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Self Storage vs Commercial Warehouses

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Dave Sayce

13th Jan 2022 (Last updated on 19th Jan 2022) 10 minute read

Self-storage units come in a range of sizes but can also be used as a cost-effective alternative to commercial warehouses. Whilst storage units are not warehouses, they can provide both growing and established companies with additional space that is protected by state of the art security systems, recorded CCTV and intruder alarms.

Businesses throughout the UK are often limited when buying or leasing warehouse space - many companies are actually required to take out a commercial mortgage and must cover the additional costs associated with owning commercial properties. However, a commercial self-storage unit provides businesses with much more flexibility and will often come with fewer fees.

Here at Compare My Move, we work alongside several removals and storage experts to create insightful guides that will help our users find the best storage solutions available. In this article, we explain the difference between self-storage and commercial warehouses as well as the benefits of renting self-storage units.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What Are The Differences Between Self Storage and Commercial Warehouses?
  2. What Businesses Can Benefit From Using Self Storage?
  3. Why Choose a Self Storage Facility Over a Commercial Warehouse?
  4. What is Warehouse Storage to Rent?
  5. How to Find a Self-Storage Company

What Are The Differences Between Self Storage and Commercial Warehouses?

Self-storage units are a practical and convenient short or long-term storage solution that can be used by both businesses and individuals. It allows clients to maximise their space without having to spend too much money. Commercial warehouses, however, are typically used by larger companies and for a lot more money.

Warehouses and self-storage units can both provide additional space and be a place to protect your equipment, stock or goods. They can both store temperature-sensitive items and be climate-controlled if necessary. However, despite the similarities, there are several major differences to consider:

1. Cost

As warehouses are much larger industrial spaces and a major investment, they are often much more expensive compared to self-storage. Commercial warehouses require a lot more maintenance and security, increasing the price.

Whilst warehouses can be suitable for businesses of all sizes, many smaller companies will find the cost of self-storage much more manageable. If you intend to purchase warehouse space, this can be even more costly as you will likely be required to take out a commercial mortgage and pay regular maintenance bills. This is why many professionals prefer the flexibility of a self-storage unit.

2. Location and Accessibility

Due to their smaller size, self-storage facilities are typically located on easily accessible major roads. They are often purposely built in commercial areas so that a number of individuals and businesses can conveniently access them.

Warehouses, however, are often found in isolated areas that have more land to make use of. Due to their size, you will often have to travel further to access a commercial warehouse.

3. Space Provided

Obviously, most self-storage units will be smaller than warehouse space. However, they do come in a variety of sizes and can store a good volume of personal items or equipment. Warehouses are typically used by large commercial companies and so will have enough space to store large pieces of equipment, stock or merchandise.

If you’re only looking to store a few boxes, a warehouse would be too large and too costly making a self-storage unit the better solution. It’s advised to create an inventory list before deciding which storage option would suit your needs.

4. Security

Monitoring a space as large as a warehouse can be challenging, which is why self-storage units are sometimes considered more secure. As the space is smaller, a storage facility will have the right number of personnel and CCTV coverage monitoring the units. Whilst commercial warehouses are still extremely safe, they require a lot more security systems and a lot more money.

Self-storage also uses multi-level security systems and round-the-clock guards. Each unit will likely have a unique access code and individual padlocks. You will also have the option of using an indoor or outdoor unit which will result in different levels of security.

5. What Can Be Stored

Warehouses typically store goods for retailers, manufacturers and other businesses. They will also be equipped with forklifts, trolleys and cranes to help customers store larger items. Self-storage units, however, can only store a certain amount of items, depending on the size of the rented space. Both options can be used as furniture storage, but warehouses are typically better suited to larger items.

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What Businesses Can Benefit From Using Self Storage?

Self-storage units will be most practical for online companies and smaller businesses that are continuing to grow. Commercial warehousing spaces, however, would be best suited to large, fully established companies that are looking to store great quantities of stock, merchandise or large equipment.

Despite the size difference, there are actually quite a few businesses that will benefit from self-storage rather than warehouse space. Below, we’ve listed just some of the business types that will benefit from renting a self-storage unit rather than a commercial warehouse:

1. Startups

According to The Self Storage Association UK (SSAUK), 83% of businesses that use self-storage in the UK have less than 10 staff, meaning start-up companies often prefer this type of storage solution. It is much more cost-effective compared to renting a warehouse and the flexibility allows you to change units as your business continues to grow.

2. Online Sellers

Retailers and online sellers such as Amazon sellers, Etsy crafters and eBay stores are amongst just some of the businesses that can benefit from self-storage. In fact, the latest SSAUK industry report shows that 23% of businesses using self-storage in the UK are retail-based companies.

Whether you’re an independent retailer or a growing Etsy store, self-storage units can be the perfect space to store your deliveries and stock. Many storage facilities will also accept and send deliveries on your behalf, making the process much more efficient.

3. Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up 99.9% of the UK’s business population according to Simply Business. They are defined as businesses with fewer than 250 employees and a turnover of less than €50 million in the EU. As many of these businesses will still be fairly small in size, self-storage would be much more beneficial compared to commercial warehouses.

