If you live in a densely populated urban area, you know that having a little elbow room comes with a big price tag. You’ve probably calculated the cost per square foot over and over while searching for an apartment or house. And “do I really need a bedroom?” becomes a real debate. Self-storage is a luxury for those living in cities that are home to some of the most expensive property prices in the world. Couple that with the massive growth of urbanization in countries like China and South Africa, and the price per square foot (or meter!) really skyrockets.

By the end of this decade, over 50% of the world's population will live in major cities. And just like real estate, selling self-storage is a lucrative business in these major metropolitan areas. I did some investigating and found the 20 most expensive places in the world to rent a standard 5 x 10 ft. storage unit, based on average cost per month. All of the prices have been converted to USD for a true comparison. Check out my list of the most expensive cities in the world to rent a storage unit!

Informally called “The Bean”, Chicago’s Cloud Gate sculpture has rested in the Loop since 2004. Image by Giuseppe Milo via Flickr

20. Chicago: $106/mo

Self-storage is not cheap for the 2.6 million people living on the shores of Lake Michigan. Be prepared to shell out up to $180 bucks per month if you’re looking to rent a unit in the historical Wrigleyville area of Lake Side, Chicago.

Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue makes the list of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

19. Rio de Janeiro: $115/mo

Rio is one of the most expensive cities in South America to rent, and it's easy to see why. With 6.3 million people, the city is highly saturated with limited space for growth. Rio's affluent residents pay top dollar for high-security storage units in beachside neighborhoods like Copacabana and Ipanema.

Downtown Toronto as viewed from Lake Ontario. Image by Christine Wagner via Flickr

18. Toronto: $117/mo

The fifth-largest city in North America, Toronto is also one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the world. But being the most happening city in Canada comes at a steep price. Residents of the uptown neighborhood of North York pay up to $180 per month for a unit.

The bustling streets of Seoul at night. Image by Philippe Teuwen via Flickr

17. Seoul: $125/mo

Seoul is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. The 2,000-year-old city on the Han River is now home to 10 million people and is a world-leading technology hub and tourist destination. Seoul’s growing self-storage market is currently dominated by Extra Space Self-Storage.

A rear view of the large Merlion statue at Merlion Park, Singapore, with Marina Bay Sands in the distance.
Image by fad3away via Flickr

16. Singapore: $148/mo

With over 5.5 million people packed in a crowded port city, storage space in Singapore is bound to be expensive. Situated next to southern Malaysia, the Lion City is the world's only island city-state. Renting a unit can cost you up to $179 per month in the South Keppel and Marina districts.

The Eiffel Tower at dusk.

15. Paris: $150/mo

With 2.2 million residents and hundreds of historic areas, Paris is extremely limited on living space. Students flock to Paris for their world-class universities and celebrities buy up real estate. Residents typically pay a huge amount to rent very, very small apartments, making storage units a must-have for expats. Canal Saint-Martin boasts units as high as $203 per month.

The Hollywood sign overlooking Los Angeles. Image by Thomas Wolf via TW Photomedia

14. Los Angeles: $154/mo

Because real estate in L.A. is expensive, renting a self-storage unit costs a pretty penny, too. Convenience means most renters also choose a unit within 3 miles of their home. A unit in Beverly Hills costs around $200 per month, while a unit in the Monterey Park area is around $130.

A view of the capitol building. Image by Carol M. Highsmith via the Library of Congress

13. Washington, D.C.: $156/mo

Home and rental prices in the District are notoriously high, so new residents frequently choose to size down in their new space. Self-storage plays a huge role in the transition. Units range from $120 in the Hyattsville arts district to $224 in the Springfield neighborhood.

The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Image by Jacques Grießmayer.

12. Sydney: $160/mo

Australia is consistently ranked the most expensive country in the world, and Sydney is the most expensive place to live there. Housing, in particular, is not cheap, with a one bedroom apartment starting around $1,700. The Queens Park neighborhood is one of the most expensive, with a unit costing around $215 per month.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay.

11. San Francisco: $166/mo

Of course, California makes the list twice. Bay Area residents have the highest apartment rental prices in the country, and self-storage prices are also high. Self-storage in the Marina will run you around $219 a month, while units in the Mission District are around $130.

The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland. Image by Carlos ZGZ via Flickr

10. Dublin: $168/mo

The Viking city of Ireland has a massive population of 1.2 million and was ranked the second most expensive city for expats to live in Europe after Paris. There is a shortage of space in the capital city and rent costs continue to climb. Storage units range from $150 to $233 per month in the expensive neighborhoods of Howth and Killiney.

