Storelocal Team Aug 29, 2023 7:00:00 AM 21 min read

What Are The Operating Expenses for a Self Storage Facility?

When starting a self storage facility, it's crucial to understand the various operating expenses involved. These expenses are integral to the business's day-to-day operations and can significantly impact profitability.

The costs range from maintenance and security to insurance, utilities, and property taxes. This article will delve deeper into the various operating expenses associated with running a self storage facility, providing valuable insights for anyone considering this lucrative business venture.

Fixed Costs of Operating a Self Storage Facility

Fixed costs are expenses that remain constant, irrespective of the number of self storage units rented out. These costs include the land acquisition or lease payments, construction costs of the storage units, and the initial setup costs for security systems.

how much does it cost to build storage units

Costs like property insurance, property taxes, and any financing costs for the facility are also included in fixed costs. Having a clear understanding of these fixed costs is vital for effective budgeting and ensuring the sustainability of the business in the self storage industry.


Utilities are a key fixed cost in operating a self storage facility. This includes expenses such as electricity, water, internet and phone services, and waste disposal services.

Electricity is essential for lighting, security systems, and climate-controlled storage units. Water costs can arise from restroom facilities or landscaping needs, while waste disposal services ensure a clean and hygienic environment for your clients and their stored items. Additionally, RV and boat storage facilities may offer electricity within the units so tenants can charge the batteries of their RVs and boats. Those facilities also tend to offer wash bays, air compressors, showers, and ice machines—all of which require electricity and/or water.

RV & Boat

These costs can vary based on usage and local rates but they are ongoing and should be carefully factored into your budgeting plans. It's also worth considering energy-efficient solutions, such as LED lighting or solar panels, which can help reduce electricity costs in the long term.


Insurance is a non-negotiable fixed cost when operating a self storage facility, serving as a critical safety net against unforeseen circumstances. This includes property insurance to cover potential damage to the facility, liability insurance in case of injuries or accidents on the premises, and business interruption insurance to cover loss of income due to disruptions in operations.

The cost of insurance can vary based on the size and location of the facility, the number and types of units, and your specific coverage levels. Regularly reviewing and updating your insurance policy to reflect your current operations can help ensure you are adequately covered and not overpaying. Investing in comprehensive insurance coverage brings peace of mind and provides financial protection for your self storage business.

insurance paperwork for self storage

Variable Costs of Operating a Self Storage Facility

Variable costs, in contrast to fixed costs, fluctuate based on the usage of services and the occupancy rate of your self storage facility. These costs can include expenses related to maintenance, security, marketing, staff salaries, and more. It's essential to manage these costs carefully as they can significantly influence your business's profitability.


Labor is a significant variable cost in operating a self storage facility. This typically includes wages for facility managers, maintenance staff, landscapers, and housekeeping personnel. These costs can fluctuate depending on the size of your facility, the number of employees, and their wage rates and benefits. Owner-operators may offer health, dental, and vision insurance, as well as 401Ks or other retirement plans. These are all expenses that need to be included into the budget. Some owner-operators choose to provide their managers with an on-site apartment as well. If their facility offers one, those utility costs would need to be factored into the budget too.

self storage employee

Facility managers are usually responsible for handling daily operations, including customer service, managing bookings, and overseeing the maintenance and security of the facility. Maintenance staff ensure the premises remain clean, structurally sound, and adequately prepared for storing customers' belongings.

Besides regular wages, labor costs may also include employee benefits, overtime pay, and training expenses. As your business grows, you may need to hire additional staff or invest in their professional development, making labor a variable cost that can significantly impact your operating expenses. Effective labor management, like efficient scheduling and ongoing training, is crucial to control costs without compromising service quality.


Maintenance is another variable cost associated with running a self storage facility. These costs can fluctuate depending on the age and condition of your facility, as well as the frequency of usage by customers. Maintenance costs encompass a wide range of tasks including routine cleaning, repairs, pest control, landscaping, and facility inspections for the roof, HVAC system, sprinklers, and fire extinguishers. Facility owners may also need the spring tension adjusted for roll-up doors or maintenance performed on the access gate.

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Regular upkeep is crucial to providing a safe, clean, and attractive environment for customers and their stored items. For example, regular cleaning prevents the accumulation of dust and debris, and pest control measures help protect stored items from damage. Maintaining the storage unit facility exterior, such as landscaping or fresh paint, contributes to a positive customer perception of your business.

