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Storage Wars: How to Really Make Money Buying Storage Unit Lockers

Updated on December 11, 2013

Abandoned Storage Lockers as a Business

Well the short answer is yes…and no. Buying storage locker contents has its ups and downs. For whatever reason people leave storage units unpaid and forfeit their contents. Sometime people have valuable merchandise and use storage units because of space limitations at home. When they factor in storage fees they will sometimes abandon it. Some people travel for work and spend months away from home. They forget to pay their fees and the unit is sold. Some people go to jail and can’t afford their storage fees, people die and in one case I know of, the storage unit owner had a sex change and didn’t need his/her man stuff anymore. (scuba gear) And finally it is sometimes cheaper than hauling your junk to the garbage. Just pay a dollar for the first month of a unit from Public Storage and abandon your junk

Your First Storage Auction

Going to your first storage auction.

Yes just like Storage Wars there are personalities involved and you get to know who buys what. Some of these people work at being intimidating or belittling of your purchase. Don’t let them scare you off. You will place a bid and they will look at you like you are crazy and laugh in your face and in an obnoxiously loud voice tell everyone into the next county how stupid you were to buy a unit at a certain price. Some will yell at you and tell you that you are not playing fair. Others will stand in front of you to block your view of the auctioneer and some yet will attempt to not let you get a good look into the storage unit. Words like “Move along, you’re not the only one here” come out of their disgusting little pie holes. But then again there are a lot of genuinely nice people as well. So ignore the idiots and make sure you are not intimidated by them.

The Auctioneer.

Auctioneers talk fast and mumble a lot of words and try to create a rhythm and some confusion to get the bidder listening more intently. The only thing coming out of the auctioneer’s mouth that is important is the dollar amount that is spit out at the end. So the auctioneer may say “How about a bidder, bidder, bidder at two and a half, half, half “ (spit it out quickly with a bit of a mumble) and all the auctioneer is saying is doing is offering the merchandise at either $2.50 or $250.00 or $2,500.00. It’s all in context. In storage unit terms it’s probably $250.00.

Some auctioneers play games. You may have your hand raised for $100.00 and the auctioneer goes across the crowd of 5 buyers going “One, one and a half, two, two and a half, three” in the blink of an eye. If you are the last one in that string of bids you have just bid $300.00 and the unit may now be overpriced. It is important that you correct the auctioneer immediately. Forcefully if necessary say “No sir, I had my hand up for one hundred, not three hundred” To me this sort of up bidding is one of the more unscrupulous things an auctioneer can do and he is relying on you being too timid and someone who will just shut up and pay up. Another dirty trick of the odd auctioneer is to bid off the wall. He’ll look at you and get your bid and then look right behind you and get another bid from a non-existent bidder. If you think this is happening stop and turn around and look at who could be bidding. There may be no one behind you bidding. The auctioneer will say something like “I’m up here not back there” and don’t be afraid of him. Keep looking back or have a companion of yours look back to see if it is legitimate. Overall however most auctioneers are just like the rest of us. They’re just folks trying to make an honest living.

Looking at the storage unit:

Most of the time, you will not be able to actually set foot into the storage unit. The line is drawn at the doorway. You need to bring a strong flashlight with you. You need to be able to accurately judge prices and add the priced up in your head. Remember you want to buy this at auction pricing which is generally considered the lowest reasonable value for an object. Some people are not buying to make a profit and they will bid higher. If that is the case bid them up a bit but don’t get stuck making a purchase at a retail value.

Some things are covered or in boxes. There is no way to value these articles. Don’t be like the guys on television and think that there may be the proverbial roll of cash in the sock. Most of the time there is not. If you see a small fire storage case chances are there is nothing of value to you in it. Remember that if you come away empty handed at the end of the day it is better than tying up you cash in unsalable merchandise. Don’t overpay.

