Home > Self Storage > Storage Auctions > The Truth About Common Storage Unit Auction Myths
Featured Image for Common Storage Auction Myths

The Truth About Common Storage Unit Auction Myths

Curious about how storage auctions actually work? Buying unclaimed storage units in real life is not the same as how it’s presented on TV. Check out this list of storage auction myths and learn the truth about purchasing abandoned storage units at auction.

Myth: You Know What’s Inside the Unit

You can’t step inside the self storage unit you’re bidding on until you’ve won the auction, so you won’t know what’s there. Now, there are a few ways you can potentially assess the contents of a storage unit before you buy it during a storage auction. You can shine a flashlight inside the unit to better see items toward the back, or go off common-sense visual cues such as assuming garment bags contain clothing or noticing obviously-damaged furniture. The way a unit smells can also provide insight into its contents and their quality. Avoid units that smell strongly of cigarette smoke, moisture, or mildew, as excessive odor may indicate the items are in poor condition.

Myth: Every Unit Has Valuable Items Inside

Some people store valuables in storage units, but others store clutter. Although it’s possible to turn a profit by buying a storage unit and selling its contents, there’s no guarantee that a unit you bid on will contain valuables. Then again, you never know what you might find! Ultimately, the best approach is to establish a budget for what you’re willing to spend, knowing you may not always recoup the cost, and have a plan for how and where you’ll sell anything you find.

Myth: Valuables Are Removed Beforehand

It’s a common misconception that storage facility owners remove valuable items from self storage units before putting them up for public auction, but this isn’t the case. Units are sold as-is, and public storage auctions are held as a last resort for facilities that have been unable to obtain payment from the original owner. However, there are a few valuable items, such as personal legal documents, that you cannot keep if you come across them after winning a storage unit.

Myth: You Can Bid on Individual Items

Occasionally, bidders will spot a valuable item out in the open in an unclaimed storage unit. Unfortunately, it’s against storage auction rules to bid on individual items—you must buy the entire storage unit to obtain a specific item. However, the presence of one valuable item may occasionally indicate there are more within the unit. If cost is a concern, consider only bidding at or slightly above the approximate value of the specific item you’re interested in.

Myth: You Can Keep Everything in the Unit

There are a few limitations regarding what you may keep after purchasing a storage unit at auction. While most items are fair game, there are some items that bidders should not take possession of, including any of the previous owner’s personal legal documents and obvious family mementos, such as photo albums. You should return these to the facility manager so that they may hopefully be claimed by the storage unit’s previous owner.

Myth: Facility Owners Make a Big Profit from Auctions

The purpose of a storage unit auction is not to generate profit for the facility, but rather to recover expenses the owner has accumulated from unpaid units. As such, facility owners can only legally keep the amount due in overdue rent, with the rest of the profit being returned to the unit’s original owner. In addition to regaining lost funds, the primary benefit of these auctions for facility owners is to clear unpaid units out so they can be rented to new tenants.

Myth: You Can Buy Units with a Credit Card

At public storage auctions, bidders should be prepared to pay cash, as some facilities will not accept credit card payments. In some ways, though, this can be a convenient way to stick to your budget. By bringing only what you’re willing to pay, along with enough extra to cover sales tax, bidders can more easily avoid overspending. Bidders should also keep in mind that there is typically a $50 to $100 cleaning deposit that will be refunded once the unit is clear.

Myth: You Must Attend Storage Auctions in Person

Although being in person gives you the advantage of being able to assess units more thoroughly, it’s entirely possible to attend storage auctions online. In fact, doing so gives you the added benefits of being able to pay with card and more thoroughly research the value of the items you can see in photos. Bidding can be facilitated through websites like StorageTreasures.com and StorageAuctions.com. Just be mindful of the location of the auction you participate in, as you will need to be able to get there in a timely manner to empty out the units you bid on.

Myth: You Can Clear the Unit at Your Convenience

Once you buy an abandoned self storage unit, facility managers will expect it to be cleared within a specific time frame—usually 24 to 48 hours—so make sure you inquire about this period before bidding. If you need more time to get the unit emptied, some facility managers will allow you to rent the storage unit short-term following the auction so that you can clear it out at a more leisurely pace.

Frequently Asked Questions About Storage Auctions

Is buying a unit at a storage auction a good investment?

There’s no guarantee you’ll make a profit from buying storage units at a storage auction. However, while bidders may not enter units beforehand, they may observe them from outside and consider the potential value of visible contents before bidding.

How can I find a storage auction near me?

You can find storage auctions in your area with online directories on websites like StorageTreasures.com. You can also find them by contacting an Extra Space Storage facility near you!

Do I have to pay sales tax if I buy a storage unit at an auction?

Whether you’ll need to pay sales tax after buying a storage unit depends on the state you live in. You can contact your local self storage facility before attending a storage auction to learn whether sales tax would be applied to your purchase.


Want to learn more about storage auctions or attend one at a local storage facility? Contact your local Extra Space Storage facility to learn more!