How To Invest In Self-Storage For Beginners

Want to learn how to invest in self-storage? I have stored boxes of my stuff plenty of times over the years and there’s a good chance that you have as well (or perhaps you know someone who has). Investing in self-storage facilities can be a relatively low-risk asset for people looking to diversify their income…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: February 1, 2024

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

Want to learn how to invest in self-storage?

I have stored boxes of my stuff plenty of times over the years and there’s a good chance that you have as well (or perhaps you know someone who has).

Investing in self-storage facilities can be a relatively low-risk asset for people looking to diversify their income streams. Or, perhaps you’re looking for a full-time income and are looking for your own business to start!

So, what exactly is investing in self-storage?

It is when you put your money into self-storage facilities and rent out units to renters.

I have personally used self-storage facilities for many reasons over the years for a short-term period, and nearly every single time I think about the profitability of it all and how passive it seems to be a self-storage owner or self-storage investor.

There are usually no customers at the facility (I’ve almost always been the only one there when dropping off or picking up), but every unit is being rented. Seems like an interesting way to make money with not too much work!

Plus, over 9% of households pay for self-storage units, and there is a lot of demand for new facilities.

Quick Summary

  • Self-storage investing can be a way to make money and run a business with low expenses
  • There is a lot of demand for storage units, with many businesses having a very long waitlist
  • If you don’t want to run a business, you can also buy shares in an REIT or even just rent out your garage or basement

What is Self-Storage Investing?

To put it simply, self-storage investing is when you invest in storage facilities.

More and more people need storage units for many different reasons such as moving, downsizing a home, needing a place to store something that a person doesn’t have room for (such as an RV or boat), or even businesses that are storing extra inventory.

For example, someone might need a short-term lease to store their belongings due to being in between homes (like if they are moving but their next home isn’t ready yet). Or a person on a long trip may decide to sell their home, but they need a place to store their important items.

If you decide to invest in self-storage, you have a couple of options. You can start by purchasing and owning a facility yourself or passively invest by buying shares in a self-storage REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust). I will be going over each of the options further below.

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Is Self-Storage a Good Investment?

Yes, deciding to invest in storage units can be a good idea.

According to Neighbor, the average profit margin on a self-storage unit is around 41%, and they typically have high occupancy levels of around 92%.

One of the main positives of investing in self-storage is being able to earn income with less work (you’re not dealing with customers all day long – people tend to store their stuff and not visit it often).

Self-storage facilities usually have low expenses compared to other types of commercial real estate investments. Also, self-storage is usually recession-resistant as people still need to store their stuff.

Another benefit of investing in self-storage is the flexibility it offers because you don’t need very many employees to run a storage lot. Some lots that I’ve been to don’t even have any employees – instead, you call the owner when you want to get your stuff and they then send someone down. People tend to store their stuff and not touch it for a while.

Related: 18 Passive Income Ideas To Earn $1,000+ Each Month

RV storage lot - Types of Self-Storage Facility for Investment

Types of Self-Storage Facility for Investment

When investing in self-storage facilities, you may not know that there are a few different types.

This section will discuss the different self-storage facilities you can invest in.

1. Climate-Controlled Storage

Climate-controlled storage is something that more and more people want these days because it can protect their belongings from temperature changes and humidity.

After all, many places get very hot weather, and storage units can get quite hot inside. You don’t want your things to melt into each other.

These types of units are good for storing items like electronics, artwork, or documents.

Now, your location is important in deciding if you need climate-controlled self-storage, as areas with extreme temperatures or humidity obviously will need AC more. For example, a storage facility in Florida may be more likely to have air conditioning than a facility in Alaska. And, a facility in Alaska is more likely to have heat than a storage unit in Florida.

2. Mixed-Use Storage

Mixed-use storage facilities combine multiple types of storage units in one location.

For example, these types of facilities may have climate-controlled, drive-up, boat, and RV storage all in one place. Many storage facilities are like this. They cater to different customer needs and tend to have a broader target market due to being able to store so many different types of items.

People tend to like these forms of storage as they can store all of their belongings in one place, instead of having their stuff scattered across town.

3. RV and Vehicle Storage

With so many people owning RVs and extra vehicles, the demand for storage has increased over the years.

