A Guide to College Storage

Once finals are finished, it's time to leave college for the freedom of summer. You might have a job or internship lined up, or you could be heading home to visit your parents and catch up with high school friends. Either way, you can't stay in the dorm, which means packing up all the clothes, books and other belongings you've accrued over the year and finding somewhere to store them all.

Key Points

  • 1 Start searching for your storage early, so you’re not trying to organize it while also studying for exams. College storage is popular so good self-storage units can fill up quickly. Getting in early means you can find the right storage for you.
  • 2 Make sure you choose the right size. Too small and you might have to pay for extra storage space. Too large and you’re paying for space you’re not using. Assess how much you have to store and make an informed decision about size.
  • 3 One way for you to save money is to share with a trusted friend. Splitting the cost for one unit can be very economical. Many self-storage companies only allow one name on the lease, though, so make sure you discuss payments with your friend before you move your things in.
  • 4 Insurance is important. No matter how good the storage company is, things can go wrong, from burglaries to fire or flood. Most self-storage places state you need to have insurance or pay for insurance through them. If you’ve been living in the dorms, your belongings may be covered under your parent’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, so check there first. If not, make sure your belongings are insured and don’t store anything valuable in the unit.

Most colleges don’t have storage available for students, or if they do, it’s very limited. You can pack everything in your car and store it in your parent’s garage for the summer, but that means driving it back in the fall. If your car or your parent’s house is small, that might not even be an option.

That’s where college storage comes in. It allows you to keep your belongings safe when you’re not at college, and you can collect it easily when the new semester starts. And it’s not just for the summer. Some college students use self-storage options for semesters abroad or even throughout the year if they have more than they can fit in their dorm room. Knowing how to find a good college storage option can mean that your items stay safe without you spending a fortune.

What is College Storage?

College storage is self-storage designed for college students. Although it can be used long-term, such as for a semester abroad, it generally refers to short-term storage over the summer holidays. Usually, college students rent relatively small units. A 5×5 unit is about the size of a walk-in closet and can store a love seat, home décor and some boxes. The other popular size is 5×10, which can fit some larger pieces of furniture, such as a bed, as well as boxes and other miscellaneous items. Students who live in apartments off-campus can also find larger units that fit all of their furniture and belongings.

College storage is a convenient option for most students who are studying out-of-state or in a different city, as it means they don’t need to drive home with full cars or hire a truck or movers for larger items. College storage is available in general self-storage facilities. These companies just market towards college students as summer approaches. However, some companies that specialize in college storage have started to spring up offering services geared towards the student market.

What Should You Look For in College Storage?

Most students look for price and convenience when it comes to their college storage. For price, make sure they offer month-by-month fees rather than a lock-in contract. Many storage facilities have discounts for college students and may offer free boxes, pick-up and delivery or free use of carts or dollies at the unit. Some may also refund part of the fees if you don’t use the unit for the whole month. If you plan to come back to school early, this can be a nice boost to your budget.

When you’re thinking about convenience, consider whether the storage is close to school. While storage close to campus does make getting your belongings easier, it can also be very popular, which may lead to higher prices. Sometimes looking for storage a little further out can lead to more savings, and if you won’t be going there weekly, the extra driving time may not matter. You may also want 24-hour access. You may not care about access hours while you’re away for the summer, but if you have to fit packing and unpacking the unit around finals or signing up for classes, flexible access may be useful.

Most smaller units used for college storage are in a building, rather than garage style storage. If your storage unit is on the third floor, make sure there’s a working elevator for you to use. Think about whether you need temperature or climate control because these are slightly different. Temperature control only adjusts the temperature in the unit, while climate-control also adjusts the humidity. If your college is in a temperate climate, the added control may not be needed. However, in humid climates moisture may affect books and clothes, and in very hot temperatures leather or wooden furniture may be impacted.

Finally, consider the security of the facility. At the very minimum make sure there are fences around garage-style facilities and that doors are secure in buildings. Security cameras are another nice addition as they can dissuade burglary. At some facilities, management live on the premises, so there is always someone there to monitor the buildings. Others may have regular security patrols. Either way, decide how much security you’re comfortable with and choose a facility that you trust to keep your belongings safe.

Are There Danger Signs to Avoid?

When you first start looking for college storage, make sure you read the reviews. Ask friends, especially older students, if they know of a good place and check Yelp and Google Reviews for an honest opinion. Although not every review can be taken seriously, if the company has a string of bad reviews or the same problem is brought up multiple times, this is a definite warning sign.

Make sure you read the fine print on contracts. Many have hidden fees such as a setup fee or mandatory insurance fees. Your cheap storage can end up costing you far more than you planned. Free first months may also be a warning sign. Often the prices of subsequent months are very high to compensate for that freebie. Make sure you’re not locked into a long contract and be wary of anyone trying to convince you to hire something larger than you need.

You may also want to think twice about facilities in unsafe neighborhoods. These facilities may be more likely to be broken into and you may also be wary about getting your things outside of business hours if the area has high crime rates. Sometimes it’s worth paying a bit extra for a unit in a low-crime area of town. Lastly, make sure they answer their calls. A common complaint among self-storage customers is that no one answers their calls when they have queries or want to cancel their lease. Make sure you call facilities to ask questions so that you know they can be contacted if you have a problem.

How to Shop for a College Storage Unit Company

Make sure you have time to visit more than one place, and visit them in person. It’s important to have a few options to choose from. Do visit them in person. Look for a facility that is clean and well-kept. This indicates that they’ll look after your belongings as well. Look for rodent droppings, which may indicate a pest problem. Water on the floor of storage units can signal a leak, which could ruin your expensive textbooks.

While visiting, ask to see the exact unit you’ll be renting. If that’s not possible, ask to see its neighbor. This is to avoid a situation where you’re shown a very nice, dry, second-floor unit, but when you turn up with your boxes, your unit is in the basement and has a mold problem. The person showing you around will probably want you to sign something that day. Resist high-pressure sales tactics. Most companies allow you to put a hold on a unit for 24-hours. Use that time to visit other facilities and decide which best fits your needs and budget.

Some questions to ask on your visit include:

  • What are the late fee policies? Is there a grace period? Make sure you understand what you’ll be charged if you’re late making payments and how long you have before your belongings end up at auction
  • What are the gate hours? What are the office hours? Some places may be accessible around the clock, but the office is only staffed until 5 p.m. This may not be a problem if you’re only going twice, to drop-off and pick-up, but if you turn up at 8 p.m. to collect your things and there’s a problem, there won’t be anyone available to help you
  • What’s security like? Ask about cameras, security staff and whether empty units are kept locked. Make sure you feel comfortable with the safety of your belongings
  • Do you have free pick-up and delivery? Can I hire a truck? More and more college-specific facilities are teaming with colleges to make the last days before summer break easy on students. Check if your college has a partnership with a company and if there are drop-off points on your campus. If you’re using one of these facilities, ask questions about how they identify your belongings and ensure you get your things back at the beginning of the fall semester and not the belongings of the other Jane Smith on campus.

Whether you plan to use it while you intern on Capitol Hill for the summer or as you learn Spanish in Barcelona, college storage can be an affordable and convenient option for students who don’t want to move a car full of belongings around twice a year. Understanding your options and what to look for in a storage facility can help you find a company that keeps your belongings safe and also gives you value for money.