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Indoor vs. Outdoor Storage Units:
What You Need to Know

Whether you're moving across the country or just need to store your extra stuff, choosing a storage unit means evaluating many different factors. One of the most important decisions you'll need to make is whether you'd like an indoor or outdoor unit. After all, choosing the right unit is essential not only to the security of your possessions but also to your own piece of mind. Familiarize yourself with the basics of indoor and outdoor storage units before making a decision about the type of facility you will choose.

What's The Big Difference Between Outdoor and Indoor Units?

If you're shopping for a storage unit for the first time, you may not be familiar with some of the terms used to describe these units, such as climate-controlled and indoor or outdoor. Before you can decide what type of unit you'll need, you have to evaluate what you'll be storing. Keep this general rule in mind:

  • If you're storing household possessions and boxes, you'll likely want to choose an indoor unit.

  • If you're storing vehicles, heavy equipment, recreation vehicles or boats, you'll likely want to choose an outdoor unit.

You should also make basic decisions about the size of unit you'll need before you select a facility. "If you're planning to be in and out of the unit every week, looking for things, or moving belongings in and out, get a unit size that allows you to move around. Otherwise, get a small unit and pack it tight," advises Sandra Gordon at Consumer Reports. If you're using an outdoor unit, be sure that the unit offers free space around the vehicle or equipment that you'll be storing so you can easily service it and access the engine and all doors.

Indoor Storage Units 101

Indoor storage units are self-enclosed rooms and are ideal for:

  • Furniture
  • Household appliances
  • Moving boxes
  • Home goods
  • Papers and documents
  • Clothing
  • Toys
  • Art and antiques

Some indoor units are climate-controlled, meaning you can control temperature and humidity levels to protect delicate items. These units also provide a high level of protection from water damage, dust and light damage. However, you'll still need to place your items on pallets or shelves and wrap them in heavy plastic to ensure they don't get damaged.

Outdoor Storage Units 101

Outdoor storage units are generally comprised of a gravel, cement or asphalt pad that is covered by a simple roof. Such units may also be surrounded by cinderblock or by basic, open walls, such as those used in carports. They are ideal for the storage of:

  • Vehicles
  • Recreational vehicles
  • Boats
  • Yard equipment
  • Trailers
  • Construction equipment
  • Industrial machiner

Keep in mind that it's always a good idea to use a vehicle cover even if choosing a covered outdoor unit. Such covers will help prevent damage from sunlight and debris. You'll also need to remove all food from your vehicle or equipment before storing it in an outdoor unit as these units offer less protection from rodent and insect infestation.

How to Choose The Right Unit for Your Needs

Once you understand the basic differences between indoor and outdoor storage units, you'll be able to choose the right one for your needs. You can even search online to find a storage facility near you. Using online tools is one of the best ways to find a storage facility that meets both your geographical and personal needs.

Remember that in addition to choosing the type of storage you need, you'll also need to choose a storage unit that is correctly sized. If you've decided to store a small vehicle in an indoor unit, be particularly careful to measure the clearance on the sides and in front of the vehicle. Remember to check the height measurements of an outdoor unit to ensure you can store your RV, boat or equipment there without incident.

Of course, it's also important that you pay attention to the level of security at a given facility. Ask the facility manager about the following:

  • Is the facility monitored by surveillance cameras 24 hours a day?

  • Are there any guards at the facility?

  • Who has access to the facility?

  • Is the facility open around the clock or does it close at nighttime?

  • Does the storage company offer any insurance plans to cover items stored at the facility?

You should double-check whether or not your insurance company will cover the items stored in your unit. Keep in mind that you may need to choose a facility with surveillance cameras or a climate-controlled unit in order for your insurance company to pay for any losses. You'll need to carefully review insurance clauses if you plan to store a classic vehicle or valuable equipment in an outdoor unit.

Don't forget to consider climate when choosing between indoor and outdoor storage. If you want to store a classic car in a very humid area, you may want to choose indoor storage with good climate control. If humidity isn't a concern, an outdoor unit may be the best fit for vehicle, equipment, and boat storage.