Storage Auctions: A beginner’s guide

Storage Auctions - Neighbor Blog

You’re likely acquainted with self-storage, but have you ever heard of storage for auction?

Introduced in the 1960s, self-storage has steadily grown in use throughout the years. Storage facilities assist a wide variety of people to store their belongings in secured units whilst undergoing periods of transition. However, one fault in the system, for many self-storage companies, is their inability to have certain customers pay their rent on time.

Because of the income at stake in this particular situation, storage facilities came up with a solution: to auction off abandoned or unpaid units in an attempt to make up for financial loss. In recent years, storage auctions have risen in popularity due to television shows such as Storage Wars and Auction Hunters. These shows follow bidders at auctions and show the valuable finds that can found in an evicted storage unit.

Whether you’ve read a local listing or tuned into a storage auctioning show, you likely have somewhat of an idea of what takes place at a storage auction, but in the off-chance that you don’t, we’re here to help. Here’s what you can expect at your local storage auction:

How do Storage Auctions Work?Storage Wars logo

There are approximately 80,000 storage auctions held throughout the United States each year.

Many, if not all, self-storage companies will sell or auction off the contents of a customer’s unit to make up for potential losses that have been incurred overtime.

Storage auctions are often the result of a lien, “the right to hold property belonging to another person until the debt owned by that person is paid.” If after a given amount of time the debt has not been paid, the right of lien permits storage facilities to sell a customer’s belongings to pay the accumulated debt. Storage auctions, however, rarely produce enough money to cover the rent due and the cost of holding the auction.

Auctioning can be both costly and time consuming, leading to many facilities seeing the process as a last resort. Most self-storage companies prefer you to pay your monthly rent on time because an auction is almost always a “money-losing proposition” for them.

When an auction does take place, the storage company will sell off the contents of the collected unit to the highest bidder, often by hosting a free auctioning event to the public. If the sale, made by the highest selected bidder, does not cover the balance owed by the previous owner of the storage unit, the remaining amount due will likely go straight to the collection agency. If the sale brings in more, the excess will be sent to the previous owner as is legally required.

The Bidding Process

Before bidding begins, storage units for sale will be opened briefly for auctioning participants to view. Bidders will likely be allowed several minutes to take a look inside of the unit. The unit will be closed once again after everyone has had time inside the space.

If you’re considering taking part in a storage auction, be mindful of the items making up the unit in question. Depending on the time allowed, you may struggle to see the unit’s content in its entirety. Searching through boxes before bidding has begun is prohibited and considered trespassing. It is advised to take note of the items in view before bidding begins so that you have a better idea of what you will later be biding your time and money on. Also, while most storage companies hosting an auction will accept checks and cards, it’s recommended that you bring cash–just in case!

At the end of the storage auction, the entire content of the unit is awarded to the highest bidder. The winner will likely be allotted 24-48 hours to collect the items making up the storage unit. Everything must be removed from the unit, including unwanted belongings and trash.

Following the Auction

The successful bidder will likely need space to sort through their winnings, so it’s advised that you obtain a storage unit of your own to store the possessions you won. Many people get started in the storage auction industry by storing in their garage or a local storage facility. You will also likely need a truck or trailer to help you move everything from the site of the auction.

It’s recommended you bring a change of clothes, rubber gloves and trash bags when cleaning out a storage unit. You never know just what you might find inside of your newly owned storage unit. Chances are it hasn’t been cleaned in quite a while.

The most commonly sold items in storage for auction are furniture, general household goods, clothing and electronics, while many bidders also find antiques, collectibles, jewelry and money.

Who can Participate in a Storage Auction?Crowded storage unit

Your local auction may be swarming with bidding veterans, but just about anyone can attend a storage auction. All bidders must be at least 18 years of age and be able to provide legal identification to participate. It’s likely that you will come across an eclectic group of individuals at any given auction show including online sellers, personal collectors and treasure hunters.

