The idea of winning treasures at storage auctions is tantalizing.

While participating in a storage auction is not necessarily complicated, there is much to be learned about the process to stand a chance of scoring those treasures, especially when it comes to bidding.

“This is a very labor-intensive business with a decent amount of risk,” said auctioneer Richard Kruse, owner of Gryphon Auction Group in Columbus, OH.

Here, experts lay out some of the most common bidding mistakes at storage auctions. Read on to learn what these pitfalls are and how to avoid them.

To read SpareFoot’s complete guide to storage auctions, visit

1. Jumping In Too Soon.

storage auction

To get a solid grasp on how storage auctions work, head to an auction — but without any money. “Simply watch to understand,” said Aaron LaPedis, author of “The Garage Sale Millionaire.”

Take note of the others attending, look at the units and observe how much they sell for. Then, stick around to talk to the winners.

“Some people are proud if they found something exciting,” LaPedis said.

Winning bidders might give you tips on what they did right and what they did wrong. Learn from their experience and results.

2. Not Bringing the Right Tools.

wad of cash

Take a flashlight and step stool to be able to peer into a unit and evaluate its contents before bidding.

Also, carry a notebook so you can quickly jot down a few numbers. This will help you think about the value of the items inside.

If you bring a smartphone, pull it out between the time of viewing the unit and bidding. “Bidders can use it to quickly research values of items,” Kruse said.

Bring cash as well, as you’ll generally need to pay for a unit with the green stuff, not with a check or credit card, shortly after purchasing it.

3. Riding the Wave of Emotion.

At a storage auction, “you’re not only bidding against other people—you’re bidding against your own excitement,” LaPedis said.

This can be especially true if you notice others are bidding high on a particular unit. It might be easy to wonder what those people have spotted that they think is valuable. The truth, however, is that they might not see anything. They could be caught up in their own excitement.

To stay within your limits, consider what you can afford before the bidding begins. “Mentally set a cap on what you’re going to spend,” LaPedis said.

Then, if the bidding goes above your ceiling, “just step aside and wait for the right one,” LaPedis said.

4. Not Having a Go-To Place for Reselling.

Knowing where you’ll be selling the items you acquire at a storage auction can help determine the amount you should bid.

In addition to eBay and Craigslist, look for ways to build up a network of buyers in your area. “Have a regular person you know you can go to and make immediate cash,” said Bill Sklodowski, author of “Storage Auction Success: The ABC’s of Profiting from Self-Storage Auctions.”

That might involve an agreement with a secondhand store, a relationship with a seller at a flea market or an arrangement with a local auction house.

5. Not Understanding the Sale Terms.

Ask the auctioneer about the timeline for removing items. In most cases, you’ll have 24 to 48 hours to empty a unit after buying it.

Also, check on additional charges, such as a cleaning deposit. This way, you’ll be able to calculate the total amount you’ll need to pay if you win the auction.

To check out eight myths about storage auctions, visit

6. Assuming Location Equals Value.

It might seem logical to check out storage auctions in high-end neighborhoods to find the most valuable goods. That’s not always the case, however.

“You could go into what might not be the best part of town, and find storage units there from a family that has lived in the area for a long time,” Sklodowski said. The family might have moved to the area when the neighborhood was more desirable.

Furthermore, “if you go to a place that’s not as popular, there might not be as much competition,” Sklodowski said. You could end up paying less for valuable items—or even treasures—inside a unit.

Photo of auction courtesy of Stop N Stor Storage, photo of cash courtesy of

Rachel Hartman