How to Bid at A Self Storage Auction

Jon Fesmire | April 9, 2021 @ 10:20 AM

Recently, we’ve covered the process of how a self storage unit goes from being in good standing with a facility to getting sold, at auction, to the highest bidder.

Now, it’s time to cover how storage auctions work. Perhaps you’re curious about the process, or maybe you’d like to attend an auction and even bid on a unit or two. The information here covers what happens at such an auction so you can observe or participate.


You can’t just show up to a storage auction the moment it starts and place a bid. Everyone participating has to register first. Fortunately, at most of these auctions, you can show up about half an hour ahead of time to register for a bidder number. If you don’t register, you can’t participate, though you can observe. When you find an auction you’d like to take part in, call the facility and ask about their specific registration procedures.

Set a Budget

Just like you would when holiday shopping, gambling at a casino, or visiting a thrift store, set a budget for how much you’re willing to spend, and don’t exceed it.

One Last Chance

Before the auctions start, the former tenants can still arrive and pay off their rent, preventing their units from going to auction. This usually doesn’t happen, but it’s something to keep in mind. Once the auctions start, however, they’re out of chances.

The Rules

When a unit is about to be auctioned, the facility will open it up so that bidders can look inside. No one is allowed to enter the unit, so you will need to make an educated guess, based on the view from outside, on how much you think the contents are worth.

This is more etiquette than a rule, but it’s important to keep in mind. You can make a lot of people angry if you don’t follow this guideline. If you see something valuable in a unit, don’t talk about it to others. Don’t tell the other bidders what you saw.

You will probably be required to turn over highly personal items from the last tenant to the facility. This means photos, legal documents, tax records, and the like. The facility will attempt to contact the previous tenant to return them.

If you find firearms or ammunition in your unit, you are required to turn them over to law enforcement.

You do not get the title to vehicles you acquire from winning a storage unit auction. However, you can strip them for parts.


Rather than using paddles like at many auctions, at a storage auction, you simply call out your bid. Bidding continues until someone gives the highest bid. Then, the highest bidder signs paperwork that turns ownership of the unit to them and pays the facility.

Self storage facilities generally prefer people to pay their winning bids in cash, but some will take credit cards. Call ahead if you’re unable to bring cash to ask if credit or debit cards are an acceptable form of payment.

Note as well that you may be required to pay a deposit on the unit, which they will refund once you’ve cleaned it out.

Clearing Out the Unit

As mentioned, usually the facility will ask you to pay immediately once you win a unit auction, but you may be able to pay at the end of the day. You then have 48 hours to clear out everything in the unit. We recommend having a friend help you out, and offer to pay them or give them something from the unit.

Going through a full storage unit can be a lot of work. You can do some of it at the facility, of course, but you may also want to rent a truck to bring everything home so you can go through it there.

Now, you have enough information to participate in a storage auction! You may want to observe one first, as you’ll pick up additional ideas doing so, but you should have no trouble following what’s going on. We hope this helps you find some fantastic treasures when you do win a unit.

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