Self storage (a shorthand for "self-service storage," and also known as "device storage") is an industry that rents
storage space (such as rooms,
A locker is a small, usually narrow storage compartment. They are commonly found in dedicated cabinets, very often in large numbers, in various public places such as locker rooms, workplaces, elementary schools, middle and high schools, tr ...
s, containers, and/or outdoor space), also known as "storage units," to tenants, usually on a short-term basis (often month-to-month). Self-storage tenants include businesses and individuals.
When discussing why a storage space is rented, industry experts often refer to "4Ds of life" (death, divorce, downsizing, and dislocation; the latter can refer to either the renter relocating to another area and needing space to store items until they can be moved to the new location, or a subsequent marriage resulting in the couple having duplicate items).
Self-storage facilities rent space on a short-term basis (often month-to-month, though options for longer-term leases are available) to individuals (usually storing household goods; nearly all jurisdictions prohibit the space from being used as a residence) or to businesses (usually storing excess inventory or archived records). Some facilities offer boxes, locks, and packaging supplies for sale to assist tenants in packing and safekeeping their goods, and may also offer truck rentals (or may allow free use of a truck for a new tenant).
Most storage facilities offer
Insurance is a means of protection from financial loss in which, in exchange for a fee, a party agrees to compensate another party in the event of a certain loss, damage, or injury. It is a form of risk management, primarily used to hedge ...
for purchase; also, the lessor may be covered by their own insurance policy (if such policy has coverage for items stored off the premises of the insured) or may purchase insurance to cover the items (which the facility may offer as a service through a third-party carrier, and in some cases may require the lessor to purchase as a condition of rental).
The rented spaces are secured by the tenant's own lock and key. Unlike in a
A warehouse is a building for storing goods. Warehouses are used by manufacturers, importers, exporters, wholesalers, transport businesses, customs, etc. They are usually large plain buildings in industrial parks on the outskirts of citi ...
, self-storage facility employees do not have casual access to the contents of the space (and, thus, the facility is generally not liable for theft). A self-storage facility does not take possession or control of the contents of the space unless a
A lien ( or ) is a form of security interest granted over an item of property to secure the payment of a debt or performance of some other obligation. The owner of the property, who grants the lien, is referred to as the ''lienee'' and the per ...
is imposed for non-payment of rent, or if the unit is not locked the facility may lock the unit until the tenant provides their own lock.
Although there is historical evidence of publicly available storage in ancient China, modern self-storage facilities (in which the tenant has exclusive access to the storage space) did not begin to appear until the late 1960s. The first self-storage facility chains
opened in Texas.
This was often helped by the fact that most homes in Texas do not have
A basement or cellar is one or more floors of a building that are completely or partly below the ground floor. It generally is used as a utility space for a building, where such items as the furnace, water heater, breaker panel or fuse ...
s, which are often used for storage.
The first self-storage facility in
Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in its own right because of its great physical size and the weight of its history and traditions. Europe is also considered a subcontinent of Eurasia and it is located entire ...
was started in the United Kingdom by Doug Hampson, and opened in central London in 1979.
Called Abbey Self Storage, it would become the first self-storage chain in Europe. "... it was Doug Hampson who gave Britain the modern self-storage industry, with its bright, clean corridors and endless rows of brightly-coloured doors. In the industry he is widely credited with the enviable title of the "father of UK self-storage".
Modern storage facilities grew slowly through the '90s, at which time demand outpaced supply and caused a rush of new self-storage developments. From 2000 to 2005, over 3,000 new facilities were built every year in America.
Self storage today
At year-end 2019, there were 47,539 self-storage facilities in the
The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territor ...
on industrial and commercial
land parcels. There is more than 1.9 billion square feet of available self-storage in space in U.S. The six largest publicly traded storage operators (four
A real estate investment trust (REIT) is a company that owns, and in most cases operates, income-producing real estate. REITs own many types of commercial real estate, including office and apartment buildings, warehouses, hospitals, shopping cente ...
s, and U-Haul
own or operate approximately 18% of self-storage facilities.
The global industry was worth 48.02 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. More recently, in many metropolitan
A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routledge. It can be de ...
