Finding the Right Lock for Your Storage Unit
Renting a storage unit is often an important step in a person’s move—it’s often true that you’ll need to store your things for a period of time while making the transition. While the internet has made finding a good unit in your area easier than ever, renters often forget one important detail: they’ll need to get a lock.
Some storage facilities offer extensive security measures like cameras, security gates, or security doors. Units in these facilities might even have heavy-duty locks built into the door. Other storage facilities are decidedly less secure, and while you should be safe with a good lock, a bad lock can spell trouble. It’s often true that you can find storage deals that include a lock as a bonus, or if you’re savvy you can even bargain with the facility manager and get a lock thrown in for free. But even then there’s no guarantee you’ll be given a lock that’s adequate for the job. Here’s how to pick the right lock to secure your storage unit:
Before we get into the types of locks available, there are a few basic considerations. First, and most important, is the material. Stainless steel is ideal: it’s the strongest material locks (in your reasonable price range) will come in, and is also most-resistant to corrosion and rust. While titanium is strong and light, it’s easier to cut through than steel. Brass and aluminum will be cheaper, but they’re the easiest to cut through of all. When it comes to the shackle (the piece that enters the locking mechanism), boron is actually stronger than stainless steel, but either should work for your purposes—just make sure the shackle has a weather-proof coating.
Dual ball bearing locking mechanisms are the strongest, while dual levers work well too. Avoid single-lever locking mechanisms. A pin tumbler increases the sophistication of the key switch, with more pins providing more protection. The highest pin count is typically seven, descending down to three. These pins make locks far more difficult to pick.
Chain locks: cheap and versatile, chain locks connect the shackle to the lock’s body with a length of chain links. The advantage of chain locks is that they’ll fit almost any kind of door, a flexibility that means you’re more likely to use them again in the future. However, we don’t recommend their use when securing a storage unit. Because of the articulated nature of the links in the chain, chain locks have a large number of breaking points. These breaking points are exposed to the elements and vulnerable to bolt-cutters. Some of those who rent storage units think that bike-locks, with their vinyl, plastic, or rubber coatings, will be better protected. This is a serious mistake that we warn against: both bike locks and chain locks are vulnerable to the elements and break-ins and so should never be sued to secure your storage unit.
Padlocks or ‘U-Locks’: As the most popular type of lock, padlocks are probably what pops into your mind when you think of a lock—if you’re still hazy, they’re named ‘U’ locks for a reason. While u-locks are cheap, typically made of stainless steel, and strong, they also have a few weaknesses—namely, their shackles and keyholes are exposed to the elements, meaning that the keys and shackle necks have a tendency to break off into the lock in cold weather. Also, the long, curved neck of the shackle presents a tender target for a thief’s bolt-cutters. While padlocks aren’t the best type of lock to secure your storage unit, they’ll often be enough—just make sure the neck of the shackle is thick, it has a double-locking mechanism, the keyhole is protected with anti-pick pins, and it’s made of stainless steel (or at least brass).
Disc Locks: Round in shape, these locks are compact, thick, and solid. Their shackles (the piece of metal that goes through the eye of the door) are short, and are thus better-protected from both the elements and bolt-cutters. Disc locks are also more likely than other types of locks to feature anti-pick pins. Because of these security measures, thieves will be forced to smash disc locks off the door—a difficult feat, given their stout steel body. Disc locks are typically more expensive than other types of locks, but despite this we recommend them as the best type of lock to secure your storage unit.
Locks can range in price from just a few dollars to over a hundred. Generally, your price range should depend on the security level of the storage facility and the value of your belongings—if the former is high and the latter low, you should be safe aiming at the cheap end. That being said, we strongly recommend against paying anything less than $10, as these locks are assuredly made of cheap materials and in the long run will not be worth even that much. We suggest aiming at $20-$25, as these locks are almost guaranteed to include the features we recommended above, and will generally work just as well for your purposes as a lock that costs $100.