Storage Unit Prices Keep Going Up. Is There a Better Way To Store My Possessions?

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Storage units seem like a fun idea — and not just because of that reality show “Storage Wars.”

You get a climate-controlled unit that you can stack with your stuff however you want. And you can visit the unit any time you want. All for a low, low price.

At least, that used to be the selling point. These days, storage units have become popular roll-up businesses. Conglomerates have been buying up independent locations and turning them into profit-printing machines. So in some cases, prices have soared out of control.

What do you do if all the storage units around you are getting too expensive? Is there a better, cheaper way to store your things?

That’s what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.

My Storage Units Raised Prices Too Quickly. Is There a Better Alternative?

The storage units where I live keep raising prices. Is there a Clark-approved alternative?

That’s what a listener wondered.

Asked a Clark listener from Texas: “I work remotely and am planning to buy an RV and travel for a year or two. I’m into genealogy and have accumulated a number of irreplaceable family mementos which are stowed in a climate-controlled storage unit.

“I have seen an unprecedented increase in the cost of storage in recent years. My Austin unit went from $120 to $250 a month in three years’ time. The one I have in North Texas has gone from $90 to $160 in 1.5 years.

“As there are no rent stabilization or rent control laws in Texas, landlords can raise the rent by as much as they wish without notice. I was just wondering if you had any suggestions on a more economical and predictable way of storing my possessions safely?”

Clark doesn’t think you should use a storage unit at all. Especially for items that have strong sentimental value to you that can’t be replaced with an insurance claim check.

“So first of all, is it safe to have these very precious items in a storage unit? I don’t think so,” Clark says. “Storage units, because they are generally unstaffed so much of the 24 hours, they are a target for thieves.

“And these things are precious to you and they’re not going to be of much value to a thief. But if they take them, they’re gone.

“You can buy insurance for the possessions in a storage unit. But how do you value the sentimental [part]? And what value could you get for older items like these? So things that are very precious and valuable to somebody, having them in a storage unit, I don’t like it.”

What Should You Do Instead of Paying for a Storage Facility?

Clark has made his position on storage units clear. Especially for sentimental items. What does he suggest instead?

“My preference usually is if you’ve got a really good friend who’s got space, pay them to rent space in their basement if they have one, garage, whatever, as long as it’s temperature-controlled,” Clark says. “[It] would be better than having it in a storage facility.”


Why Long-Term Storage Unit Tenants Get Treated Poorly in Terms of Cost

The Clark listener described storage unit monthly prices that in one case have more than doubled in three years.

That’s “normal business operation,” Clark says. If he walked into your Austin storage unit, or the one in North Texas, as a prospective tenant, “odds are I’m being offered a unit at a fraction of the cost of what you’re now paying.”

“Storage unit operators treat existing tenants as sitting ducks,” Clark says. “Because they know the hassle of you picking up and moving somewhere else where rent is lower. So they just run your rent up higher and higher and higher and higher.

“And then if you tell them, ‘Oh man, I can’t afford this rent. I’m going to have to move.’ Then they might offer you a cheaper deal to stay there.”

Storage facilities also are allowed to change the rent month to month unless you prepay (usually for a year).

“But as far as having your stuff in the storage facilities, your words [were] ‘irreplaceable family mementos,'” Clark says. “Irreplaceable not financially but emotionally and sentimentally? That’s why I don’t like them in one of these storage facilities.”

Final Thoughts

If something is valuable, you can get an insurance policy and replace it if it gets stolen from your storage unit. But storage units are risky for sentimental items.

Long-term tenants can get charged more. The companies know raising prices little by little may not be enough for you to go through the hassle of moving to another facility. And they’re able to change prices since the agreements are monthly unless you prepay.

Paying a friend or family member you trust is a great alternative.