Competition is a rivalry where two or more parties strive for a common goal which cannot be shared: where one's gain is the other's loss (an example of which is a zero-sum game). Competition can arise between entities such as organisms, ind ...
among storage companies is fierce, better parcels of land near residential
and commercial areas are being converted into self-storage once approved by zoning panels. Companies are becoming more adept at manufacturing these modular storage units, allowing operators to get up and running quickly. To support the need, businesses like PODS
are expected to enter the modular construction effort as well.
or on-demand storage is where customers' items are kept together in a warehouse rather than providing each customer with a storage unit.
Self-storage businesses lease a variety of unit sizes to residential and business customer/tenants. Popular unit sizes (with width shown first and depth shown second) include:
*, about the size of a large Telephone booth
*, about the size of a large
A walk-in closet (North American) or walk-in wardrobe ( UK) or dressing room is typically a large closet, wardrobe or room that is primarily intended for storing clothes, footwear etc., and being used as a changing room. As the name suggests, wa ...
*, about the size of a child's bedroom (as of 2015, 10x10's are the most common storage unit size, making up 16% of the distribution in the U.S.),
*, about the size of a living room,
*, about the size of a one-car garage,
*, about the size of a large master bedroom, and
*, about the size of a two-car garage.
The storage units are typically window-less, walled with concrete cinder blocks
or corrugated metal
, and lockable
by the renter. Each unit is usually accessed by opening a roll-up metal door, which is usually about the same size as a one-car garage door (smaller units may be accessed by a hinged metal door). A controlled access
facility may employ
A security guard (also known as a security inspector, security officer, or protective agent) is a person employed by a government or private party to protect the employing party's assets (property, people, equipment, money, etc.) from a variety ...
s, security cameras
, individual unit door
An alarm device is a mechanism that gives an audible, visual or other kind of alarm signal to alert someone to a problem or condition that requires urgent attention.
Alphabetical musical instruments
The word ''alarm'' comes from t ...
and some means of electronic gate access such as a
A keypad is a block or pad of buttons set with an arrangement of digits, symbols, or alphabetical letters. Pads mostly containing numbers and used with computers are numeric keypads. Keypads are found on devices which require mainly numeric in ...
A proximity card or prox card also known as a key card or keycard is a contactless smart card which can be read without inserting it into a reader device, as required by earlier magnetic stripe cards such as credit cards and contact type sma ...
. A few facilities even use
Biometrics are body measurements and calculations related to human characteristics. Biometric authentication (or realistic authentication) is used in computer science as a form of identification and access control. It is also used to identify i ...
thumbprint or hand scanners to ensure that access is granted only to those that rent. Self-storage facility operators frequently provide 24-hour access, climate controlled storage, outdoor storage for RVs and boats, and lights or power outlets inside the storage unit as amenities to set themselves apart from competitors. Some storage facilities have open roofs i.e. a wire mesh roof which are not that secure, compared to ones that have full covered tin roofs that provide added security and privacy.
In rural and suburban areas most facilities contain multiple single-story buildings with mostly drive-up units which have natural ventilation but are not climate-controlled. These buildings are referred to as "traditional" storage facilities. Climate-controlled interior units are becoming more popular in suburban areas. In urban areas many facilities have multi-story buildings using
An elevator or lift is a cable-assisted, hydraulic cylinder-assisted, or roller-track assisted machine that vertically transports people or freight between floors, levels, or decks of a building, vessel, or other structure. They ar ...
s or freight lifts to move the goods to the upper floors. These facilities are often climate-controlled since they are comprised mostly, if not totally, of interior units. Warehouses or grocery stores are sometimes converted into self-storage facilities.
A loading dock or loading bay is an area of a building where goods vehicles (usually road or rail) are loaded and unloaded. They are commonly found on commercial and industrial buildings, and warehouses in particular. Loading docks may be exteri ...
s are sometimes provided on the ground floor. Also, complimentary rolling carts or moving dollies are sometimes provided to help the customers carry items to their units. Urban self-storage facilities might contain only a few floors in a much larger building; there are successful self-storage businesses co-located with
Manufacturing is the creation or production of goods with the help of equipment, labor, machines, tools, and chemical or biological processing or formulation. It is the essence of secondary sector of the economy. The term may refer ...
An office is a space where an organization's employees perform administrative work in order to support and realize objects and goals of the organization. The word "office" may also denote a position within an organization with specific ...
tenants and even public schools
One in ten U.S. households now rent a self-storage unit. The growing demand for self-storage in the U.S. is created by people moving (some 40 million people move each year according to U.S. Census data), and by various lifestyle transitions, such as marriage, divorce, retirement, a death in the family, etc. Recent surveys of self-storage companies indicate a positive trend in market demand and occupancy rate.
