What is storage unit insurance?

You likely need it but know your existing coverage

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open storage unit full of various household items inside

Storage units are an extension of our homes, offering extra space to safely and securely store our belongings. But it can be nerve-wracking to store your items off-site. Storage unit insurance can help protect your belongings and peace of mind in case of a fire or theft.

But before you tack it onto your monthly storage bill, check with your current homeowners or renters insurance provider. Your policy may already extend personal belonging coverage to protect your items in a storage unit.


Key insights

Some home and rental insurance policies cover personal property stored in a unit.

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Storage unit insurance is optional added coverage for a monthly fee.

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Like traditional insurance, storage unit insurance has a monthly cost plus a deductible per claim.

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Storage unit insurance explained

Many storage unit facilities require that you have some sort of insurance policy on your belongings before you can rent a unit.

Your first line of defense is to check your current homeowners or renters insurance policy to see if coverage for belongings stored in a storage unit is included in what you pay already.

In many cases, your policy may include a stipulation for off-site storage of personal belongings — but don’t be surprised if the coverage is fairly limited. Not to mention the fact that you may have to pay a hefty deductible, which will take away from what you can get from a claim.

If that’s the case for your policy, it may be more beneficial for you to purchase additional insurance from the storage unit facility itself or another third-party provider.

While insurance may seem like an unnecessary fee on top of the cost of renting a storage unit, Nick Valentino, vice president of Bellhop Moving in Atlanta, Georgia, told us it’s actually good for both parties. While it’s partly to protect the business from unforeseen damages, it also helps protect you.

What your homeowners or renters insurance typically covers

Valentino told us that most homeowners insurance policies cover storage units during a move for a temporary solution (an example would be if your primary residence is being repaired, renovated or rebuilt). However, whether a policy protects your belongings (and to what extent) during an extended period of time within a unit can vary.

Depending on the value of your items, that coverage may not be adequate. For that reason, Valentino always encourages his customers to purchase additional insurance.

“The more valuable your belongings, the more that insurance makes sense,” Valentino said. “We always advise our customers to get additional storage unit insurance when they're storing their (valuable) furniture and other household items.”

Plus, your policy probably limits the types of incidents it covers as well. Below, see what most homeowners and renters insurance policies cover and don’t cover when it comes to personal belongings kept in a storage unit.

Commonly covered

  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Hail or windstorm
  • Fire
  • Lightning
  • Smoke
  • Falling objects
  • Weight of snow or ice

Common exclusions

  • Floods
  • Water damage
  • Mold or mildew
  • Earthquakes
  • Pests, insects or rodents
  • Neglect or wear and tear
  • Power failure

This is in no way an exhaustive list and could differ from your policy. Read through exclusions carefully to understand what’s covered and whether you should consider additional coverage.

Shop around for the best policy

Before you buy a third-party policy, ask your insurance agent what they think. Depending on your coverage and what you’re storing, they may recommend increasing your current coverage or supplementing it with a stand-alone policy.

While on the phone, ask for a detailed explanation of what your plan covers for items in a storage unit. Also, make sure you ask what your deductible is because that can play a big role in the affordability versus a stand-alone plan.

Once you have that information, use it as a starting point to compare policies from other providers. Ask your facility what they offer and at what cost — or if they have any recommended partners so you can compare plans.

For example, Public Storage, one of the largest facilities in the nation, charges $15 per month for insurance for $5,000 in coverage in Colorado with a $100 deductible. Depending on your current plan, this low deductible and low monthly cost could be worth it.

Red flags to look out for

When comparing companies and their insurance plans, you should look for a few red flags.