Also, many neighborhoods simply do not allow for RVs or extra vehicles to be parked in front of their home (or even in their driveway, backyard, etc.), so a storage lot is needed.

Some storage facilities may even just be massive warehouses where people can store their RVs, valuable cars, and boats inside.

We have stored an RV in a place like this many times. We have found the typical rent to be around $5 to $10 per foot for our RV in an indoor parking lot, so you can see how quickly storage revenue can add up! Some businesses even have private RV units, and those fetch a much higher rate, such as $400-$600+ per month.

4. Boat Storage

Boat storage facilities specialize in safe storage for boat owners during the off-season or when not in use. These types of facilities typically have long waitlists too.

Boat storage businesses sometimes have both indoor and outdoor options (or they may focus on one or the other), as well as extra services like boat maintenance, hauling, launching, and more.

Coastal regions or areas with nearby water access (such as Florida) are usually good locations for investing in boat storage facilities as there are more boats, of course.

We have used boat storage facilities many times over the years to store our own boat. The amount you can make per boat can be anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars each month, depending on the location and the type of boat (catamaran vs. small fishing boat, for example) you can store. We have paid anywhere from around $1,200 to over $2,000 a month in the past for boat storage.

5. Drive-Up and Outdoor Storage

This is the type of storage that pretty much everyone has seen, as they are very common.

With this type, customers can drive directly to their storage unit, making loading and unloading much easier. These types of facilities are usually single-story buildings. Many times they do not have AC or heat.

Drive-up and outdoor storage facilities give renters an easily accessible storage solution.

How to Invest in Self-Storage

If you want to invest in self-storage, there are a few different ways to do so.

1. Buy an Existing Self-Storage Facility

One of the easiest ways to enter the self-storage market is by purchasing an existing business, such as those for sale by mom-and-pop operations.

This can save you time as everything is in place and you already have customers with rented units. Yes, you can improve some of their processes, but a lot of the hard work is already done for you.

But, purchasing a facility can be expensive upfront, though, because you will be buying a business with land, a building, and an existing customer base.

Just as an FYI – As you’re looking for storage facilities that are for sale, you may come across different classes. Class A facilities usually are higher-quality climate-controlled storage units, whereas Class B and Class C facilities may be lower-quality.

Buying an existing storage lot can possibly make you more money than investing in REITs (discussed further below), but it also means more hands-on management and responsibility because you will be actively running a business and managing employees.

2. Build a New Self-Storage Facility

There are around 2 billion square feet of storage space in the U.S. alone, but there is a high demand for more. Many self-storage facilities have long waitlists even!

I have called many storage lots only to find out that they had waitlists that were years long. I have even several times called every single lot within a few state radius, and found that every single one had a waitlist.

Yes, the storage business is really in that much demand!

As a self-storage investor, you can take advantage of this high demand and build your own storage facility.

To create a self-storage facility from the ground up, you will need to do the following:

  • Find land to buy – Once you know that an area needs a storage facility, you will need to find land to buy to build on. You will also want to make sure that it is easy to drive to (for example, if you are building an RV storage lot, you don’t want low bridges as the only way to get to your lot because no one will be able to get there then).
  • Build – After you buy the land, you will need to think about what you want your facility to look like, then hire a construction company to build your plan.
  • Open up for business– Once the facility is built, you will need to market it and get customers. You will also want to set up the systems to manage daily operations effectively and as passively as possible.

Self-storage is in demand, so building a new storage business can be a way to get started and make money.

3. Buy Shares in a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) That Focuses on Self-Storage

If you want to invest in self-storage without actually owning and managing a business, one way is to invest in an REIT.

REITs are a type of investment that allows you to buy shares in a company that owns self-storage facilities. Think of it like shares of stock in a company that you can buy.

With REITs, you can invest in a portfolio of self-storage properties without physically owning or managing the facilities yourself.

This is more passive because you don’t need to hire employees or do maintenance checks.

4. Rent Your Space on

If you have extra space in your own home such as a garage, closet, driveway, or spare room, you can rent it out as storage space through a platform like Neighbor.

With this site, you can earn $100 to $400+ each month (the rate you can get depends on demand in your area and the type of storage you are renting out).

