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1 in 5 Americans rent self-storage units, study finds

Self-Storage Facilities

1 in 5 Americans rent self-storage units, study finds

In a sector poised for growth due to increased hybrid work, migration to the suburbs, and apartment sizes getting smaller, interest in self-storage has spiked.

By Quinn Purcell, Managing Editor | April 25, 2023
Packing boxes stacked in self-storage container
While 34% of those who rent self-storage do so from moving, 8% rent due to downsizing their home, and 5% do it for business storing purposes. Photo courtesy Adobe Stock

StorageCafe’s survey of nearly 18,000 people reveals that one in five (21%) of Americans are currently using self-storage. The self-storage sector, though not the most glamorous, is essential for those with practical needs for extra space.

Who are among the most practical, then? According to the survey, “Gen Xers” are the age group most likely to be renting self-storage. Twenty-three percent of those aged 40–55 (Gen X) rent external storage, compared to 21% of Millennials and Baby Boomers doing the same.

Self storage use by generation graph

Most Common Reasons for Renting Self-Storage in 2022

What are the biggest reasons one-fifth of Americans—of any generation—are choosing to rent additional space for their belongings? The main reason: not enough space at home. Forty percent of respondents listed this as their primary reason—an increase from 33% last year. Inadequate home space overtook last year’s main reason: moving (other than downsizing).

While 34% of those who rent self-storage do so from moving, 8% rent due to downsizing their home, and 5% do it for business storing purposes. StorageCafe attributes the slight increase in these numbers to customers’ better understanding of self-storage. It’s cheaper than renting office space, and offers more flexibility than a warehouse.

Self-storage has often favored the renter. This is perhaps why, as apartment sizes are shrinking each year, more renters are opting to budget in additional storage for their belongings.

Survey chart on why people rent self storage containers

What are people storing in their units? The most common items are furniture (indicated by 34% of self-storage users), clothing (22%), and home appliances/equipment (20%). The pieces of furniture most commonly stored are dining tables and chairs, small cabinets, and lamps, according to StorageCafe.

As for clothes, those who rent are more likely than homeowners to use self-storage for keeping extra wardrobe items. Twenty-six percent of renters primarily rented storage for this reason, compared to 16% of homeowners. Bulky items like winter coats and footwear can clutter apartments only to be used for months out of the year, for example.

Self-Storage by Region: The Most Interested Cities

This begs the question: What regions of the country are most interested in self-storage, whether it be for winter clothes or large couches? StorageCafe rounded up internet searches for storage unit rental, and found there to be increasing interest throughout Southwestern cities.

Across the U.S.’s major cities, interest for self-storage nearly doubled between 2019 and 2022, according to StorageCafe’s research. Dallas has seen a significant increase in online searches for self-storage (a 273% change in search numbers since 2019). Phoenix, Ariz., and Houston, Texas, have also had spikes in interest over the past three years—growing 236% and 218%, respectively.

The city with the most searches for self-storage? New York City. The Big Apple represents 22,510 average monthly Google searches for storage rental, compared to 10,880 for Houston, and 8,290 for Phoenix.

Which U.S. cities saw the most interest in self storage via Google searches, in 2022

Among these, other major cities with the highest interest in self-storage are Chicago, Ill., Las Vegas, Nev., San Antonio and Austin, Texas, Los Angeles, Calif., and Orlando, Flo.

To read the full findings of the StorageCafe survey, click here.

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