Older self storage facilities may incur higher maintenance costs due to increased wear and tear, while facilities experiencing heavy customer traffic may require more frequent upkeep. By effectively managing maintenance tasks and scheduling preventative maintenance, you can extend the life of your facility, prevent costly repairs, and maintain a high level of customer satisfaction.

Tips to Reduce Overhead Costs

Reducing overhead costs can significantly influence the profitability of your self storage facility. Here are a few strategies that can help:

  • Energy-efficiency: Invest in energy-efficient solutions such as LED lighting, motion sensor lighting, and solar panels. These may require an upfront investment but can lead to significant savings in the long run.
  • Preventive Maintenance: Regular maintenance can prevent costly repairs in the future. Regular inspections and timely repair of minor issues can extend the lifespan of your facility, reducing the need for extensive refurbishments.
  • Workforce Management: Efficiently manage your workforce to reduce labor costs. This could involve cross-training employees to handle multiple roles, adopting flexible scheduling during peak and off-peak times, and investing in employee retention to reduce training and hiring costs.
  • Vendor Negotiations: Regularly negotiate with your vendors for better deals on supplies and services. Bulk purchasing or long-term contracts might help you score discounts.
  • Technological Integration: Leverage technology to automate various tasks such as billing, client communication, and facility management. This can reduce labor costs and improve efficiency.
  • Insurance Review: Regularly review your insurance policy to ensure you are not over-insured. Consider increasing your deductibles to lower your premiums, but ensure you can afford the out-of-pocket cost in case of a claim.

By implementing these strategies, self storage facility owners and operators can effectively manage and potentially reduce their overhead costs, leading to an improved bottom-line.

How To Use Technology to Manage Operating Costs Effectively

In the digital age, leveraging technology can play a crucial role in managing the operational costs of a self storage unit business. Here's how:

Self Storage Automation

  • Automation: Automation can significantly reduce labor costs by performing routine tasks such as invoicing, booking, inventory tracking, and client communication. Robust self storage management software can streamline operations, improve efficiency, and reduce human error.
  • Security: Advanced security systems, including surveillance cameras, access control systems like the Nokē® Smart Entry System by Janus, and alarms, can enhance the security of your facility. While these systems may require an initial investment, they can reduce insurance costs and deter theft or damage, saving money in the long term.
  • Online Marketing: Digital marketing strategies, such as search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing, can be more cost-effective and targeted than traditional marketing methods. Also, having a robust online presence helps attract more customers, increasing occupancy rates and revenues.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems: A CRM system aids in maintaining strong relationships with current clients and attracting new ones. It can automate communication, ensure timely payments, and improve customer service - all leading to customer retention, positive reviews, and word-of-mouth referrals.
  • Data Analysis: Harness the power of data to make informed decisions about pricing, marketing, and maintenance. For instance, analyzing peak usage times can help you schedule staffing and maintenance more efficiently.

By integrating technology into your operations, you can significantly manage and reduce operational costs, making your self storage business more profitable and sustainable.


Strategies to Boost Profits Without Sacrificing Customer Service

While running self storage facilities, it's crucial to devise strategies that boost profits without sacrificing customer service. Here are some effective strategies:

Tiered Pricing

Implement a tiered pricing strategy based on the features and benefits of your storage units. For example, climate-controlled or larger units can be priced higher than standard units. This method allows you to maximize your revenue without compromising on the level of service provided.

Ancillary Sales

Consider selling related products such as boxes, locks, packing materials, and moving supplies. Not only does this increase your revenue, but it also enhances the customer experience by providing a one-stop solution for all their storage needs.

cardboard boxes in a self storage facility

Customer Loyalty Programs

Implement a customer loyalty program that rewards long-term customers with discounts or perks. This improves customer retention, fosters a sense of loyalty, and encourages word-of-mouth referrals.

Incremental Rent Increases

Regular, small increases in rent can contribute significantly to revenue over time, without causing major inconvenience to your customers. Be sure to communicate these increases transparently and justifiably to maintain customer trust.

Effective Space Utilization

Make the most of your available space by offering a variety of unit sizes to cater to different storage needs. This can help ensure a higher occupancy rate, leading to increased revenue.

Optimize Your Budget With A Self Storage Consultant

Bringing on board a seasoned self storage consultant can streamline the process of optimizing your budget and maximizing your profits. This is where Storelocal Consulting comes in.

Storelocal provides tailored consulting services to self storage facility owners, offering strategic expertise in areas such as operational cost management, pricing strategies, ancillary sales, and effective space utilization. Our consultants are industry veterans who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. Reach out to us today and let's take the first step towards enhancing your self storage operations.

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