If you are Thinking of Attending a Storage Auction

You should plan to arrive to each auction at least 15 minutes early. The storage facility hosting the event will likely require you to register before you proceed. While not consistently, most auctions will start on time. Being late to an auction could result in you being kept from the event.

It’s also common for storage auctions to be cancelled the day of. Often times, the previous owner of the unit will pay back the debt they owe, delaying the need for an auction. Consider calling the storage facility beforehand to ensure that the auction will be taking place.

If you’re considering taking part in a storage auction, it’s advised that you first attend several to observe the process. Spectating will help you to become better acquainted with the protocol and procedures of most storage auctions.

How to Ensure Success at a Storage Auction

Learn the Process. The first storage auction you attend should be observed from the sidelines. Before you start bidding at auctions on a regular basis, consider learning the process from those who have done so previously. This way, when you’re ready to begin bidding at your next storage auction, you will know exactly what should and should not be done.

Set a Budget. Like most things in life, it’s probably wise to limit yourself. Before attending an auction, set a budget that will help you manage your spending. If you’re not financially available to participate in an auction, simply save up for the next scheduled event in your area.

Find a Mentor. If you’re considering making auctioning a hobby of sorts, try finding a mentor that is willing to share their bidding secrets with you. Making a few friends that regularly attend auctions will be of benefit of you and your future within the storage auctioning community.

Don’t Expect Too Much. Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible you’ll likely never find anything out of this world in any storage unit you purchase. Be realistic about the amount you’re spending on a unit; you never know for sure what you’re getting until you’ve outbid your competition.

Have an Idea of What You’re Looking For. Before taking part in an auction, have an idea of what kinds of items you would like to take away from the event. This will help you to determine which unit to bid on, if there are multiple, and help you to save money on units that don’t have what you may be looking for.

Find a Method That Works for You. Once you have attended a few storage auctions, try compiling a list of methods that have worked for you. Your list may be unlike anyone else’s, but try to stick to what ensures success for you.

Why do People’s Belongings get Auctioned off?

Auctions become a necessity for storage facilities when a renter has either abandoned or failed to pay rent on their unit for an extended period of time. When an account is past due, facilities are forced to put a lien on the contents of the unit and sell them by auction. This is in an effort to empty the space for rental and try and make up for lost rental income. This procedure is not out of malice or disrespect for renters possessions, but rather state law and regulation.

Before auctioning is considered, many self-storage companies will attempt to reach out to renters with the address, phone number and email provided by the customer. Therefore, it is important, as a renter, to keep information up to date with your self-storage company. Otherwise, important account alerts, notifications and eviction notices could be missed and lead to varying consequence.

In the case of a storage auction, many facilities require that the highest auctioning bidder return personal items such as photographs, passports, tax records, and bills back to the storage company’s office. The recently evicted customer will be given a certain amount of time to pick up their possessions, likely 30 days. Former customers may also inquire storage facilities to provide the recent buyer of the storage unit with their contact information. This allows the buyer the option of returning any other personal belongings back to the customer.

Storage for Auction in Utah

Finding a storage auction in your area is likely easier than you’d think. Usually finding local storage for auction is as easy as searching “storage auctions near me.” is a great resource to find storage auctions in Utah. The website offers both online bidding and scheduled listings of upcoming auction events in and around Salt Lake City.

The best way to stay in the know with storage auctions around you:

  • Scan advertisements in your newspaper to look for local listings.
  • Sign up for notifications from storage facilities in your area.
  • Join other bidders on social media, online forums and auction groups to keep updated.
  • To avoid auctions not worth attending, look for auctions in higher income areas.
  • Meet and connect with those heavily involved with auctions in your vicinity.


Now that you know all there is to about storage for auction, take the time to find a storage auction in your area and see if it’s for you. You may be surprised at what you find.

Have you ever attended a storage auction? Inform us of your experience in the comments below!

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