The Beth Yaacov Synagogue in Geneva, Switzerland. Image by Mark Heard via Flickr

9. Geneva: $173/mo

Newcomers to Switzerland's second largest city may be shocked at the rental prices and high cost of living. The major financial center and tax haven is one of the most compact metropolis areas in the world, making housing extremely expensive. Self-storage units in Central Geneva neighborhoods like the historic Eaux Vives lake area can cost up to $215 per month.

The famous Tower Bridge of London, just next to the London Tower. Image by Moyan Brenn via Flickr

8. London: $179/mo

The Evening Standard named London the most expensive city in the world in which to live and work this year. The average rent for a small London flat is $1,870 per month, and prices keep going up. Self-storage units are similarly expensive, with prices as high as $227 per month in premier areas like Camden.

Miami’s wealthiest residents need self-storage, too. Image by Tom Wolf via Flickr

7. Miami: $191/mo

Party in the city where the heat is on...for self-storage, that is. Miami is home to many of the world's wealthiest residents. Of course, with riches comes a need for high-security storage. Some of the world's most ultra-secure car and wine storage units are in Miami. For the less luxurious, a 5 x 10 ft storage unit ranges anywhere from $100 to $250 per month.

Consistently voted the world's best hotel, The Burj Al Arab"7 star" hotel stands tall and proud on the Arabian Gulf. Image by Chris Hopkins via Flickr

6. Dubai: $192/mo

The business hub of the Middle East and jewel of the Persian Gulf is home to 2.5 million people, and one out of every 100 people in Dubai is a millionaire. Of course, millionaires need somewhere to store their toys, too. Uber-secure (and highly expensive) self-storage is common in Dubai. Many facilities don't even list their location on their website for added security. You can expect to pay as much as $231 per month for a 5 x 10 ft unit in Dubai.

Hong Kong at night. Image by Dhilung Kirat via Flickr

5. Hong Kong: $205/mo

Space is incredibly expensive in Hong Kong, the world's fourth most densely populated state. The city is also exorbitantly wealthy: Hong Kong has more Rolls Royce cars per capita than anywhere else in the world. Self-storage is popular among those who can afford it. Micro storage units (think your middle school locker) are just as common here as more standard American size units. A 5 x 10 ft storage unit ranges from $103 to $377 per month.

View of Old Town in Zurich. Image by Dennis Jarvis via Flickr

4. Zurich: $206/mo

A 2-bedroom apartment in Switzerland's largest city costs around $4,300 USD. Storage units start at $155 and can cost up to $275. The 1.8 million residents of Zurich boast a mind-blowing average salary of $87,000, with almost half of all residents working at banks or investment firms. So I'm pretty sure they can afford it.

A crowded evening on Nanjing Road in Shanghai. Image by Achim Fischer via Flickr

3. Shanghai: $217/mo

With 14.3 million residents, Shanghai is the most densely populated city in China. Housing costs are also six times higher than anywhere else in China, so ample living space is a luxury reserved for the wealthy. Self-storage is huge for those moving to the city. Love Box Self Storage is a popular choice created by expats to help with the transition. But space is expensive, with units starting around $165 per month and topping out around $300.

The view of lower Manhattan’s 9-11 tribute from Brooklyn at night. Image by Marcela McGreal via Flickr

2. New York: $219/mo

The Big Apple is home to 8.5 million people, and it’s also the most expensive place in America to rent a storage unit. But that shouldn't come as a huge surprise. Everything is more expensive in New York, especially when you're talking about square footage. Rent prices have skyrocketed due to a shortage of affordable housing and few areas available for new development. Storage units feel like a steal compared to the cost of housing. Unit prices range from around $100 per month in the Brooklyn area to $350 per month in the Chelsea neighborhood.

The busy streets of Shinjuku in Tokyo, Japan Image by inefekt69 via Flickr

1. Tokyo: $280/mo

The world’s biggest city is also the most expensive place in the world to rent a storage unit. Tokyo's 13 million residents do self-storage a little differently. Units are typically referred to as "trunk rooms" and sizes are measured by the number of tatami mats that can fit in the space. A 5 x 10 ft unit (or 2.8 tatami) in Tokyo is considered a large unit, and they’re much harder to come by than locker size micro-units. Only the affluent can afford large units in Tokyo. Japan's 1% are more likely to store artwork or nihonshu than sports cars or expensive jewelry, so extra-large units are typically high-security units reserved for millionaire expats. The cheapest 5 x 10 ft unit I could find cost 21,300 yen, which translates to $211 USD at the current exchange rate. Units nearby more exclusive neighborhoods like Ebisu and Azabu were around 50,000 - 58,000 yen per month, or $495 - $574 USD.

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