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How Exactly Do Storage Auctions Work?

Have you ever wondered how storage unit auctions work? There are many reasons why someone’s belongings may get auctioned off and end up for sale: late payments, abandoning the unit, or the storage business itself closing.

Storage units are a secure, cost-effective and convenient way to store belongings. These safe holding areas can provide you with the perfect solution for storing personal items or for business storage. They can also be a great way to find valuable items that have been safely preserved in units and flip them for resale, but the bidding process can be tricky.

In this article you will learn how to bid on a storage unit—online or in person— how to find valuable items inside units, and some valuable tips to remember when bidding on an auction for a storage unit.

What is a Storage Unit Auction?

A storage unit auction is the process of selling items stored in a storage unit. If the person who initially rented the unit abandons it, the owner has the right to sell off any items that are stored inside of it. This process helps them recoup some of their costs. Items up for bidding can include furniture, appliances, electronics, and other personal belongings.

Keep in mind as a buyer that storage unit auctions are not always “storage wars” for valuable belongings. Sometimes it’s the sale of ordinary items with minimal value. It all depends on the day, the unit, and your expertise in spotting value.

Items left behind for an extended period, without the unit being paid for, are fair game. The exceptions would be illegal, stolen, or hazardous items.

Live vs. Online Storage Unit Auctions

Storage auctions can be conducted online or offline. In-person events require people to attend the event to bid on items they want to purchase. Online auctions work by allowing people to bid from anywhere they have Internet access. Compared to live, in-person auctions, they can host a larger inventory because many businesses are listing their units on the website.

How to Get Started with Storage Unit Auctions

Can You Make Money Buying Abandoned Storage Units?

It is possible to make money by buying abandoned storage units. The answer depends on your dedication, skill set, and the storage units up for auction in your area. Buying units can be hit or miss, but one constant is that excitement while you’re “looking for treasures” this way.

Live (or In Person) Auctions

Auctions can be challenging to find, as they are often not open-to-the-public events. However, these kinds of auctions do happen all over the country, in almost every state or city. They are typically held onsite at storage facilities.

The first thing you need to do is find out if there are any abandoned storage units in your area. You can do this by using a search engine like Google and typing in “abandoned storage” or “storage unit auctions.”

Once you have found a list of storage units, take a look at the photographs for each one. You will need to decide which ones are worth investing in based on the items you can see from the pictures. Some auctions won’t provide images, so you’ll have to assess value quickly in the moment. As mentioned before, it all depends on your skill set and what’s available in your area.

You can find a storage auction near you by looking up storage auctions in your area or by asking around. Once you find an auction, you will need to register to bid. This usually requires filling out some paperwork and paying a small fee upfront before you start bidding on units. Storage facility owners often require you to bring cash only, pick it up within 72 hours, and give them a down payment while cleaning the unit out.

Online Auctions

You can find online storage auctions by looking up storage auctions websites on the internet, like or Storage facilities are required to advertise storage auctions, so they’re pretty easy to find. Registering to bid requires filling out your contact and credit card information before you start bidding on units.

Storage units are typically sold in increments of five minutes. So if more than one person is bidding on the same unit, the time increments will be shortened accordingly for both parties until there’s only one bidder left. That person gets the unit at that price point. After the auction ends, the winning bidder is emailed a receipt they will need to bring to the storage facility when they pick up their unit.

Online bidding enables you to place bets comfortably from anywhere without worrying about the driving, weather, or in-person pressures of traditional auctions. As a bidder, you can take your time looking at the unit photos, researching the items you can see, and placing more educated bets.

These websites may take a “buyer’s premium” after you win an auction, take sales tax, and require a deposit on the unit.

Tips for Success at a Storage Auction

Here are some helpful tips and tricks for success while bidding on storage units:

  • Check the storage business’s website for upcoming storage auction information. Some storage auctions are advertised on Craigslist or auction websites, but not always.
  • Bring cash to live auctions, as many auctioneers and storage facilities do not accept checks or credit cards for this.
  • Set a budget and stick to it. Decide the maximum amount you are willing to spend per unit or that day, and don’t go over that amount. It can be easy to get caught up in emotions and overspend when you don’t mean to.
  • If bidding online, change your username occasionally so other bidders can’t recognize your username, learn your bidding habits, and bid against you.

Potential Legal Issues

Purchasing a storage unit can be a risky investment. There are certain legal issues that you could encounter when buying units. The first issue is the possibility of inheriting someone else’s debt or liability. You can buy units that are abandoned or have been foreclosed on. Still, you will have to deal with the previous owner’s debt and liability.

You may also find that some units are contaminated with mold, hazardous materials, or pests. You could encounter some potential legal issues, so it’s important to know what legal measures you can take before problems arise. Check out our helpful blog posts on storage unit auctions to learn more about how to navigate this exciting, but sometimes tricky, process.

Categories Storage