The best storage unit locks

How to find the best one to keep your things safe

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Where are you moving to?

lock on the red door of a storage unit

Whether you’re preparing for a move, temporarily storing furniture during a renovation or stashing your patio furniture for the season, storage units are the perfect resource. Having the right lock on your storage unit will prevent theft and vandalism, ensuring your belongings are safe and sound on the other side of the door.

If you have a storage unit (or if you own a storage unit business and want to sell quality locks to your customers), read on to learn about the best storage unit locks and how to find the right one for you.


Key insights

Some storage unit buildings have rules regarding what type of lock you can use, so always check before buying.

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Disc locks and padlocks are the best storage unit locks because they are strong, safe and easy to use.

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Steel and alloy are materials that make for the strongest locks.

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Why you need a strong, durable lock

Having a strong and secure lock on your storage unit is the only surefire way to protect your stored belongings against unforeseen negative occurrences like theft and vandalism. Plus, having a quality lock will give you the peace of mind of knowing your things are safely tucked away.

The security at storage unit businesses varies. Some buildings are locked 24/7, while others may have security cameras or fences to prevent theft and vandalism. The lock on your individual unit might be the last line of defense to prevent your property from getting stolen.

How to choose the best storage unit lock

When you’re looking for a storage unit lock, there are several things to keep in mind. Don’t trust just any lock to protect your stuff. Instead, be thoughtful about your decision and consider the lock type, size, strength and outdoor rating. Your budget will also determine what type of lock you should choose.

Here’s what to consider when shopping for a storage unit lock:

  • Lock type: Padlocks and disc locks are ideal for storage units because they are strong, secure and easy to use. Opt for models with shrouded shackles to ensure thieves can’t cut them.
  • Price: Price is a big consideration when choosing a lock for your storage unit. The cheapest locks on the market may be affordable, but they might not be as strong and secure as a more expensive option. We suggest avoiding the cheapest locks at the store and going for something that is higher-quality.
  • Lock size: Ask your storage unit company about any rules they have in place, but in general, you should choose the biggest lock that will fit in your storage unit’s latch. The bigger the lock is, the harder it is to move and pry off.
  • Lock strength: Experts say the strongest materials for locks are steel or another alloy. A thick steel or other alloy lock will be safe, durable and likely resistant to tampering.
  • Outdoor rating: Is your storage unit outdoors? If so, then you’ll have to consider whether the lock you choose is weather-resistant. Look closely at the lock’s label and ensure that it’s corrosion-resistant. These types of locks won’t incur damage from the elements.

Types of locks

There are a few different types of locks on the market that you can use for your storage unit. The best lock for you depends on factors such as strength, durability, ease of use, cost, weather resistance and more.

Disc locks

Disc locks have circular bodies with a rounded shackle at the top that feeds through the storage unit’s latch to lock them closed. They are popular for storage units because they are easy to use and difficult to pick. Disc locks feature a protected shackle and require keys to open them, making them even more secure.

You can find inexpensive disc locks for as low as $8 at some retailers. Higher-quality versions made of stronger metal are available for around $40, and heavy-duty models can cost as much as $500.

Jason Woo, the founder of Able Hardware, a metal fabrication manufacturer, said quality tends to come at a price. “Invest in a reputable, established brand. It's more than just about keeping your belongings secure — it's about the peace of mind,” Woo advised.

Cylinder locks

Cylinder locks, one of the most secure locks on the market for storage units, require one or more keys to open them. Also known as pin tumbler locks, cylinder locks work using small pins of different lengths that only allow the lock to open when the right key is inserted. Most exterior door locks are cylinder locks, so you’ve likely encountered one before.

Not all storage unit facilities allow cylinder locks because they are tricky to use and require power tools to install and repair. Because cylinder locks fit inside doors, unlike padlocks and disc locks that fit through a latch outside the door, you’ll need a drill to install one. Be sure to check with your storage unit before buying a cylinder lock.

Cylinder locks range in cost from $5 on the low end to $200 on the higher end. High-end locks tend to use stronger metals, making them more secure and durable in the long run.

Padlocks

Padlocks have U-shaped shackles at the top, a solid body and a keyed entry. Inside the body of the lock, there are pin tumblers that open the lock when the right key is inserted and turned.

According to Access Self Storage, standard padlocks aren’t ideal for storage units because they are relatively easy for thieves to cut to gain entry into your unit. However, you can find closed-shackle padlocks, which are much more secure than regular padlocks. In a closed-shackle padlock, the shackle is thicker and more protected, making the lock almost impossible to cut.

Padlocks generally cost between $20 and $150. Locks made from stronger metals are generally more expensive.

Smart locks

Smart locks are electronic locks that use digital keys that connect using Bluetooth to lock and unlock. You’ll have to use a mobile app that works with your lock to use it.