Here’s how Neighbor works:

  • Sign up for a free account – Create an account on Neighbor by clicking here.
  • Describe your space – Write a detailed description of your space, including the dimensions, location, and any features (such as air conditioning or heat). Add pictures of the space as well so that potential renters can see what you are renting out.
  • Set your price – Choose how much you want to charge for renting your space.
  • Manage rentals – Connect with interested renters, agree on terms, and manage ongoing rental contracts, all through the Neighbor platform.

You can learn more at Neighbor Review: Make Money Renting Your Storage Space.

Advice for managing a self-storage facility

If you decide to run your own storage facility, then here are my tips for new self-storage operators.

Making money from self-storage

To make money from your self-storage facility, you need to think about what your customers want. So, you may sell amenities to your renters, such as vehicle washing, starting up their vehicle or checking on it, electrical plugins to charge vehicles or RVs, and so on.

You’ll also want to think about how much money it will cost you to actually run the business. Will you need to hire workers? How much will maintenance cost you so that you can keep the facility in good condition?

Security in self-storage facilities

Security is very important for customers when choosing a self-storage facility. Customers care about their stuff and they don’t want anything happening to it, such as it being stolen.

So, you will want to make sure that your facility has a lot of light (especially at night time), security cameras aimed at different angles, and gates with codes. This helps your customers feel safer about leaving their stuff at your storage facility, and also helps to protect your business from liability issues and bad reviews (for example, if a person has their stuff stolen from your facility, they are likely to leave a bad review and this can cause others to not use your storage units as well).

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Invest In Self-Storage

Here are answers to common questions about investing in self-storage.

How can I find a self-storage business for sale?

To find a self-storage business for sale, you can start by searching on websites like LoopNet and BizBuySell. I took a quick look at both of these sites and found many for sale quite easily from anywhere in the hundreds of thousands to in the millions of dollars price range.

What are the best self-storage stocks to invest in?

The best self-storage stocks for you to invest in will depend on your own money goals and the amount of risk you want to take on. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you which is the best self-storage stock, as I am not your financial advisor and I do not know your specific situation. But, I can tell you which ones are popular.

Some of the most popular and best self-storage stocks include Public Storage (PSA), Extra Space Storage (EXR), and CubeSmart (CUBE).

Which self-storage REITs have the best returns?

Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are a popular way to passively invest in self-storage facilities. Several well-known self-storage REITs include Life Storage (LSI), National Storage Affiliates (NSA), and Simply Self Storage (SSS).

Keep in mind that past performance and dividends do not mean that the same will be true in the future, so it’s important to do your own research.

What risks are there with investing in self-storage?

Like with all businesses, there are risks when it comes to self-storage. Some risks include competition, changes in demand, and possible natural disasters that could hurt the facility (such as a severe storm or a flood).

Also, managing a self-storage facility will, of course, require at least some time from you and may even require employees, so you should also think about operational costs and business management.

How profitable can a self-storage business be?

The amount of money that a self-storage business can make depends on many things such as location, demand, and operating costs.

Can owning a self-storage unit generate passive income?

Having a self-storage facility can earn you passive income through rental fees. But, managing a self-storage facility also requires that someone works at the business, to check people in, show units, and check on the property. You could hire employees so that it is more passive for yourself.

You can also earn passive income by investing in self-storage REITs or stocks instead of owning and running a storage facility.

Does self-storage do well in a recession?

Self-storage in the past has performed relatively well during recessions, as people often downsize their homes or need temporary storage. Of course, though, the past doesn’t mean that it will always do well. So, it is always best to do your research and prepare as best as you can.

What is the future outlook for self-storage?

The future for self-storage looks to be positive, as there is a lot of demand for storage units and I’m still constantly seeing waitlists everywhere. In fact, whenever I need to store something even for just a few months, I’m always being told that I need to call a year in advance for a spot.

Many storage facilities have a high occupancy rate, long waitlists, and cannot keep up with demand.

How To Invest In Self-Storage – Summary

I hope you enjoyed today’s article on how to invest in self-storage.

If you are looking to add a new asset class to invest in, becoming a self-storage investor can be an interesting way to bring in a stable cash flow and make more money.

Self-storage is in high demand too, with many businesses currently having a long waitlist.

Factors such as location, demand, the quality of facilities (Class A, Class B, and Class C), and the type of storage lot all can change the success of a self-storage investment.

Are you interested in learning how to invest in self-storage?

*Statistics from Neighbor

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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