stuff and if they’re available in your area.

For example, PODS typically charges a little more than $600 for a local move and more than $3,000 for a long-distance move. On the other hand, Door to Door charges about $1,700 for local moves and more than $2,300 for a longer move. (UPDATE: Door to Door has been purchased by U-Haul and absorbed into their U-Box service.)

Moving101 Container Price Comparison

Clearly, all the prices are more than you would spend on a rental truck that you would drive yourself. That makes sense if you think about it. Companies are baking in the costs of the professional driver, their moving trucks, maintenance and fuel. (The cost will also rise the longer you keep the container for storage, as well as the more stuff you have to pack.)

Generally, moving containers remain economical for many of those planning a move and looking for a little more convenience and storage. It will cost more than a full-fledged DIY Move that includes renting a moving truck, but it won’t break the bank in the way a Full-Service Move would cost.

When Would I Use a Moving Container?

Moving containers are a good fit for people who want to conveniently load and unload their stuff in a specific location, on their own schedules. (There’s also no question it’s a better fit for those going a shorter distance and moving less stuff.) But there are plenty of times a portable storage is your best option.

Let’s say you can’t get the key to your place until the 25th of the month, but your lease ends on the 14th. What do you do? You call a moving container company.

How Does Booking a Moving Container Work?

Then typically, you go online or get on the phone, pick out a container, then schedule a date to drop it off wherever your stuff is. A sales representative will help you schedule based on how long you plan to keep the container for loading. You might ask about keeping it longer for storage purposes, in which case you can keep it on the grounds of the old place, or have it transported to the new place if you can get permission from owners or those moving out. Or you could even keep the container in one of the company’s storage facilities if they offer one.

You might need the container a few days to load it up. This is one of the differentiating factors between moving containers and trucks (and sales reps love to point this out). After all, rental trucks usually lock you into a schedule with little to no wiggle room.  

But there’s a catch with that flexible schedule. Sure, you can keep the container for long periods of time. However, if you keep containers longer than one month, you will pay much more than the original estimate because moving container companies generally charge by the month.

That means you have one month to load your stuff, schedule a pickup and delivery at the next destination, unload, and finally plan for the final container pick up.

About that pickup: usually, the container company sends out a driver to load up your container onto a big truck and drive it to where it needs to go. Another reason people might find containers appealing is the fact they don’t have to drive a van or big rig themselves. You leave the driving to professionals. Anyone hesitant to maneuver one of those big trucks on a highway or a long distance could see this as a major selling point.

Can My Movers Help Me with Moving Containers Too?

Yes! Professionals can load and unload containers just as they would a rental truck. You just have to ask!

Moving containers can be a smart choice for people who are looking to make a Full-Service Move at a fraction of the cost, or especially to pull off a Hybrid Move. It’s also a great option for those who need storage. Getting professional help moving can make the move actually not stressful. If you want to save your back and your relationships (by not having to ask family and friends for help), then they’re worth consideration.  

What If I’m Moving Long Distance?

Most container companies are actually excellent alternatives to traditional moving companies, since you can save a lot more money and transport is still included in your cost.

The best way to do a stress free, long distance move while still saving money is by hiring local moving labor on both ends of your move. This is called “Hybrid Long Distance”, and HireAHelper employs people who are trained professionals in getting you the best possible price point – sometimes as much as 40% cheaper than those big vans you see on the highway.

Click here to learn more about how to cut down the price for a long distance container quote.

Where Should I Start?

  • The first step is learning about the different companies and types of containers they have. Check out Moving101 for all the info you’d ever possibly need. Since every moving container company’s reviews and prices are gathered there in one spot, you can easily find your best option for you, based on your budget, availability and type of container.
  • The second step is to call up the sales representatives to get the low down on their availability, find the best fit for you, and book it!
  • The last step is to decide if you’re going to hire professionals to help you complete tasks like loading and unloading the container. Remember, don’t feel boxed in. You have the power to choose how long they work for and what items they move for you.

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With a little planning, moving containers fit nicely into any Full-Service Moving hack or Hybrid Move. You can keep your stuff somewhere while you’re moving, or have someone drive your stuff to wherever you need it. If you’re moving, you’d be a little silly to not compare prices and see if a container could save you a lot of money, or if using one would just be way more convenient.

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