What Are Storage Auctions? An Insider’s Guide to Buying Unclaimed Storage

June 30, 2024

What Are Storage Auctions? An Insider’s Guide to Buying Unclaimed Storage

Whether you watch them or not, we are certain that you will have come across television shows such as Storage Hunters and Storage Wars. Within these shows people can be seen bidding on storage units that have been left unclaimed for a period of time. Many of the bidders are certain that within the unit lies a treasure trove of items that are going to make them rich. We can’t really promise that this is what happens at the regular non-televised storage auctions but visiting a storage auction is a great way to pick up a bargain or an interesting item. 

What are storage auctions? Image shows the back view of young woman holding number card bidding on container at outdoor auction in a storage unit. With a man holding a clipboard and pointing with a pencil.

Within this article we are going to talk you through what storage auctions are, how they work and what you should expect when you attend one. What Are Storage Auctions?

Storage auctions occur when a customer renting a storage unit fails to pay the rent on their unit. Every storage company will also have its own rules, regulations, and non-payment policies. While precise terms may vary, in general, self-storage renters can expect that they have a certain amount of time to pay their rent each month, and that if they fail to do so, their unit will go up for auction – often at the point when their payment is between 30 and 90 days overdue. As we have already said, every storage company works differently but most companies will do their utmost to work out a solution with the customer before a storage auction takes place. If a solution cannot be found, then a storage auction is held and the highest bidder buys the items in an attempt to recoup any losses. 

Storage auctions can also take place if a customer leaves and clears out their unit but leaves some items behind. 

How Do Storage Auctions Work?

Storage auctions have three parts to them and we will talk you through them now.

Pre-auction period 

This is the time period where the storage company will begin advertising the auction and find an auctioneer to conduct it. Some storage auctions take place on line but many do happen on site. 

Anyone interested must register in advance and check the rules of the auction. Rules do vary but you usually have to be over 18 to participate and must have a valid drivers licence.

The Auction

To begin the auction, the storage unit will be opened and potential bidders will get a chance to look inside. This is a glance from outside the unit as bidders are usually not permitted to actually enter the unit. If the auction is online, there will be photographs of the inside of the unit but it is unlikely that there will be a great amount of detail about the content. 

And then bidding can begin! You must remember that you are bidding on the entire unit, not just certain items. The highest bidder wins and it is then their responsibility to clear out the unit. 

Post Auction Period

The highest bidder will now pay for the unit and then clear it out. Storage companies usually allow 24 to 48 hours for the clear out to take place. 

If items such as birth certificates are found within the unit, these must be given to the storage company and they will try and get them back to their owner. If a vehicle is found within the unit, this cannot be driven as the new owner will not have the paperwork. It can only be sold for parts.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

As we have already stated, there are many legal considerations to take into account with what you find within your new storage unit. It must be attempted to reunite important documents with their owners, cars cannot be driven and only sold for parts and any illegal items must be turned over to the police. 

There are also ethical considerations to make. These are someone’s personal items and, for whatever reason, they have had to abandon them within a storage unit. Treat the items with respect and if you find truly personal items, such as photographs, consider trying to reunite them with the original owner. 

Storage Auctions Explained

On television, storage auctions look exciting and they are a great place to pick up a bargain, but it is a complete game of chance as you never really know what you are buying. So, make sure that you always have a budget in mind and don’t go over it. 

And remember, that these items were or are someone’s personal belongings. Treat them with respect and give any important documents to the storage company so they can try and reunite them with their owner. 

Storage auctions can be exciting but you need to be sensible when you take part and treat the items with respect. 

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