How To Buy Abandoned Storage Units at Auction

How Do Local Buy/Sell/Trade Stores Aquire Inventory?

One way to acquire inventory is to purchase foreclosed on storage units at auction. This also works well for the E-Bayer or as an at home buy sell trade business.

However simple this may sound purchasing storage units is serious business. There are a few tricks of the trade one should know prior to bidding their first unit.

So What Are The Tricks?

While I can not tell you all of them in this one article I can definatly get you started off on the right foot saving you much time and gas.

So how do you buy abandoned storage units at auction?

First off, Always carry a lock or two and a good flashlight because,

#1- Many times these units are dark.

#2- After purchase some unit managers do not provide locks

Jarad and Brandi's Take on Units

Size Up The Competition

First Step - Frequent Several Auctions Prior To Bidding Your First Unit (This is a very important time and money saver).

Note The time of the Year. Don't bother with auctions around tax return time as everyone has paid up. You will waste a lot of gas and time running to auctions only to find out every one has paid up.

While there take note of the crowd.

Take note of the Auctioneer. They are different at each auction. By doing this you will learn the crooked auctioneers as opposed to the not so crooked ones. This is for future reference so when looking for auctions you can save time by knowing which auctioneers are worth your time and which are not.

Remain quietly observant Always.

Some unit auctions are entire unit silent bid while others are pieced out one thing at a time. I would suggest avoiding the latter.

After the auction ask what each unit sold for.

Make note of who purchased it and for how much. See if he/she is at the next auction and the next, and so on.

By doing this you are learning how to bid competitively and you are also learning the "regular" crowd.

Many who attend these auctions are fly by nights. You don't want to be one of them. You want to be able to spot them so as not to waste your time in the future.

For example; after you have frequented many auctions you will be able to spot the -Ebayers desperate for merchandise. When going to an auction where there end up being many you'll know to head on over to another auction and not waste your time at that particular one.


Keep an eye out for the E-Bayer desperate for merchandise.

Don't get me wrong E-Bayers are good people and many are smart, but this breed of them can be detrimental to unit auctions.

An experienced bidder can spot them right off the bat.

They never have a flash light (which is a must as noted earlier).

They do not tend to frequent auctions.

When they do go they run the bids so high nobody wins, not even them!

I once watched a desperate E-Bayer bid a unit of rocks up to $500 bucks!

What To Look For When Bidding on a Storage Unit

The Fun is in the mystery boxes, when you bid a unit your not allowed to go inside, your not allowed to look into boxes or dig.

It's a guessing game that if done skillfully can become very lucrative. I once made $300.00 on a $21.00 bid full of mystery boxes.

Look for signs of management already having gone through the unit. Items strewn everywhere, boxes open, nice stuff sitting directly out in front etc.

Look for things like how the people who owned the unit packed their things were the careful or did they just throw things together etc.

Look for signs that they spent money like expensive packing boxes etc.

O.k another funny story, a man was apparently living in a unit. My question was where did he go to the bathroom? Needless to say I did not bid the unit. One of the desperate E-Bayers won it for $168.00, jumped right in and spilled a huge jar of pee all over himself and a ton of empty boxes LOL :) . I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants.

Where Do You Find Storage Unit Auctions?


Take a peak in the legal section your newspaper classifieds on a daily basis. Write down the dates and times and how many units onto a pocket calendar

You can also call around to storage units in your area from the yellow pages and ask them if and when they hold auctions.

Do a Google search NorthWest Auctions online shows many upcoming auctions for the Pacific Northwest I would be willing to bet there are similar sights for other parts of the county.

What Kinds of Things Can You Expect to Find In Storage Units?

Well, just about anything you can imagine. Each unit is unique. I like to classify my units into names according to what is in them. One I remember I call the Antique unit had old coins from all over the world, antique chairs, dolls, glass and jewelry. .

I had a cross dressers unit once (ha ha), that was interesting to say the least. I still made $400.00. There were some seriously nice expensive women's clothes in there.

How Much Do They Cost?

