This annual list of the best storage unit franchises was revised and updated on May 16, 2023.
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Self-storage is an increasingly important part of American life. Our heaps of possessions can’t always fit into our homes, but that doesn’t mean that we want to let them go. The sofa that doesn’t fit in your home now might be perfect for the next place you move to, while the hobby you don’t have time for now might be a big dream you want to pursue again in the future. Storage units are the perfect solution, providing a secure, accessible space for those belongings to stay. That’s why over 43 million square feet of self-storage space were completed in the US in 2022, and why construction spending on self-storage increased by 584% from January 2015 to January 2020. 90% of self-storage in the world is in the USA.
Storage units provide an ideal solution for people moving house. It’s not always possible to move all your possessions direct from one home to the next, and storage units are somewhere for them to live in a transitional period, while you’re in temporary accommodation, or if your new home can’t fit everything in. Storage companies increasingly provide mobile storage units that can be brought to the customer, loaded up with their belongings, and then taken either to a storage site or to a new home. Even during the packing process, these make more space to maneuver, as belongings can be boxed and sorted into the unit instead of piling up in the house. This is the model that many franchises have adopted, providing customers with the flexibility they need to deal with a complicated and busy moment in their lives.
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Storage unit franchises are part of the storage and warehouse leasing industry, which has seen strong growth in recent years. It provides storage ranging from individual lockers to whole container units and even outdoor spaces, including those mobile containers that prove so valuable in house moves. The industry employs over 217,000 people in 189,000 businesses, all helping people to move and store their belongings. In the five years to 2023, revenues rose at an average rate of 2.1% per year, reaching an estimated $29 billion.
In 2020 and 2021, as Covid wrecked the economy, the storage and warehouse leasing industry actually saw growth. As more people worked from home, they wanted to create space by clearing out some of the clutter without letting go of their belongings. For those less fortunate who were made temporarily unemployed by Covid closures, rentals provided a cost-effective way to store possessions when forced to move in with family, friends, or into a smaller home. Only 8% of self-storage space was vacant in 2022, as people continued to make use of the available space.
Rising home ownership, per capita income, and consumer confidence are all likely to benefit storage unit franchises over the next five years, as people have the money not only to move house but to make use of storage options as part of the move, or even to leave some of their possessions in storage for the longer term. A strong residential rental market will play a part, as people relocating from one rental to another, or without room for all of their possessions in their rental, seek a solution for their storage needs.
As baby boomers downsize their way into retirement, they’re adding to the business of storage units. Their possessions regularly go into storage to be sorted at a later date or passed on to a future generation, and the lack of urgency in dealing with these possessions can make them a long-term source of storage revenue. Urbanization is also contributing to the upward arc of storage, as more of the population fits into the confined space of cities. These long-term trends mean that growth looks more reliable in the storage industry than in other spaces where expansion has been driven by short-term trends. Asking rents on storage space have been rising in response to this continued demand, and are expected to reach $1.30 per square foot in 2023.
Private business clients are an important customer sector for self-storage. They use these spaces to archive documents and store excess stock, saving space at more expensive office and commercial properties. Business contracts can provide a good source of steady income, though they are the minority of the industry’s revenues.
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Like most industries, the storage sector is seeing a shift toward online sales. These are expected to exceed offline sales for the first time in 2023. This is the tip of a wider digital iceberg for self-storage companies. Their business may seem relatively old-fashioned and grounded in the physical world, but a high proportion of their customers are millennials, who are more used to storage units as a fact of life, and who expect to be able to run their lives through smartphones, apps, and interactive websites. Those running storage unit franchises need to have a strong understanding of how to market and run a business digitally, and to ensure that operations in physical space line up with expectations set online.
As technology in the sector develops, it’s increasingly important to have staff who understand and can operate this technology. This more skilled workforce commands higher wages, even as market saturation is starting to push down rents in some areas, meaning that storage companies are starting to feel the financial squeeze. While the industry isn’t yet seeing a decline, it is feeling some pressure.
Within the storage industry, specific niches may provide opportunities for a business to make its mark, whether that’s providing a special space for sports equipment or a climate-controlled environment for delicate objects.
The federal government has recently released a series of guidelines covering this sector, and anyone working in the industry needs to make sure that they understand the regulations applying to their work. The Department for Homeland Security sometimes makes vague comments about how facilities could be used to store materials for terrorist attacks, but while business owners should know the expectations the government places on them, the real threat of such activities is negligible.