Bringing Money

Auctions are generally all cash. Credit or debit may be accepted but be prepared to bring cash. If you’re fearful of getting robbed bring a friend. How much you bring depends on you. To your first auction or even first few auctions bring enough to make a purchase or two (like around a thousand dollars). If you decide this is going to be a major part of your buying and selling life you may want to bring upwards of three thousand dollars. I’ll say it again. Don’ get stuck with overpriced items. Profit comes from “cash flow” not “cash stagnant.” Here the cash will be flowing out. Your store, eBay and Amazon sales, yard sale or Craigslist business needs income and that comes from reasonably priced merchandise that still makes you profits.

Taking away your won merchandise:

You will be expected to move the merchandise out the same day. You may be able to get an extension of a day but don’t count on it. The storage company probably is counting on renting out the unit the very next day if they can. You will be expected to clean out the garbage as well. If you don’t you won’t be welcome at future auctions. So when bidding consider the size of the vehicle you have and your ability to act on your purchase the same day. Some strong garbage bags are a must as well. If you are bringing a truck bring a closed truck or you could have your merchandise stolen or ruined by weather.

To Summarize...

Buying merchandise at storage auctions can be fun and rewarding as well. Like “The Price is Right” you must know the value of the goods. There are only a few key issues to worry about and the main one is overpaying. Find out where the auctions are being held by looking at the online yellow pages under storage and print out the list of all of the areas that you would want to visit. Call them and find out about the dates of auctions. Consider in your costs the high price of gas and the low mileage that larger trucks get. Have a sales venue ready and start selling immediately. Typically you will get a number of marginal units where you may make a couple of hundred dollars and then out of the blue you will find one of those gems where you pay $500.00 and it turns out to be worth $15,000.00. If this is to be one of your principle methods to make some income remember that consistency pays off. Additionally you should be prepared to have a lot of cash ready to be tied up while you are selling things off. Now go out and have some fun!


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    • JanMaklak profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Canada

      Hi AustinStar: With regards to coin valuation there are 3 basic methods of valuation. 1) insurance value - the highest price where the insurance company may be under some duress to purchase equivalent coins for your collection. 2) Willing buyer - Willing seller. This is a normal transaction between 2 willing and knowledgeable people and the 3rd method is auction value where the seller puts up the goods and hopes for the best. This is the lowest and usually considered a wholesale value. Auctions are often comprised of dealers.

      One of the biggest contributors of the loss of value in merchandise is eBay and other auction sites. eBay has taken away the scarcity of goods which lowers the value.

      To value your coins for insurance I would start with an online search for coin valuations and then ask a reputable coin dealer for a letter containing an opinion of value for insurance purposes. The reason I suggest you go online first so you have a general idea of what to expect. Often with coins there can be a mint mark which greatly affects value so make sure you are comparing apples with apples.

      I hope this helps you in your valuation. Let me know how things work out.


    • Austinstar profile image


      5 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

      I need to sell some Australian coins that my husband brought back from his Navy days back in the 70's/80's. I'm having a hard time putting a value on those.

    • JanMaklak profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Canada

      let me know if they give you the straight goods on storage auctions. For every good one there are a dozen dogs. part of the issue is knowing the merchandise values. Hard to do sometimes but worth the research. I'm going to write an article on how to value merchandise through my CPPA courses I have took

    • Austinstar profile image


      5 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

      It's just like playing the lottery, right? They sure make it look easy on TV. I especially love the Texas show. Two of those guys live not too far from here and I plan to visit their store one day.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      5 years ago from Minnesota

      Very interesting hub. I am (or was) a fan of the storage war tv shows. I was a bit disappointed to find out that they were "adding" items to the storage lockers for ratings and entertainment---but that is reality tv for you....Still, I think this would be a fun way of getting merchandise for selling on ebay, craigslist, etc. I think I might be too intimidated, but I like the way you broke down the whole process. Maybe I'll have to check one out. Thanks!


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