Can You Make Money From Storage Unit Auctions?

A person celebrating a win infront of their laptop

When a storage unit is abandoned, the company that owns the storage unit will put it up for auction. These auctions are open to the public. Anyone who comes has the opportunity to walk away with everything from the storage unit, including anything with value. This article will talk about how to make money at storage unit auctions because you can make unbelievable profits from these auctions.

What is a Storage Unit Auction?

If a storage unit renter misses their payment for any reason, the company that owns the storage unit is allowed to put the unit up for sale. Typically, this will happen when a family member passes and the family didn’t know about the storage unit. Low incomes or lack of money to pay are different stories, and facilities tend to offer payment plans to help.

There is always a clause in the storage unit lease saying that after a certain time without payment, the company has the right to put the storage unit up for sale. This helps the company get back the money they lost with the missed payment and clear out the space for a new renter.

How do Storage Auctions Work?

A glimpse of a storage auction featuring items up for auction

Once they have the missed payment, companies usually wait 30 to 90 days to send the storage unit to auction. Once the time period they designate is up, they will buy advertisements to announce the auction and begin looking for auctioneers to host the auction. They do nothing to the unit before it goes to public auction, so all the valuable items remain in the unit.

There are three main phases to a storage auction: before the auction, the auction, and after the auction. Here is what you can expect in each of the stages.

Before the Auction

The main thing you need to do before an auction takes place is to find the auction and register for it. Though auctions are open to the public, they need to verify that you are at least 18 years of age to participate. Check the ads to know if this will be done online, at the facility before the auction, or at the storage facility on the day of the auction.

It can also be good to verse yourself with common items you may find in a storage unit. There is always something valuable in storage unit auctions, so you will most likely find something that you can use or sell. If you do choose to sell some of the items, you may want to research routes to sell them, including online places like eBay and Craigslist or in-person avenues like flea markets or garage sales.

You will want to set a spending limit based on the number of boxes in the unit and how much you think each box is worth. For example, if there are eight boxes and you think they are worth $15 each, your spending limit should be $120. It’s also a good idea to rent a moving truck as you typically have so much time to move your items if you win the storage unit.

The Auction

You are going to want to arrive early at the storage unit facility to make sure you are prepared for the day. You will not be able to look through the items before or during the auction, so arriving early just provides you time to get prepared. The facility will cut the lock and open the unit so you and the rest of the bidders can look at the unit then the auction will begin.

Here are the rules for most storage unit auctions:

  • Bidders bid on the whole unit not on an item-by-item basis.
  • There are no sealed bids.
  • The unit goes to the highest bidder.
  • You must pay cash to the facility upon winning.
  • The facility may ask for a deposit until you have the unit cleared.
  • Most facilities give you 24 to 48 hours to clean out the unit.

Remember that bids can range anywhere from $100 to over $1,000 depending on how valuable people think the storage unit items are.

After the Auction

There are also rules to what can and cannot be taken from the storage unit. Some of the rules may change based on facility, but some constant rules are as follows:

  • All vehicles are sold for parts as no title can be obtained
  • Personal items like photos and important documents must be turned over to the facility to return to the previous renter
  • Any firearms found in the unit must be surrendered to local law enforcement

How to Make a Profit from Storage Auctions

The first thing you are going to want to do on the occasion that you win a storage unit is to make plans for how to move the items out. If you already scheduled a rental van or moving truck, you should be able to start taking things out. It can be helpful to rent a self-storage unit to keep your items until you decide what to do with them. At Safeguard Self Storage, we have month-to-month leasing options so you can rent a storage unit for the long or short term.

Once you have everything out, begin sorting through everything by dividing them into “trash”, “keep”, and “sell” items. There will likely be stuff you do not want, but some items may be worth more than you could imagine.

People have all kinds of habits that can lead you to a profit. Some people collect film memorabilia or other collectible items like Beanie Babies and comics that can sell for way more than you bought the unit for. Have items you know are valuable appraised to make sure you know the true value. Be sure to check the current price of things you aren’t sure about so you don’t throw away anything that could give you a profit. Some of the most valuable storage locker finds are items that people think are junk.

How to Find Storage Auctions in Your Area

Most storage facilities will take out advertising to spread the word that there is an auction happening. Check local newspapers to find out if there is an auction in your area. Some websites are massive compilations of storage unit auctions all around the world. If you aren’t sure, you can always reach out to local storage facilities and see if they have any auctions coming up or go online to auction sites such as and

Storage auctions can be a lucrative endeavor if you are willing to put in a little leg work to understand how they function. If you can find a storage auction, you will likely find things you want or that others will want, so you get a profit. Check local advertisements or storage facilities to see if any auctions are coming up in your area.

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