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Decluttering Your Home

Storage Auctions: what are they and how do you find them? [2022]

We’ve all seen the TV shows like Storage Hunters and Storage Wars, but what are storage auctions in the UK really like? 

While we can’t promise you an overexcited auctioneer or a million-pound fortune, visiting a storage unit auction is a great opportunity to pick up a bargain or an interesting piece of history. 

Here, we are going to offer some insights and share our top tips on what a storage auction is and how you can find them.

What is a storage auction?

UK storage auctions are becoming more popular with bargain hunters looking for that next hidden item but equally with those who generally have a passion for raiding storage units. 

Storage units are often left to auction when a customer defaults on paying their bills. While every effort is made to come to an agreement with the customer, if this isn’t possible, storage units are often offered to the highest bidder at auction in an attempt to recoup some of the debt. 

What types of storage auctions in the UK are there? 

There are two types of storage unit auctions available in the UK: 

  • Online Storage Auctions – These are by far the most common in the UK. Unlike the US TV shows we all love, one thing not to expect so often is visiting the storage lot in person while you walk around various units. UK storage auctions are often conducted online on websites or over email.

  • In-person Storage Auctions – As we’ve said above, in-person storage auctions aren’t very common in the UK, but they do still occur. Get in touch with your local storage provider to enquire about upcoming listings.

How do I find a storage auction? 

Thanks to the internet, you can find storage auctions near you from the comfort of your own home. Most storage companies use platforms such as eBay and iBidOnStorage to sell units, and will often give some details as to their size and contents. 

Similarly, some companies will conduct their own private auctions with closed bids, while others will employ auction houses on their behalf. 

If you’re interested in finding out about upcoming storage unit auctions, get in touch with any storage companies in your local area, many will have a list or will notify you when they’re open to bids.

How does a storage auction work?

The inside of a storage unit up for sale via a storage auction.

Depending on which type of storage auction you attend, both boast their own benefits. 

With online storage unit auctions, prior to bidding going live, bidders can usually see a photograph of the storage unit being auctioned, which is usually taken from the doorway. Potential buyers are not allowed to bid on individual items within the unit, and can only bid to buy storage units as a whole. 

Online storage auctions are a convenient and stress-free way to bid on abandoned units. When bidding online, you can make more educated bids as you’re likely to have more information on the items inside the unit and longer to consider how much they’ll sell for. 

Attending storage auctions in-person, allows you to actually see the unit you will be bidding on for yourself, although similar to the rules of an online auction, bidders aren’t able to access the unit or take a closer look at the contents before making an offer. While you are able to see what is in the unit, you are not able to enter.

Once the auction has ended, the winner will have a certain amount of time to pay and will have to go directly to the unit and clear the contents themselves. Some storage companies require successful buyers to clear the storage units pretty quickly with some providers giving buyers a period of 24-48 hours before you are charged rent or interest for the unit.

Top tips for first-time bidders

When it comes to bidding on storage auctions, it can be easy to get carried away with the possibility of uncovering valuable treasures to resell, especially if you’ve just been introduced to the world of online auctions. 

However, bidding on storage auctions is a huge gamble, as buyers often pay more than the contents are worth. When assessing the value of a storage facility, there are a few things to consider.

  1. Set yourself a price limit: before bidding opens on a storage unit, set yourself a maximum price or number of units you’re going to purchase, and don’t exceed it. This will prevent you from making any last-minute decisions or bidding on too many units at once and becoming overwhelmed.

  2. Pay attention to the contents: even if you only have access to a photograph of the unit, take note of the type of boxes or storage within it, and if there are any larger items visible. If everything is packaged more securely, or in matching or sealed boxes, chances are the items have been taken care of, and may even be of a higher value, while anything large and valuable can easily be sold.

  3. Only bid on units that are conveniently located: Come on, is it really sensible that you bid on that storage unit halfway across the country? The contents of a unit will only be yours once you arrive to collect them and you’ll also need to consider transport, as you’ll only have a certain number of days to empty the contents.

What to do when you visit your storage facility

A lock on a self storage container.

If you’ve just won a storage unit auction, you’ll only have a certain amount of time to clear the unit of its contents. Here’s what you need to remember:

Check the rules: Before you go anywhere, make sure you check the rules before visiting the storage facility. This is particularly relevant to online auctions. While some will require all payments to be handled online, some private auctions may only accept cash. It is important you know what you need to do before showing up to collect your new storage unit.

A lock: If you’re making multiple trips, or are leaving the unit in-between collections, you’ll need a padlock to secure the contents.

Boxes: the items within the unit may not be boxed up properly, and so you’ll need to invest in boxes and packaging to help make moving easier.

Transport: depending on the size or contents of a unit, you might need to hire a van or enlist your friends or family’s help to move out.

The most valuable self storage auction finds

As we said earlier, buying a storage unit doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a quick fortune but if you get lucky, you could stumble upon some valuable items. Fans of Storage Hunters and Storage Wars will be familiar with the exciting prospect of hidden treasures lurking in abandoned units. And, while most storage units up for auction contain common household items such as furniture, clothing or paperwork, some savvy buyers have hit the jackpot with their storage unit finds. 

Original Amelia Earhart Photos – Amelia Earhart became famous as the first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic in 1928. Earhart tragically died in 1937 while attempting to fly around the world. Fast forward to 2011, a woman from California called Diane Tracy, found a collection of original photographs of Amelia Earhart in a storage unit she bought. Each photograph is believed to have been worth £614 ($1,000).

Vintage Video Games – Another lucky storage unit buyer came across a fortune when featuring on the show Storage Wars back in 2017. The storage unit purchased by the California man contained a selection of classic video games and console hardware. Little did he know at the time, but the games were valued at over £40,000 ($50,000) making himself a hefty fortune. 

Cash-filled Teddy Bear – In the rarest of stories, a homeless couple from Arizona needed some furniture for their homeless camp when they decided to place a successful bid of $10 (£7.20) on a storage unit that contained an old sofa among other items. The unit also contained a teddy bear which happened to be stuffed with over $300,000 (£215,000).

Want to find out when our next storage auction is? Why not follow us on eBay? We have previously sold units for as little as £20, so you may be able to grab a bargain for a small price. 

We have strict policies in place to ensure we do everything we can to protect our customer’s belongings and would like to assure all customers that storage auctions only take place once all other avenues have been explored. If you have any concerns or worries, please take a look at our terms and conditions page or get in touch with a member of our team now.

Self Storage for Everyone