According to the self-storage products company Janus International Group, over 85% of active self-storage users across the U.S. and Canada who were polled said they would prefer to open their unit door with a smartphone rather than using a standard padlock, which requires a physical key.

Convenience is the biggest advantage of smart locks because you don’t need to worry about losing your key. You can also give access to others.

The downside of using a smart lock on your storage unit is that a thief could potentially guess your access code to break into your unit. The other downside is that because smart locks are often powered by electricity, you may lose access to your storage unit if the power goes out or if your phone dies.

Smart locks cost between $100 and $300, depending on the features and quality of the lock. In general, the more you spend on your lock, the stronger it will be.

Best metal for a storage lock

When looking for a lock, choose one made from stainless steel or boron alloy for the best security.

Jason Mueller, a moving expert and the marketing manager at A-1 Auto Transport, agrees that the materials used to make locks matter. “Sturdy locks made of steel or boron alloy have a higher-strength grade and hardness degree,” Mueller said.

Woo adds that “disc locks with stainless steel bodies offer optimum security, being highly resistant to rust, bolt cutters and weather-induced wear.”

How to find the best lock

Finding the best lock for your storage unit is key to protecting your belongings while in storage. Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind while looking for the right lock.

Use a cut-resistant lock to prevent theft

One way that thieves break into storage units is by cutting the shackles on storage unit locks. To keep thieves at bay, opt for a cut-resistant lock with a hidden or shrouded shackle. The shackle is the often U-shaped part of the lock. Use hidden shackle padlocks or disc locks to prevent theft.

Find a lock with a thick shackle

If you’re not using a lock with a hidden or protected shackle, use a lock with the thickest shackle that will fit around your storage unit’s latch. Having a thick shackle makes it more difficult to cut.

Avoid the cheapest lock option

The cheapest lock in the store often lacks strength and durability. Typically, cheap locks should be reserved for situations where security isn’t the top priority, like interior doors or school lockers. Choose a higher-quality lock to protect your belongings in a storage unit.

Consider shopping online

While most hardware stores and big-box retailers have a selection of locks you can use for your storage unit, shopping online is a smart choice. That is because online retailers tend to have more options than brick-and-mortar stores do, meaning you can easily find the best lock for your situation.

Choose a heavy lock

When choosing between locks for your storage unit, hold them and choose the one that weighs more. According to Bill Walter, a Los Angeles-based locksmith, lightweight locks are easier for thieves to destroy. Heavier locks are made with stronger metal, which means the lock will be more resistant to theft and more durable overall.

Heavier locks are often more expensive than lightweight locks because they are typically made of stronger, more durable metals.

Don’t forget maintenance

Once you have your ideal lock, don’t neglect maintenance. Woo, the metal company founder, told ConsumerAffairs that lock maintenance is often overlooked. “Regardless of the quality, we recommend regularly lubricating the lock with a silicone-based lubricant to prevent internal corrosion and to ensure smooth functionality,” Woo said.

Where are you moving to?

FAQ

How do I know what size lock I need for my storage unit?

The best way to know what size lock to use for your storage unit is to ask the manager of your storage unit. According to Access Self Storage, most storage unit locks are 2 3/4 inches wide or smaller. A lock larger than that most likely won’t fit on your storage unit door.

Can I use a combo lock on my unit?

Check with your storage unit manager before buying a combination lock (or any other type of lock, for that matter) for your storage unit. The facility might have rules on what type of lock you can use, which may prevent you from using a combination lock on your storage unit.

Where can I find a cylinder lock for my storage unit?

Hardware stores like Ace Hardware, Lowe’s and The Home Depot sell cylinder locks. If no hardware retailers near you have the lock you need, consider ordering one online.

What is the most common way thieves break locks and how can I protect my belongings?

According to Janus International Group, the most common way thieves break storage unit locks is by cutting them with a tool like bolt cutter. Choosing a durable lock resistant to cutting is a great way to protect your belongings. Try a disc lock or a smart lock to minimize the risk of getting your lock cut.

Bottom line

The best lock for storage units depends on several different factors. In general, a padlock or disc lock made from an alloy like steel is the safest and strongest lock you can get. If your storage unit is outside, look for a model that’s corrosion-resistant.


Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. Storage Rentals of America, “What are the Different Types of Storage Locks.” Accessed May 8, 2024.
  2. King Locksmith and Doors, Inc., “Everything You Need To Know About Cylinder Locks.” Accessed May 8, 2024.
  3. Inside Self Storage, “The Role of Smart-Lock Technology in the Fight Against Self-Storage Crime.” Accessed May 8, 2024.
  4. Janus International Group, “How Many Self-Storage Facilities are Using Smart Technology Today?” Accessed May 8, 2024.
  5. Janus International Group, “The Most Common Types of Burglary in Self-Storage [And How to Prevent It].” Accessed May 8, 2024.
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