My First Storage Auction

I’ve mentioned before that my wife is unemployed.  Please note, this is unemployment, not “stay at home mom”.  The differences are simple:

  1. She’s looking for a job
  2. The kids are still in daycare

While she’s looking for work, we’ve decided that it’s a good time to explore some other options for income.  Recently, we decided to look into storage auctions.

For the uninitiated, a storage auction is held when someone with a rented storage locker quits paying their bill.  Eventually, auctioneers come in and sell the unit–with minimal inspection–to the highest bidder.  If you’ve watched Storage Wars or any of the dozen spin-offs or rip-offs, you’ve seen a storage auction.

Yesterday, a local auctioneer ran a circuit of 7 auctions for the different locations of one company.   At 10AM, my wife set off for the first one with $1000 of seed money, a flashlight, and a couple of padlocks.

She didn’t get anything at that auction and she skipped the next two because they weren’t in very good neighborhoods.  Poor neighborhoods come with safety issues and low-value stuff.

The 4th auction was just 2 miles from our house, so she picked me up.  We got there about noon and were told they weren’t expecting the auctioneer until 1.   They couldn’t tell us exactly because the auctions take as long as they take.  If a lot of people show up, the inspection can take a long time, since everybody has to stand in line to get a minute or two to peer in at the unit up for sale.  The auction actually started about 1:30.

There were 3 units up for sale.  The listing said 4, but one of the renters ran in at the last minute to pay her bill.

None of the units were anything special.  One had two dozen boxes of Grainger catalogs and $50 worth of tools.   Another was full of broken box springs, but may have had a dresser in the back.  The last had a tub full of (frozen) paint bottles and a box full of kids’ books.

After that, I went back home to work, while she left for her third and final auction of the day.  Again, she didn’t get a locker, but she did convince someone to sell her a fancy mirror out of one of the lockers.  She paid $60, and after a bit of touch-up, it should sell for $2-300.

We didn’t buy anything, but it was interesting to see the process.  Dealing with an auctioneer rattling off numbers isn’t nearly as intimidating as it seems.

The whole setup is pretty simple.

My wife registered at the first auction, so we didn’t have to worry about that at the later auctions.   That consisted of reading the rules, writing down her name, and signing the paper.

At each unit that was up for grabs, the door was opened and all of the potential buyers lined up to take a minute to see what they could.   We weren’t allowed in the unit, and we couldn’t open any boxes.

Once everyone had a chance to peak, the auction started.

When each unit was sold, the winning bidder stuck a lock on it, and everybody moved to the next unit to repeat the process.  The three units were done in 15-20 minutes.

If you’re going to a storage auction, you need to bring cash, a flashlight, and a padlock.  Without those three things, you can’t inspect a unit or pay for it if you win.

Finding auctions isn’t intuitive, in any way.  The best sites I’ve found are and

My wife also got contact information for the largest storage facility chain in the area and we got on that list so we’ll get the full schedule of their storage auctions each month.  Next week, they have auctions in some of the richest suburbs in the area.

My wife is planning on running that circuit at least one day next week.

It’s not “easy” money, but it should be a good way to bring in a little more money.  If we can make enough to keep her from having to get a traditional job, that’s gravy.

Have you ever tried out a storage auction?  How did it go?

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    1. I don’t go to storage auctions. I go to regular auctions and buy things for resale, and do this part time for a living. Buying things I can actually see is enough of a gamble for me! Does your wife have a plan as to how she will sell the things she gets in the storage unit? Will she set up at a flea market, sell stuff on eBay, advertise on Craigslist, rent space in an antique mall? I do all of those except Craigslist. It’s not like it is on TV, where there are “experts” on every corner than you can take your stuff to and they will give you good money. It’s a lot of work. But having the freedom and flexibility of setting my own hours makes it worth. I also love the idea of living by my wits. If I make good decisions, I can pay the bills; and if I don’t, I can’t. Keeps me sharp!

    2. Let us know what she ends up selling that mirror for! I’ve been so interested in storage auctions but haven’t made time to drag myself to one. I would love for you to have a series on this! 🙂

    3. jestjack says:

      Not a “fan” of storage auctions. Been to a couple in this neck of the woods and folks seem to over pay. But keep us posted on your progress.

    4. have always wanted to go and bid on storage lockers, just havent done it yet.i love going to auctions and finding small antique pieces at a bargain

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