  • The company won’t let you use homeowners insurance coverage. There’s no reason why a facility shouldn’t let you use your homeowners or renters policy if it’s available. If the team is trying to require you to purchase insurance through their company or another third-party provider, consider another option.
  • You have to jump through numerous hurdles to get coverage. A company shouldn’t make it hard to get insurance coverage. If they have you jumping through many random hoops or don’t have a recommended provider, it could be a sign that they’re untrustworthy.
  • You’re not allowed to see your storage unit before renting it. Without knowing its state before renting it, you’ll have a much harder time filing an insurance claim if it comes down to it. Take it as a red flag if they won’t let you see the exact unit you’d be paying for.
  • You notice standing water anywhere in the facility. Any type of water damage could be a sign of mold. At the very least, it’s a sign that the company doesn’t pay enough attention to its facilities. Because most insurance policies don’t cover water damage, it’s a sign to pay attention to.

Coverage for high-value items

In general, most experts don’t recommend storing your highly valuable items in a storage unit unless you’re willing to pay for additional insurance coverage. And even then, there may be better options available to you, like an off-site safety deposit box or even a secure shed in your backyard.

But sometimes, storage units are the only plausible option based on your situation and space constraints. If you find yourself in that situation, take these extra steps to ensure your valuable items are well protected.

  • Buy high-value coverage. Many insurance companies offer different levels of coverage based on the value of the items. Make sure the policy you’re considering meets the nature of the property in question.
  • Ask your provider about a floater. Also referred to as scheduled personal property, a floater is an increase in your home or renters policy specifically to cover high-value items. If you add this type of coverage, you may be required by your policy to get a climate-controlled unit to further protect your belongings.
  • Be picky about the facility you choose. Not all storage unit facilities are created equal. Compare multiple options in your area (or even outside of it if you’re unhappy with your local options) to find the one that offers the best protection for your belongings.

What to look for in a storage facility to avoid a problem

The best case scenario is that, despite your insurance status, you never need to file a claim in the first place. That starts by finding a reputable and secure storage facility.

Here are a few things to look for when comparing storage facilities.

Safe and secure location

Don’t settle for the closest or most convenient location. Instead, look for a facility with good highway access for police and other emergency responders. Make sure it’s not too hidden away so that it’d be easier for thieves or others to get in and out without being noticed.

Increased security protocols

More importantly than location, Valentino recommends finding a facility that implements enhanced security protocols.

“(Storage units) are attractive targets for thieves,” Valentino of Bellhop said. “There usually aren't many people around. People won't look out of place loading stuff into a truck and driving away with it, and storage units often contain valuable items.”

Look for facilities that offer advanced features like security cameras, locked entries and exits, keypads instead of padlocks, on-site guards or — at the very least — ample lighting to deter criminals.

Climate-controlled options

While security can protect your belongings from vandalism and robbery, climate-controlled units can protect your items from weather-related threats like mold or mildew. These units come at a higher monthly cost, but depending on your items, they could be worth it.

Valentino recommends a climate-controlled unit for items like art or wood furniture.

Positive customer reviews

Explore review sites to see what customers are saying about their experiences with the facility. If too many customers have issues with security or response times for insurance claims, find a different company.

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FAQ

What are “sublimits” on homeowners and renters insurance policies?

Sublimits are additional limits within an insurance policy for specific situations. For example, a home or renters policy may have included $100,000 personal belonging coverage but a 10% sublimit for those within a storage unit. The sublimit is the coverage amount that applies directly to those belongings.

If you have both homeowners insurance (or renters insurance) and stand-alone storage unit insurance, which one kicks in first for a claim?

Usually, your stand-alone storage unit insurance will kick in before your homeowners policy. This is a big advantage of purchasing additional insurance, as it means you won’t have to file a claim on your homeowners insurance and experience more expensive costs in the future.

Do I need storage unit insurance?

If you rent a storage unit, you’ll likely need some sort of insurance policy to protect your belongings. Sometimes, your homeowners or renters insurance will suffice; in other cases, it may make more sense to purchase a stand-alone policy that won’t impact your homeowners insurance prices or history.

Most experts recommend getting a stand-alone insurance policy for your stored belongings, especially those of high value. That way, you can rest easy knowing you’re protected no matter what happens. Just be prepared to shell out that extra cost.


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. Insurance Information Institute, “Self-storage facility coverage and tips.” Accessed April 22, 2024.
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