BAM Key Details:

  • A recent study by StorageCafe finds more than a fifth of Americans, led by Gen X, use self storage, with the primary reason being a lack of sufficient space at home.
  • While 23% of Gen X use self storage, millennials come close behind at roughly 21%. 
  • The self storage industry, as a whole, plans to add close to 53 million more square feet of storage space across the U.S. in 2023. 

More than one in five Americans rent a self storage unit. And they do so for a variety of reasons, all of which generally boil down to a lack of space for those stored items in their current home. 

Some, who sold their homes at a good price in the recent past, find themselves renting until they can find and purchase their next home. And with living space shrinking for both houses and apartments, many are renting space outside their home until they can move into something bigger or add to the space they have—or just to keep less frequently used items out of the way. 

So, while the self storage industry may not be glamorous, the very real and practical need for more space is driving its growth and making it a priority for many of your clients. 

To get clear on the latest self storage trends, StorageCafe surveyed nearly 18,000 Americans about their self storage use and preferences. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Who uses self-storage?

Across the U.S., just over one in five Americans identified as self storage users, and another 15% said they plan to use it in the future. 


Source: StorageCafe

Breaking it down by generation, Gen Xers represent the biggest share of self storage users in the U.S. at 23%. Millennials are close behind at 21% as many have growing families and increased spending power, both of which often contribute to a need for extra storage space. 


Source: StorageCafe

Looking at housing type, those living in 2-bedroom homes are most likely to use self storage at 23%. Many of these are likely to be young families in starter homes or apartments, who need extra space at a low cost. 

Looking at square footage, 22% of those with 1,000 to 1,499 square feet of living space rent self storage—the highest of all the home size groups. Next in line were those with less than 1,000 square feet; 20% declared themselves self storage users. Third place goes to residents with 1,500 square feet or more with 17% to 18% of them renting storage. 

Household size is another factor behind self storage use as one major reason for needing extra storage space was an addition to the number of residents—whether that’s a newborn, a “boomerang kid,” or an elderly relative in need of care. 

Of survey respondents in households of one to three people, 18% to 19% said they currently rent a storage unit. For households of five or more people, that share jumps to 27%. And, in between, 21% of those in four-person households rent self storage. 

So, generally, the more crowded the home, the greater the need for extra storage space. 


Source: StorageCafe

Why are more people using self storage?

The main reason people rent self storage is shrinking living space, creating a stronger need for extra space. About 40% of those currently using self storage pointed to a lack of sufficient space at home as their primary reason, while 34% said it was their need to relocate. 

Self storage users can point to a number of secondary factors that led to their increased need for space: 

  • Transitioning from remote to hybrid work meant moving closer to their workplace
  • Moving to a smaller apartment to save money
  • Downsizing to a smaller home 
  • Selling their home and traveling by RV 
  • Needing space to hold inventory for an ecommerce business

Source: StorageCafe

Items stored most often

Survey results point to furniture as the type of item most commonly kept in self storage units, with 43% of respondents stowing pieces that don’t fit in their current homes, followed by—

  • Clothing (22%)
  • Home appliances and equipment (20%)
  • Sporting goods and hobby gear (10%)
  • Business items (6%)
  • Vehicle (3%)
  • RV (2%)
  • Boat (1%)
  • Other (1%)

Gen X is the generation most likely to keep sporting items and equipment in a storage unit, with 15% of 40 to 55-year-olds renting storage for this. Fifteen percent of storage users living in homes with 3,500 square feet or more also rent space for this, possibly because these larger homes are often used for multi-gen households who need at-home space for daily use items. Sports equipment can easily be picked up on the way to a vacation spot or family event. 

Aside from common household items, stories abound of strange (or at least uncommon) things discovered in self storage units. Here are just a few: 

  • Deer heads
  • Old pickup truck
  • Superman costumes
  • Saddle
  • Disco ball
  • Fossils
  • Ivory tusk
  • Dog’s wheelchair
  • Golf cart
  • Baseball cards

We’ll leave the rest to your imagination. 


Source: StorageCafe

Most popular sizes and types of storage units

Size-wise, across the wide range of storage units available, the largest share of respondents (22%) indicated a preference for the multi-purpose 5’x10’ and 10’x10’ sizes. 

Both of these sizes are ideal for storing a variety of items that would otherwise get in the way—like books that aren’t likely to be read anytime soon, boxes of old toys, and hand-me-down clothing, as well as sports gear like skis, golf clubs, and bicycles. 

Coming in second place is the 5’x5’ storage locker, preferred by 17% of storage-using respondents. These smaller (and presumably less expensive) spaces are great for people with limited living space who want to declutter their homes by putting some things in storage.

Renters are more likely to indicate a preference for small storage units, with 28% of them choosing the 5’x10’ size. Homeowners, on the other hand, favor the garage-size 10’x20’ units as much as the 5’x10’ lockers—18% showing a preference for both. 

Overall, then, residents of houses are more likely than apartment dwellers to indicate a preference for larger storage units. Men are also more likely to rent larger units, with 30% opting for either the 10’x20’ or 10’x30’ sizes, compared to 20% of women renters.


Source: StorageCafe

Regular, non-climate-controlled storage units are usually good enough for most storage renters. But when storing delicate items—or in areas with climate risk or extreme weather conditions—more storage users opt for the climate-controlled units. 

Renters and apartment dwellers rent both types with more or less equal enthusiasm, while homeowners and residents of houses have split preferences, with slightly more than half preferring non-climate-controlled units and only a third choosing climate-controlled storage.

As the latter group tends also to rent larger storage units, this could indicate that the possessions they store are more likely to be larger, more weather-resistant items—like cars, boats, and recreational vehicles. 


Source: StorageCafe

Interest in self storage is growing—especially in Southwestern cities

To get a clear picture of how much interest in self storage has grown, StorageCafe analyzed the average number of Google searches per month for self storage in about 150 key U.S. cities across the year 2022. 

According to their analysis, interest in self storage across those cities nearly doubled between 2019 and 2022, largely due to significant shifts in the real estate market and the economy. 

Dallas, TX, has experienced one of the biggest growth rates, with its number of Google searches increasing by 273%. Houston and Phoenix also registered dramatic increases in self storage interest, with searches jumping by 218% and 236%, respectively. 

In terms of overall popularity, it’s not surprising that New York City, with its superabundance of tiny apartments and its culture of moving frequently, registered far more searches for self storage units than any other U.S. city. They’ve also seen a 61% increase in searches from 2019. 

To meet growing demand, New York’s self storage sector is also developing new storage facilities amounting to 7.2% of its current inventory—the second highest such figure in the country, after Orlando, Florida, based on Yardi Matrix data. 

The top 10 U.S. cities with the most interest in self storage in 2022:

  1. New York, NY (with an average of 22,510 Google searches per month in 2022)
  2. Chicago, IL (11,350)
  3. Houston, TX (10,880)
  4. Las Vegas, NV (10,690)
  5. San Antonio, TX (10,180)
  6. Austin, TX (9,910)
  7. Dallas, TX (9,410)
  8. Los Angeles, CA (9,410)
  9. Phoenix, AZ (8,290)
  10. Orlando, FL (8,040)

Read the full report at StorageCafe for more details. 

Top takeaways for real estate agents

Depending on their circumstances and household size, any one of your clients could be looking at self storage options in your markets. Knowing where these facilities are, as well as their prices and security, can lighten their load and enable them to focus more on the home search or on selling their current home. 

Be the agent that anticipates their needs and helps them identify services in the area—including self storage—that could make their lives easier.