This depends on the bids for the day. The last unit I purchased for $18.00 and made $500.

Another unit I purchased for $375.00 and made $3,000.

It is safe to assume that It varies dramatically.

Tax Wise

Turning storage unit purchasing into a small business can create many tax benefits for you.

Keep receipts for units when you purchase them.

Keep receipts for things you purchase for the units such as locks, flash lights , dump runs etc.

Keep up with what you bring in from the sales of items.

Keep a mileage log when you visit unit auctions.

Turn it in to your tax preparer, do your own schedule C, or e-mail me and I can guide you through it.

Things to Wach For When Opening Boxes ...


After you purchase the unit be cautious of opening boxes and things, you may run across a needle from drug use etc..... Don't be all scared and stuff , just cautious is all.

After Reading This Will You Attend At Least One Storage Unit Auction

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© 2010 starme77

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Comments 51 comments

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 6 years ago from Augusta, GA

I have a question...maybe it's a no brainer, however I'm going to ask anyway! When you purchase a unit in the auction, are you just bidding on the contents inside the unit or is the storage unit (itself) acutally yours to keep?

europewalker profile image

europewalker 6 years ago

I actually went to my first auction last week to observe the process. I plan on going to a few more and hope to eventually make a bid on one. Good hub Starme.

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

drej2522 ya kinda gotta leave the unit there :)

europewalker thats the way to start , learn the "old timers" at first they wont be too awful nice to you , but eventually you will gain their respect if you have any more questions don't hesitate to ask and if you read this hub before going to your next one, things will make a whole lot of sense when you go :) I'm interested to know how your next one goes so let me know :)

thevoice profile image

thevoice 6 years ago from carthage ill

great read thanks well hub

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

Hey Thanks, Glad ya like it :)It needs a bit of tweaking, I'll come back later and fix it up a bit more

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

Thanks for reading Donald , It isn't a quick fix to money problems thats for sure , really you need to do your homework as I wrote in this hub, not everything is in here but 90% of what you need to know is - follow this check out some auctions and see what ya think - oh, another thing to look for when bidding units is large stuff , do you have a way to haul it and trash, trash is a downer , some units are full of it and others are not , you will most likley see lots of mattresses usually at least one in every unit , if your doing this as a business though you can run the trash through the commercial side of the dump and it is usually alot more inexpensive , plus keep the recipts for a tax write off. I Absolutly love purchasing units and it has been very lucrative for me in the past - let me know how it goes when you go to your first auction I would love to hear about it :)

shazwellyn profile image

shazwellyn 6 years ago from Great Britain

Well... I had never thought of that! What a great idea:)

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 6 years ago from Central Texas

This is a great hub and a great way for people to make a little extra money. I have put a link to your hub in my "How to Have a Successful Garage Sale" hub where we first talked about you writing this hub. :)

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

Hey Thanks Kcc I so appreciate that! and I should do the same for you also :)

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

Just wondering if anyone has attended any of these auctions yet? If you have please share your experiences here and feel free to ask questions also - I'll answer em :)

Pearldiver profile image

Pearldiver 6 years ago from Tomorrow - In Words & NZ Time.

Interesting investment option. In NZ we don't often get a chance to do this, as most general contract terms allow storage coys to take direct ownership of abandoned goods or via unpaid storage fees. What they do with goods is anyone's guess. Good hub.. thanks for sharing. And BTW... have a very happy birthday. Take care.

MtShastaWriter profile image

MtShastaWriter 6 years ago from Mt. Shasta Valley, CA

I have always wanted to bid on a storage unit but have always been too chicken - I'm afraid of what I might find in there....

