Storage Wars


Wanted: 2600 cubic feet

Wow! What a rollercoaster ride we have had this week. As you could see in Cindy’s latest post, we are up to our ears in boxes and packing materials. Our challenge this week was to finalize storage facility requirements. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Not so much!

Welcome to "Box Central"

Welcome to “Box Central”

To get on a little bit of a side track here, I had no idea how hard it would be to rid ourselves of land life. I know I have said that before, but I am still shaking my head daily in disbelief. It seemed like such a simple plan at first: Buy a boat, quit my job, sell Cindy’s company, sell the house, pack up stuff, store stuff, and go sailing. We are hitting constant road blocks. The latest of which are the idiosyncrasies of the storage business. Okay, let’s get back on track to the subject matter.

Welcome - come on in - mind the boxes, please!

Welcome – come on in – mind the boxes, please!

Our plan is to sail for 10 years (assuming we like it). So, the storage cost is going to be quite a significant part of our budget. While $300 per month for a storage unit might not seem like a lot, it equates to $36,000 over ten years. Ouch! Almost all of the self storage companies we have contacted will not offer any type of fixed price agreement. I thought they would welcome a potential ten year tenant with open arms. Boy, I was wrong about that! Trying to talk to a person who can make a decision is just about impossible. They will not give out email addresses or management phone numbers. They want to keep their prices flexible and have the ability to raise rates each year. We have given up on the national and regional companies since their district managers and regional managers (the ones we were able to talk to) are not empowered to do anything beyond the corporate directive. One company told us we could expect a nominal increase each year of 8-10%. The same $300 per month unit at a 10% rate increase year over year doesn’t cost $36,000 for ten years. It costs over $57,000. Yikes! At this point we discussed donating or doing an estate sale for all of our furniture and saving the storage money. Our logic being to save the storage cost and purchase new stuff when we return. This would also save us the headache of packing. If it wasn’t for the fact we have some nice items, many of which are antiques, this would have been a no brainer.

Cooking with Boxes

Cooking with Boxes

We tried a different tactic. We talked to storage and transfer companies. These are the big guns of the trade: Atlas, North American Van Lines, Allied etc. We knew this tactic was a stretch since men and trucks are involved, $$$$$. The real plus side of this approach is men and trucks show up and all of our stuff goes away. We pay them. When we want it back, we call them and they bring it to us. We thought since they store stuff for a living in giant warehouses, perhaps we could afford this service if the men and trucks were offset by lower long-term storage prices. They were willing to give us a ten year fixed price (with a catch – keep reading). This is where I started to beat my head against the wall. They do EVERTHING based on weight. I understand the weight factor when it comes to the transportation of goods. However, it is completely illogical for storage calculations. For example, gold weighs 1,206.83 lbs per cubic foot. A feather pillow weighs 1 lb. per cubic foot. The facility we toured was massive 3.6 million cubic feet. So, if we chose to fill the facility with 3.6 million feather pillows, the cost would be the same as if we stored an equivalent weight of gold bars taking up less than 1/1000th of the space. They would hardly notice our gold bars stored in the corner and could continue to rent the rest of the space. I think they may notice the pillows.

Stacks and Stacks

Stacks and Stacks

The good thing that came from dealing with salesmen of the big guns; we are pretty sure about the amount of cubic footage we need (link). They have all sorts of fancy software to calculate the cubic footage of people’s stuff in a home. Their number confirmed our calculation. And yes, you did read this correctly. They measure the cubic footage. Then, they multiply the cubic footage by a fudge-factor of 7 to get an estimated weight. Here’s the real gotcha: We would not know the actual total weight (and our monthly storage payment amount) until they weigh the truck with our stuff loaded. Yes, the truck now gone with all of our stuff on it. I guess some people just take them for their word. So again, looking at the long term here, a small mistake can be costly. If the estimate states our stuff weights about 10,000 lbs and they weigh the truck but it comes up at 11,000 lbs, we would have be on the hook for an additional $5,000+ over 10 years. No thank you.


Here are our findings. The average pricing for ten years:

  • Transfer and Storage Company, “men and big trucks” (we do the packing, they move and store): $48,500
  • Pods we load at our house and are picked up and stored in climate controlled facilities: $40,800 to $64,000 depending on annual price increases.
  • National or regional self storage facilities: $37,500 to $57,000 depending on annual price increases.
  • Local chain of self storage units: $37,800 agreed to do a fixed price for 10 years if paid up front.
They're Everywhere

They’re Everywhere

Today we had a big breakthrough. On a whim, Cindy started to call some storage facilities in outlying smaller towns. Could we get away from the corporate owned companies and perhaps deal directly with an owner? Being a former small business owner, Cindy will opt to do business with a small business over a national company every time. She found a company about an hour drive north of us. They have several locations and at their main location are just completing a brand new climate controlled facility. They are willing to sign a 10 year fixed price agreement, their prices are low and the facility is very well kept. We drove to the site to inspect it. We met the owner as well as most of the staff. We both left feeling comfortable about leaving hard earned household goods there. The total price paid annually for ten years: $15,000. We have storage!

We saved enough money to stop at my favorite pub on the way home for a cold Guinness to celebrate. Okay, it was two. We can check “get storage” off the to-do list.

Categories: About Us, Money, Pre-sailing Preparation

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