Over 54,000 self-storage facilities currently exist in the U.S. ranging from companies with a nationwide presence to companies with regional footprints or even stand-alone independent " mom and pop
Demand for storage space remains stable as of Q4 2015. The supply for self-storage is also relatively stable. Often, the process to build a new storage building is onerous and can take years. Additionally, this specific asset class often gets push back from communities, due to its nature.
The self-storage sector is highly fragmented, which is in contrast to other asset classes in the industry. 80% of self-storage facilities are owned by individuals or small investors.
There is a belief amongst investors that the self-storage industry is recession-proof. This belief is supported by the 5.1% total return the sector delivered to investors in 2008 during The Great Recession
. The self-storage industry reported strong results during the
The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The novel virus was first identif ...
This is due to the fact that self-storage is considered to be an "essential business" in many jurisdictions so during a
A lockdown is a restriction policy for people, community or a country to stay where they are, usually due to specific risks (such as COVID-19) that could possibly harm the people if they move and interact freely.
The term is used for a prison ...
many facilities never closed and many people were reportedly panic buying
storage units to keep valuables safe from contamination.
Self storage worldwide
Self-storage or variations on the
A business model describes how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value,''Business Model Generation'', Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Alan Smith, and 470 practitioners from 45 countries, self-published, 2010 in economic, soc ...
are now found in many parts of the world. In 2014, FEDESSA, the Federation of European Self Storage Associations, published a report about the state of the self-storage industry in Europe. In this report, it was estimated that 975 facilities exist in the United Kingdom, 430 in France, 264 in The Netherlands, 210 in Spain, 131 in Germany, and 112 in Sweden. No other country in Europe has more than 100 facilities. Overall, the report estimates 2,391 total facilities in Europe, or about 75 million square feet of rentable storage space. This compares with over 52,000 facilities in the US (236 million square feet), and 1,100 facilities in Australia (39 million square feet). In the UK, charges are related to capacity in ft², transportation, hour/loading, with low-cost alternatives to traditional self-storage.
In the United States, self-storage facilities may hold storage auctions
or lien sales to vacate non-paying tenants according to their enforcement rights that are outlined within the lien law of each jurisdiction. In Canada, the process and legal requirements are outlined in the Repair and Storage Liens Act.
Facilities owners are generally required to first notify the tenant of the outstanding debt, commonly by certified or registered mail to the address on file with the facility. If the debt remains unpaid, the facility must then give public notice of the sale or auction, generally in a newspaper of general circulation
in most states, though some states may allow public notice of sales to be done via the internet. The tenant has the right to pay their outstanding bill at any time until the moment the auction begins and thus reclaim rights to the unit and their items; those units would be removed from the auction (which, in some cases, may result in the entire auction being cancelled).
The auctions/sales are open to the general public, with most bidders buying for the purpose of reselling for profit. Once the auction for a unit starts, the door to the unit is opened and potential bidders are allowed to view the contents only by looking in from the doorway; they may not step inside, touch, or move any of the contents prior to the auction. Generally, the spaces and their contents are sold "as is, where is" with no warranties or guarantees implied or provided, and the terms of sale are cash-only upon conclusion of the auction. The purchaser of a unit takes possession of its entire contents and is responsible for removing them within a set period of time. In some cases, the facility may allow the purchaser to rent the unit and/or charge a refundable deposit for cleaning of the unit once it has been emptied.
Certain jurisdictions require facility owners to immediately confiscate controlled items such as firearms if they are in plain sight within a delinquent unit. Also, a jurisdiction may require the purchaser to turn over some items (such as family photos and tax/business records) to the facility owner.
In the fall of 2010, two new television programs featuring storage auctions, '' Storage Wars
'' and '' Auction Hunters
'', were released. The popularity led to additional shows such as '' Storage Hunters
'', '' Storage Wars: Texas
'', and '' Storage Wars: New York
'' which helped increase the visibility and interest of storage auctions. '' Storage Wars: Canada
'' also debuted on the Outdoor Living Network in 2013.
* Compulsive hoarding
* Panic buying
* Self-storage box
Contexts for auctions