Self Storage

8 Tips To Help You Make The Most Of A Storage Auction (A Guide For The First-Time Bidder)

self storage facility

Popularized by the hit show “Storage Wars,” storage auctions have caught the public eye in the past decade and have also indirectly popularized self storage as a service. In reality, storage auctions lack the glitz and glam of show, in that stumbling on extraordinary items, whether unique or extremely valuable, is less of a frequent occurrence. However, participating in a storage auction can help you occasionally find valuable items or even strange ones. Whether you’re looking to acquire objects for your personal use or you’re planning on reselling your “treasure,” you need to know the ins and outs of a storage auction in order to turn your project into a success.

We’ve surveyed self storage auction participants to get the scoop on how to make the most of your next storage auction. Here are some tips to help you do so:

1. Find a storage auction

You are likely to find your next storage unit auction in the local newspaper or Craigslist posts. You can also inquire about upcoming auctions directly with the storage company, either using the company’s website or by calling them. Now you can also get this type of information online. If you access you can find online auctions, and you can even place a bid. At, you can search for in-person auctions information and find out more about bidding.

gavel standing down at self storage facility

2. Learn about how an auction works

Storage facilities organize auctions so that they can recover delinquent rent payments, which means they try to advertise this type of event in order to attract more bidders. On the day of the auction, all participants sign in before the event begins. They are allowed to view the contents of the unit, but without entering the actual unit. Items inside the unit are sold “as is” to the highest bidder. Make sure you have a cashier’s check, money order or a certified check so that you can pay by the end of the business day, as it’s a requirement by storage facilities.

3. Be there early

It’s advisable that you get to the auction site at least an hour before the auction begins. Typically, the facility will open its doors to bidders so they can take a look. It’s important for you to be there at this moment so that you can determine whether the contents of the unit are what you were looking for.

“Get to the auction early to see who else may be bidding and to register for the auction. Ensure you have enough cash to cover your potential bid because most storage facilities require you to pay immediately or forfeit your win”, according to Harriet Chan, Marketing Director of Cocofinder.

Take pictures if possible, so you can research the value of the items that are visible. Look for a backup unit, in case the owner of the first unit you chose decides to pay the due rent in order to regain possession of the unit.

open self storage unit

4. Set a budget

When deciding whether a storage unit is worth bidding on, try to take in the type of items you’ve seen and research, if possible, their resell value. This will help you determine your spending budget. Your goal is not only to break even but also to make a profit. “Before arriving at the auction, set a spending limit. If you estimate the value of a unit is $150 to make a profit and double what you spent on the auction, your limit would be $75,” Harriet Chan told us.

5. Know the correct market value of the auctioned items

A lot of times, people storing the items in the units about to be auctioned are unaware of the true value of those items. It’s essential that you do know to help make the correct decision: is this auction going to be worth it or not? Learn the value of everyday storage unit items. “Knowing the range of prices for these items can help you determine how to price the items you sell for profit,” Harriet Chan told us. Another aspect that should help you weigh in whether this investment is for you or not is the condition of the items on display. “To get the best deals at self storage auctions, one must notice the quality of the product being sold and the cost of the same product in the market,” according to Caroline Lee, the co-founder of CocoSign. “Keeping these things in mind, comparing the longevity of old vs. new products should be done,” she also added.

6. Stay on top of the inventory

While this isn’t guaranteed as a general rule, it also happens that you might have access to an inventory list of the items stored inside the unit that’s about to be auctioned. This helps you get a sneak peek of what you’re about to bid on or whether the items in the unit are of interest to you. “Most of the time, someone passes out an inventory, so you know what you’re bidding on beforehand. This upsets a lot of first-timers because that’s not how it happens on Storage Wars, but it’s actually a good thing,” Harold K. Hardesty, flooring specialist at The Housewire.

self storage inventory checklist

7. Keep underbidding

It’s easy to get carried away when you start bidding, especially if you’re a first-timer at this type of event. Know your budget and try to stay within the limits that you set. If you’ve decided you’d really like to buy a particular unit, make sure you start by underbidding in the beginning so that you can go higher as the bid intensifies and also stick to the budget you originally decided on. “If you’re new to it, you probably have no clue how much you really should be bidding for the unit, and chances are you’ll likely overbid unless you’re very strict. It’s very easy to get emotional going in!” according to Thomas Jepsen, CEO of Atlantic Aspiration.

8. Arrange for transportation

Once the bidding is over and you’ve won the unit you wished, you need to make sure you cover the cost of the auction by the end of the business day, but always verify with the company’s policy on the subject. Once payment is fulfilled, you have a certain period to collect the items inside the unit. Plan for this event in advance and either enlist the help of friends and family to help you carry everything (if you have large or bulky items) or rent a truck so you can transport everything in one trip.

Did we help you plan your next storage auction? Let us know in the comments section which tips you found useful.

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About the author

Mirela Mohan

Mirela is a creative writer for STORAGECafé. With an academic background in English and translation, Mirela now covers a range of topics including real estate trends, lifestyle and economy. Her previous experience in proofreading academic articles has inspired Mirela to choose a writing career path. In her free time, Mirela enjoys reading, but also hiking and creating art. You can contact Mirela via email.

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