This is a guest article by Christine Bilger from Quizzle/Zing.
Have you ever watched “Storage Wars”? It’s a real-life series on A&E which follows professional buyers as they scour repossessed storage units for treasures. The buyers on the show will bid hundreds of dollars for the lockers without even knowing what’s inside. It’s pretty hit-or-miss. The lucky ones find a treasure trove and cash in on a hefty profit. The not-so-lucky ones usually just end up with a heap of old garbage. In my opinion, the show is completely mind-numbing, but there’s one element that really puzzles me: why the heck are there so many abandoned storage lockers?
It’s not exactly cheap to rent off-site storage. When I was looking up rates for self-storage in metro Detroit, I was blown away by how expensive it is. One storage facility near me sells spaces that range from $50 a month for a 5×5 non-climate-controlled unit to a 1,701-square-foot monstrosity (non-climate controlled) for almost $900 a month! With those kinds of prices, I can’t believe people would store anything for more than a month or two.
Yet, storage facilities have tons of renters who will secure spaces for extended periods of time. Many companies run specials offering “3 free months” or a similar perk for paying in advance for your extended reservation. That’s how they hook you.
Yes, renting self-storage is sometimes a necessity. People who are relocating or downsizing may need to use it for a short period of time. However, it seems that most people who rent storage are doing so because they need a place to store their excess junk. Those storage lockers you see on “Storage Wars” are not usually filled with things people actually need or use; they’re filled with junk, junk and more junk.
Still don’t believe that self-storage units are a bad idea? Here are six reasons (okay, so maybe a few less than a million!) that you should find a different place to store your stuff.
1. You’re spending money to keep things you don’t need. If you don’t touch it for years, chances are you don’t need it. If you’re holding on to things because “they might be valuable one day,” you’re truly fooling yourself. By the time you’ve paid to store it “until it’s valuable,” you won’t be making money on it, since you wasted all that money on storage.
2. Your stored items might be ruined. We’ve already established that storage lockers are expensive. Climate-controlled storage lockers can be even pricier. Do you think a non-climate-controlled environment is the best place to store “valuable” antiques, collectibles, books, and furniture? Probably not. It won’t take long for extreme heat, cold, or humidity to rough up your possessions: you can expect an array of physical damage from warping and cracking to mold and chemical deterioration.
3. Storage fees are financially draining. Expect to pay at least $50 for a small unit. That $50 turns into $600 after one year. It’s $1,200 after two years, and $3,000 after five! Think of all the new things you could buy instead of spending money storing old stuff.
4. Having extra storage allows you to buy more stuff. People find it necessary to rent storage lockers because they don’t have enough room at home to store their belongings. Storage units can be an enabler for hoarders since they prevent people from ever having to throw anything out. Storing belongings offsite allows you more room in your house to acquire stuff you probably don’t need. If you truly need extra storage space, take all that money you’re spending on storage, and invest it in a bigger house! If you disagree, check out this eye-opening article from Wise Bread.
5. It might get stolen. If it doesn’t get ruined by weather, it might just get stolen. Storage facilities don’t always have security personnel on hand, and depending on the construction of your storage unit, breaking in might not be that hard.
6. Unpaid bills = repossessed storage unit. Let’s turn to that question I had earlier: why are there so many abandoned storage units? After doing a little bit of digging, I found that each state has different requirements for dealing with abandoned storage lockers. In California, for example, tenants must be given at least 15 days to reclaim “abandoned” property. Only after the rental facility has given the tenant adequate time to retrieve the items can they put the items up for sale. It’s important to consider that there are many unfortunate circumstances which can easily lead to unpaid bills, and therefore, cause your items to be sold without your knowledge. If you become severely ill, for instance, you might not be able to get your stuff out before it’s too late. If you pass away, your loved ones may not even find out about the locker before the items are sold. Long story short: you don’t have the same level of control over your possessions as you would if you stored them at home.
My best advice to those of you that rent storage lockers is to get out now! There might be some unique instances in which self-storage is a good idea, but for the average American, it’s just more money you’re sending down the drain. Evaluate your own circumstances and determine if self-storage is really a smart financial decision for you.
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Updated September 11, 2012 and originally published September 6, 2012.