Self storage remains an essential service for many people, whether they’re moving, downsizing, remodeling, or simply seeking extra storage away from home. The sector continues to grow, and there are currently over 1.4 billion square feet of storage space in the US, according to Yardi Matrix. But who is driving this demand for self storage?
STORAGECafé, a nationwide self storage marketplace, looked into who exactly is using this service, how they are using it, and the most common reasons why people are renting self storage. By analyzing the answers of 1,700 US respondents, their report discusses Americans’ self storage habits and preferences, indicating Baby Boomers as being the generation behind the huge popularity of the self storage industry, closely followed by Gen Xers.
People living in multi-bedroom single family homes are more likely to rent self storage than apartment dwellers
About 33% of the survey respondents said they are currently using self storage or have used the service in the past. An additional 11% of the respondents who never rented self storage in the past declared that they are planning to do so in the future.
Looking at the living situation of the people who are already self storage customers, it’s interesting to note that those living in single family homes are more likely to need extra storage space than those living in apartments. About 35% of the respondents living in single family homes are also self storage users, compared to only 30% of the respondents living in apartments.
The probability of renting self storage also increases gradually along with the number of bedrooms in a house – about 31% of the respondents living in one-bedroom homes have a self storage unit, compared to 35% of those in homes with 3+ bedrooms. Although it might appear as counterintuitive at first sight, this trend has a simple explanation. People living in larger homes are more likely to have large families and more belongings, resulting in more complex storage needs.
Moving is the most popular reason for renting self storage
About 37% of the self storage users in the survey declared that they needed to rent a unit while moving, making this the most common reason for using self storage. Moving is indeed a moment in life when self storage proves to be an extremely useful service, allowing people to keep their belongings safe until the new home is ready to be furnished.
Another 22% of the self storage users said they rent a storage unit because they don’t have enough space at home for all their belongings. As we have seen above, the lack of enough storage space at home is a common issue, and not directly related to the size of a person’s home. People can keep a variety of items in self storage that they don’t use every day, but they still need, such as sport equipment, camping gear, seasonal items, out-of-season clothing, children’s furniture and toys, and so on.
An additional 8% of the self storage users in the survey are renting self storage due to changes in household size. Whether a new baby is on the way, a young adult needs to relocate back home, or older parents are coming to live with their children, families are dynamic organisms. Such situations drive the need for extra space at home – and self storage is an easy, affordable way to accomplish just that.
A smaller but growing category of self storage users are businesses. About 5% of the self storage users said they rent a unit for commercial purposes, such as for storing documents, equipment, supplies, tools and vehicles. Small and medium-sized businesses can get many benefits from using self storage – it’s a flexible service that can be rented on a monthly basis and can solve specific storage needs without having to deal with expensive commercial space leases.
39% of renters keep their units for over a year
An appreciable proportion of self storage users rent their units long-term. 39% of the self storage customers declared they keep their unit for over a year, and an additional 16% hold on to theirs for 7 to 12 months. About a third of the users need the unit for 2 to 6 months, and only 12% manage to solve their storage-related problems in a month. These numbers emphasize, once again, that storage needs in the US are multifaceted and, for many families, it’s not the kind of service you use only occasionally or for a short period of time.
In terms of storage unit size, the 5x10 and 10x10 ones are very popular, and are each preferred by 31% of the survey respondents. Another 25% of them favor the larger, 10x20 units, while 13% are satisfied by the small 5x5 lockers.
There are important variations in how often people visit their units – 41% said they drop by their unit once a month, and 24% once a week. At the other end of the spectrum, 11% are visiting their units just once a year, and an additional 24% are checking theirs less frequently than once per year. The emergence of automatic paying solutions is very convenient for these long-term self storage renters who don’t need to make frequent visits to their units.
Baby Boomers and Gen Xers make up the bulk of self storage users
About 77% of the survey respondents renting self storage are Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Baby Boomers, with ages from the late 50s into the early 70s, make up 39% of the self storage users in the survey, while Gen Xers, which include people in their late-30s to mid-50s, represent another 38%.
Both generations are in life stages that increase the need for extra storage space. If many Baby Boomers are downsizing and enjoying the retired life, Gen Xers are busy raising families or caring for ageing parents – all situations that increase the need for self storage services.
The younger Millennials and Gen Zers represent only 16% of self storage users. However, as most of them are renters living in shrinking apartments, their storage needs are on the rise. It’s quite possible that in the next few years we will see an influx of Millennial and Gen Z self storage customers.