There are some large and well-established players within this industry, and for a new franchised business, drawing attention away from the big hitters is an important challenge. You may have to invest more time and money into marketing than with some other businesses, and the backing of a franchise can help. Established players spend around 20% of their revenues on marketing, and rising competition is likely to push this up rather than down. A franchise can help overcome the challenges of marketing by giving you a higher profile from the start, but be ready to spend heavily on this early on.
This is a growing industry with plenty of money to be made. That said, there are now signs that growth may be tailing off, as the market heads toward saturation. The amount of new self-storage space completed has fallen for four years in a row, vacancy rates are on the rise, and there was a slight decrease in asking rents in 2022. Growth continues, but not as dramatically as it has until recently. The storage unit industry is a good earner, but those earnings may soon plateau.
The Top Storage Unit Franchises of 2023
1. Go Mini’s
Go Mini’s offers portable storage containers they deliver to any home or business for temporary on-site storage solutions when needed, such as during a home renovation project. When finished using the container, the company will come and retrieve it. Customers also have the option of packing a container and having the company come get it and place it in their safe and secure Go Mini’s facility. Those who are making a local move can have the company deliver their packed container to their new location.
All portable storage containers are 8 feet high with padded wheels that don’t damage driveways or parking lots, 8-9 inches of ground clearance for easy loading and unloading, and come in three lengths: 12 feet, 16 feet, and 20 feet. Their storage containers are built for outdoor storage with specialty paint to prevent sweating, ventilation to prevent condensation and mold, convenient interior railings for tie-downs and hangers, and locking rollup or swing doors.
Founded in 2002 and franchising since 2012, the number of locations has expanded from 61 in 2013 to the 137 locations listed on the company website (up from the previous year’s listing of 112), of which four are located in Canada.
2. Zippy Shell Moving and Storage
Zippy Shell Moving and Storage offers both portable storage and moving services. For those needing a storage solution, Zippy Shell offers a 15-foot long container that is 7 feet high and 7 feet wide, with a total of 105 square feet of space that can safely hold 4,500 pounds of belongings. The container features a ground-level weather-proofed design for easy loading/unloading and locking barn-style doors. Long-distance moving containers are also available in 10-foot and 15-foot sizes.
The storage and moving containers are loaded onto a Zippy Shell truck for transport. Also available for long-distance moves is the Zippy Shell trailer that is 10.5 feet wide, 11 feet high, and 22 feet long from the hitch to the back. The trailer is low to the ground and features a pull-out ramp at the back for easy loading and unloading. When a container is delivered, customers can take up to three days to pack it up. The company will store the container in their facility and for customers who are moving, deliver the container(s) to the new location when the customer is ready.
Founded in Australia in 2007, the US operation started franchising in 2010. The company website currently lists 67 locations (up from the previous year’s listing of 48).
3. UNITS Moving and Portable Storage
UNITS Moving and Portable Storage offers both 12-foot and 16-foot weather-resistant containers, 8 feet high and 8 feet wide, with securely locking barn door openings (doors open outwards) that can hold up to 8,000 pounds of belongings. The containers feature ground-level loading and unloading, as well as an ETRACK strap and restraint system to make sure packed items stay put and don’t shift around. Their ROBO-UNIT robot delivery system allows for delivery of containers to the tightest spaces.
Customers have the flexibility to take as long as they need to pack their container. Storage containers can stay on-site or then be picked up and stored at a UNITS secure indoor storage facility. For customers moving locally or long-distance, UNITS will deliver the container(s) to the new location on the day determined by the customer.
Founded in 2004 and franchising since 2005, the number of locations hovered around the 30 mark for years, but recently shot up to the current total of 61 (up from the previously reported total of 46), of which two are company-owned and all are located in the US.
4. Storage Authority
Storage Authority is a bit different from the other franchises on this list. Instead of offering portable storage and moving solutions, Storage Authority is one of the only traditional self-storage facilities using a franchise business model (most self-storage businesses are independent operations). As such, they offer more advanced systems and technologies than the average independent self-storage business. Customers can both rent and pay online using their preferred device (desktop, laptop, tablet, phone) and set up auto-payments to avoid late fees. Customers can also phone in to make rental arrangements or visit a location for face-to-face interactions.
The chain offers clean, reliable, easy self-storage that comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Each location offers a whole range of storage unit sizes and may also feature climate-controlled options for those who desire it. Leasing is month-to-month and customers must purchase insurance to protect their belongings.
Founded in 2014 and franchising since 2015, the company website currently lists three locations (two in Connecticut, and one in New Jersey), along with a mention that new locations are in the works in eight different states.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.