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

Just take your time - go to a few - pay attention and when you make your first bid you'll do great :)

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

auctioneeres vary with crookedness - one thing they like to do is have buddies in the audience to run up the bids - watch, pay attention , you'll see hand signals, gestures, etc those are the auctions you will not want to frequent in the future , see once you learn which ones not to attend - as your going through the classifieds to find auctions you'll save a ton of time by knowing which auctions are good and which ones are not - but ... the only way to learn is to frequent these auctions and pay close attention - there is no specific psychology of bidding - its kinda like playing texas hold em - ya gotta learn others statagies and build one of your own - read people - pay attention really

charley 6 years ago

my daughter and I have seen the shows on tv and love it thanks for the great help info charley

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

I have heard about that show - but never have seen it - guess I should look into watching it sometime

justdoit88 6 years ago

I'm in a very rural area in NY where would be a good place too look for these auctions and which storage unit companies hold these auctions? The few storage places around by me are so small if there is an auction theres probly 1 unit up for auction @ a

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

look in your local classified ads under legal notices - and you can also google for storage unit auctions in your area or near your area - look in the phone book for local storage units - call em up and ask them if and when they hold auctions - these are a few ways to find em - you may have to go to outlying areas around where you live in order to find em also - but start with what is closest - good luck :)

Sabri08 6 years ago

I'm going to check out my first auction tomorrow...wish me luck. Thanks for all the info...really helpful!

Rayman 6 years ago

ok, you win a unit and inside is a car! What now? You have a car...but not he ownweship papers....soooo what happens?

steve 6 years ago

Great ideas for those looking for practical cost-cutting measures

jon braun jon nestorovic avoid

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

Good Luck Sabrio08 :) just dont buy anything quite yet - go to a few first :) have fun :)

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

A Car ? Well, hope its not stolen - then apply for lost title - or, scrap it out for metal - the alternator, starter, radiator and things of that nature are non-ferrous - wires are copper and the rest is metal - see - lotsa stuff you can do with a car in there :)

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

lotsa people do exactly that - like I said - I once seen an e-bayer desperate for merchandise buy a unit full of rocks for 500 bucks :) yup rocks - this is why it is crucial to attend several auctions and be seriously observant of the crowd before ever purchasing your first one -

storageobsession 6 years ago

great hub. i have been to a few option and have been doing a lot of research on buying units for about a year and a half now but am curious as far as how much money you should have to start this a possible business for myself. i have worked construction and things are so slow right now i need something else to do and i just cant stop reading, watching, and thinking about this

storageobsession 6 years ago

my bad....auctions not options

starme77 profile image

starme77 6 years ago Author

Right now the markets are very competitive because of all the they hype with the tv show - bids are high right now in many places simply because people are running like crazy thinking they can get rich quick - alot inexperienced bidders right now - I say - go to a few - check out the crowds - in your area - find out how much units went for after the auction - then you will have a better understanding as to how much money you will need to start - :)

Apepperson profile image

Apepperson 6 years ago from Texas

The TV show is producing large crowds at these auctions in my area. Before the show, maybe 10 people would show up. Ebayers and Consignment Shop owners mostly. I went to a small unit auction today and there were nearly 60 people there! I'd hate to think what it will be like at the big storage complexes! Can't wait until the newbies go broke or find out that it's not like it is on TV!

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wendy87 5 years ago


storage chester 5 years ago

It's not as straightforward as it might seem. You can end up with a lot of unsold items that you need to dispose of , hopefully legally and costly. Many younger people in the UK prefer to buy stuff new from places such as Ikea.

starme77 profile image

starme77 5 years ago Author

no its not so straight forward - it takes experience and time to learn how not to get burned on a unit - this is why I tell everyone to go to the auctions and study for awhile before purchasing - I still have yet to catch storage wars on tv - but will bet that it makes unit buying appear glamorous and fun - trash - yes you do end up with trash and things that don't sell - but for tax purposes - expenses and losses are accounted for on the schedule c as well its a business just like any other business - its work - both physical as well as paperwork that just goes along with all businesses

starme77 profile image

starme77 5 years ago Author

Well really, the only way you find out that is after you purchased the unit ... you have to go to a few auctions to learn what to look for ... some have been gone through by the management allready - ok ... so... look for things like open boxes .... clothes thrown everywhere .... look how things are packaged .... did the people spend money? well.... if there are a bunch of u-haul boxes all closed up in good shape then yep ... they did ... and there is prob some good stuff in there ... now if there are a buch of u-haul boxes all opened up then..... well... management most likley went throug the unit see...... just watch and you will learn a ton :)

jen 5 years ago

The stuff inside question is where do u find auctions in the uk.ive searched n only get over seas ones...

