So you want to try bidding on storage auctions, eh? Brace yourself – it’s not as easy as it looks on reality TV.

“Buying storage auctions is physically hard work,” said Rich Schur, senior auctioneer and owner of Schur Success Auctions & Appraisal in Colorado Springs, CO. “You have to be prepared to load out, store, sort and throw things away. If you’re not prepared for that, it can be a big shock.”

On the plus side, there’s enough treasure buried in the forfeited junk of others to provide a decent living, according to John Cardoza, an auctioneer and owner of Storage Auction Experts in Turlock, CA, who’s been featured on Spike TV’s “Auction Hunters.”

Caroline from Auction Hunters. Credit: Storage Auction Experts.
Caroline from Auction Hunters. Credit: Storage Auction Experts.

“Four out of 5 people make money and 1 out of 5 breaks even or loses money in this business,” he said. “I know more than 100 people who make over $100,000 a year doing this.”

What’s their secret? Here’s a 10-step tutorial on how to make a living at storage auction bidding.

Getting Started

Attend, but don’t spend: Storage auctions can be frenetic adrenaline fests. How best to get your feet wet without taking a bath? “The first time, attend but don’t participate. Don’t bring any money with you and keep your hands in your pockets,” Schur suggested. “That way, you won’t be caught up in the excitement and overbid.”

Identify buyers: Before you bid, you need to know how and where you’ll sell your acquisitions, whether online through eBay and craigslist or through second-hand stores, antique shops and flea markets. “You need to come with the forethought of how you’re going to dispose of lots of things,” said Sherrie Brunk, an auctioneer in Cadet, MO.

Antique Chairs on a table at flea market

Generalize: Think of it as diversifying your portfolio to maximize your profit. “I had a guy recently who was just looking for fishing poles,” Brunk recalled. “I told him he’s really in the wrong type of auction because, along with those fishing poles, he’s going to get two pickup loads of pots, pans and clothes to deal with.”

Be Prepared: When you buy your first unit, you’ll pay your bid price, sales tax and a $50-$100 deposit that’s refundable if you meet the clean out deadline, which usually runs 24-48 hours. Most likely you’ll pay in cash, as credit card and check purchases can be canceled. If you don’t meet the cleanout deadline, you not only lose your deposit, you also lose the unit and could be hit with a bill from the storage facility for their disposal costs. You’ll also want to factor in gas mileage, truck/trailer rental, load-out labor, dumping and recycle fees – and often your own storage unit to hold the contents until you can sort through it, as that’s not usually done on site.


Bid to profit: “Take what you can see in the locker, add up what you know you can sell, and don’t spend more than that for the unit,” says Brunk. Schur agrees: “People overbid because they don’t set a limit. Bid on what you see, not on what you don’t see.”

Mother and Daughter with Cash

Look for win-wins: A bidder who sells online may be open to selling larger items, like their unit’s furniture to you. “But not until they know you,” Schur cautioned. “They’re not going to cut you in on that unless there’s a reason.”

Don’t overlook junk: In eco-conscious states like California, you may be able to recycle for profit. “I know several people who make a lot of money buying junk units.” Cardoza said. “They don’t face the competition you get for the higher-priced units, and if they lose, they don’t lose much.”

Don’t let ‘bad’ areas scare you away: “Residents in bad areas have a tendency to hide jewelry in storage units because their own neighborhood isn’t very safe,” said Cardoza.

storage auction
Live Storage Auction. Credit: Storage Auction Experts


Be meticulous: Every item of clothing must be unfolded, every purse, pocket and envelope opened and searched “because ultimately that’s where the goodies are,” said Brunk.

Protect yourself: “It’s a filthy business,” explained Schur. “If you’re not wearing a mask and rubber gloves, you’re risking your health. If you’re not prepared to get stinky, don’t do it.”

Jay MacDonald
  • Robert A. Chiti

    Bidders by the thousands are finding a much easier way to profit from storage auctions than chasing around in the hot sun digging through units. Check out they have over 700,000 registered bidders and hold auctions for over 6,000 self storage facilities across the US.
    Just as a disclaimer, I am on the board of advisors of this company and own less than .5% of equity in the company.

  • JJ

    As a long-time buyer I agree that you’ve hit on some important (and realistic) points! I hadn’t even thought about people from bad neighborhoods hiding their treasures in lockers because it’s safer than home. Good point! I’ve got a similar post over at – check it out!

  • Tormentee from Auction

    It is not only a filthy business to buy someone’s storage unit, it is
    a Merciless and Destructive Actions because the Auction Bidders “Do Not know
    and Does want to Know the Truth and Fact that at certain or many times, it is a
    “Complete and Malicious Set-up from the Storage Facility employees including
    the District Manager, Property Manager of the Storage facility” that subjected
    the renter(s) of the storage to Suffer and being Tormented to force to undergo the
    Merciless Invasion and Intrusion and Destruction of someone’s, especially a
    Woman’s Privacy, her Whole Life, her Past,
    her Future, her Well-being, her Essence, etc. etc. in addition to all of her
    Important, Personal, and Private properties, belongings, and so on that “stored
    by her” in her large storage unit!

    The Truth is the “Auction bidders do not know and/or do want to know
    in why” certain or many renters of the storage units stored the “very things or
    properties” in the storage unit(s); and then the Auction Bidder(s) simply Took
    and Removed a Person’s Life, Essence, Soul, etc. to bring them Home and Re-sell
    in different avenues for Profits/Gains at the “Merciless Sufferings, Torments,
    and Destructions of this Person’s Life—especially a woman’s Life and Essence!”

    By taking or re-selling someone’s important personal and private
    properties/belongings, etc. “Without this Person’s Consent, Knowledge, and
    Presence” simply Contaminating all “Unwanted, Un-pure, and Unnatural Energy and
    Vibration into this person’s Life—naturally Caused Harms and Destruction to
    this person!”

    Is this what the “Storage Units Auctions Bidders want or want someone to
    do this “kind of Merciless Harms, Destructions, and Torments to themselves?

    So, please, have a heart and be Merciful to someone’s Life, Essence, and
    Properties/Belongings, etc.—Do Not Bid on Storage Units” unless you “know exactly
    and completely that the storage unit(s) has been completely and properly, willingly,
    and voluntarily abandoned by the storage unit renter(s) at his/her own consent,
    knowledge, and presence, especially in situations when many Storage facilities
    such as Public Storage is Framing this storage unit renter!

    • Candice Ramirez

      Understandable. It is upsetting. And terribly violating of families personal lives. However. When someone rents a unit, they sign a contract, stating…if you do NOT pay your bill/and/or keep your account in good standing, your items will be forfeited and sold. I’ve had a storage unit out of state for 4 years. But, I don’t worry being, I pay my bill. And I keep all of my contact info up to date.

    • woodsman96

      Pay your bill or dont rent the unit to begin with