Not only will it save businesses like SMEs more money, but it provides a flexible storage solution that can evolve as the company grows. A warehouse would contain too much space for a business of this size, making it a much less cost-effective option.

4. Event Organisers

Event organisers often require flexibility as their work can result in a lot of travelling. Self-storage comes with much more flexibility than commercial warehouses as many companies will have facilities across the country to choose from.

It can provide you with a central location to store your equipment, props and paperwork but with the added benefit of a flexible contract.

5. Tradesmen

Self-storage facilities are incredibly secure and can provide tradesmen with safe units to store their tools and equipment without spending too much money. Many companies will keep their tools locked in their vans overnight, which often results in regular break-ins and theft. Self-storage facilities come with state of the art security systems, intruder alarms and constant CCTV to protect your belongings.

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Why Choose a Self Storage Facility Over a Commercial Warehouse?

1. Accessible Locations

One issue with renting warehouse space is that the facilities are typically located further away from the main cities due to the need for so much land. Self-storage units, however, are very local and are usually found in commercial areas and on main roads to allow for easier access. This means self-storage units can save businesses a lot of travel time and money.

The latest Self Storage Association report actually found that most people looking to use self-storage units only want to travel 15-minutes or less to the facility. Warehouses typically require long-distance travelling, meaning they are less convenient and sometimes difficult to access.

2. Cost-Effective

Due to their sheer size, warehouses are much more expensive to rent than self-storage. Warehouses come with regular maintenance costs, the need for insurance and sometimes additional fees for the land covered. If you are a smaller company, you will likely not require a huge amount of space, making it difficult to justify paying so much.

Self-storage units are much more beneficial and cost-effective. You are only required to pay for the unit itself with no maintenance fees added, giving you more control over your expenditure.

3. Flexibility

Warehouse storage is usually a long-term commitment whilst self-storage is more flexible.

Businesses that rent self-storage units have the advantage of choosing short-term storage or long-term rentals. You will have the freedom to cancel at any time or even relocate to a more convenient and strategic location.

4. Security

Due to the size and capacity of warehouses, it can be challenging to ensure they are fully monitored and secure. It can be a costly process, resulting in some facilities lacking the necessary security equipment and the number of physical guards on watch. They are often victims of burglaries due to their location and will not always be monitored 24/7.

The majority of self-storage units will have state of the art security systems, 24-hour surveillance and enough personnel to cover the entire facility. You will also have peace of mind knowing that you are the only keyholder for your specific unit.

5. Variety of Sizing Options

Self-storage is very versatile and, unlike large warehouses, it provides customers with a variety of options for the size of their storage unit. From storing a couple of boxes before moving house to providing businesses with over 1,000 sq ft of space, self-storage has endless opportunities. To learn more, read our storage unit size guide.

6. Convenient

As self-storage units are more accessible, local and come with flexible contracts, they are often a much more convenient solution for businesses in the UK. The lower costs can help you and your company save more money long term, allowing your business to continue growing and adapting to future changes.

7. Additional Services

Renting self-storage can actually come with several additional perks. When running a business using a self-storage unit, you will also be provided with the opportunity to make use of any equipment the facility has, such as forklifts and trolleys, and you should be provided with free parking and wifi. Many storage companies will also offer additional shelving for an added fee to help you organise your paperwork and stock.

One of the most beneficial services storage companies also offers is accepting and sending deliveries on your behalf. As there will always be staff monitoring the facility, self-storage companies can arrange to accept and send out deliveries on your behalf, should you be absent from the unit at the time.

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What is Warehouse Storage to Rent?

If self-storage units won’t provide you with enough space for your business, there is the option of comparing warehouse storage to rent. Whilst it is still a more expensive option than self-storage, it can provide companies with more than 1,000 sq ft of space for fewer fees compared to purchasing a commercial warehouse outright. Many large, multi-location storage companies will actually offer this service.

Warehouse storage to rent will have a higher price tag compared to a traditional self-storage unit, but, if you use a storage company to rent the space, it will come with the same level of security.

To purchase warehouse space in the UK, your business will potentially need to take out a commercial mortgage and will be expected to pay the usual fees that come with buying a commercial property. Renting through a commercial lease can also come with increased rent and annual costs, with less flexibility. However, by renting warehouse space from a storage company, you will likely have fewer fees, more flexibility in your contract and the opportunity to change the layout of the space when necessary.

How to Find a Self-Storage Company

Through their latest industry report, The Self Storage Association found that 46% of customers found their chosen storage company through a quick internet search, whilst 33% found them through local knowledge of the area. Only 12% used recommendations from friends or family.

Compare My Move has a large and reliable network of removal and storage companies who are all verified by us and reviewed by you. We can match you with up to 6 trusted professionals in your local area, helping you find the best companies that can cater to your specific needs.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

Dave Sayce

Reviewed by Dave Sayce

Owner & Managing Director, Compare My Move

Dave Sayce is the owner and managing director of Compare My Move and has over 10 years of experience in the house removals industry.