starme77 profile image

starme77 5 years ago Author

that is an interesting question - not sure if they have them in the UK its the law here in the US but I would try googling storage unit auctions in the UK or something like that - as a matter of fact I think you just gave me an idea for another hub :)

Apollo13[Lisa} 5 years ago

Hi Starme, Couldnt sleep, so Im up at 5:oo eating some spicy Ramen Noodles and doing my new favorite thing...sippen and clicken [or calories and clicken] oh well,thanks so much for your very kind and unselfish advice. Its hard to get good advice from people when it involves trade secrets and stuff.You have to understand the"professionals" point of view [on everything] yet, the novices have to learn also. I guess, its that way with every thing in life. Theres a scripture in the Bible that says you have to dig for the "truth" like buried treasure. If you really want to "know" ... you have to be willing to research. This type of action can be applied to anything you are interested in. Just wanted to tell everyone hello, and thanks starme77, I love you quys!!!

supermom_in_ny profile image

supermom_in_ny 4 years ago from NY

I didn't even people made money like this, until I flipped the channel and found Storage Wars. Crazy! I watched a marathon of the show once. I couldn't do it, but I salute you for doing so! I don't like to deal with direct sales, shipping, etc. I like to wake up and check my Amazon sales, ebay sales, adsense, etc. Easier for me. I run a busy household. Mom to 7. ;)

starme77 profile image

starme77 4 years ago Author

thanks for the read and the comments - yeah I am just beginning to get back into amazon adsense etc ... I dont have time anymore for units either - too busy with my 16 year old and 88 year old for that - but I had a great run with it - now I have to stay home for the most part

GRAM59 4 years ago


starme77 profile image

starme77 4 years ago Author

nope no sounds like a scam to me some of the managers do go through units and take things prior to auction which is something that unit buyers have to keep an eye out for - this guy sounds like a serious freakin scammer to me

zerokill 4 years ago

Love the article.....lots of great info....going to my first auction on fri. With try our luck.....hopefully...get some treasures and not a bunch of much cash is a good to take to start...if you don't have a lot......thanks.

starme77 profile image

starme77 4 years ago Author

well hopefully you have been to a few auctions allready - I would suggest going to a few and finding out how much they go for things like that - depending on your area anywere from 10 bucks up to hundreds - even thousands sometimes - good luck and let me know how it goes :)

monicamelendez profile image

monicamelendez 4 years ago from Salt Lake City

Very nice advice. I like when people post about things that they actually have experience with. It's awesome!

sparkleyfinger profile image

sparkleyfinger 2 years ago from Glasgow

I'd love to do this!! Unfortunately, I don't think this exists in the uk :-(

starme77 profile image

starme77 2 years ago Author

I am not sure, I have not checked in the UK as to what they do with abandoned storage units - intersting though, I think I will look that up

sparkleyfinger profile image

sparkleyfinger 2 years ago from Glasgow

:-) keep me updated if you find anything :-)

starme77 profile image

starme77 2 years ago Author

sure will :) I wont forget ya - finishing up my last three weeks of college right now, but I will get to it :)

sparkleyfinger profile image

sparkleyfinger 2 years ago from Glasgow

Wow- super busy!! Good luck with college :-)

starme77 profile image

starme77 2 years ago Author

Thanks, I am going to head for my bachelors in IT next after a seven week break :)

starme77 profile image

starme77 2 years ago Author

I did a bit of research and wrote an article for my friends in the UK , I have had many people from there ask me , so check it out and I hope it helps ....let me know ... Thanks

Ron 16 months ago

Outstanding content. Just what I was researching for!

Best regards,


Look at our new release at http://www.lepsoft *com

starme77 profile image

starme77 15 months ago Author

Thanks for reading - the link did not lead anywhere -

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