Storage Auction Guide for Newbies: What to Expect


Maybe you’re curious about what it’s like to attend a storage unit auction, but you’re also intimidated. That’s common! I recently had a chance to speak with storage auctioneer Bryan Garbutt of Northeast Storage Auctions, and he says that he frequently receives phone calls from newbies who aren’t sure what to expect. Bryan also estimates that about 30 percent of those attending his auctions aren’t his regular, seasoned buyers. So, if you’re a newbie, you aren’t alone!


Bryan conducts about five to seven storage auctions in a given day in New Jersey and New York. So, who better to prepare you for your first storage auction? Newbies, keep reading to learn what to expect! Here’s a little note before we start: In general, most storage properties share some common auction rules, but you should learn more about the specific guidelines for the auction you’re planning to attend.


Image by Jarrod Lombardo
Image by Jarrod Lombardo


Let the Cold, Hard Facts Sink in

  • At many properties, you must be at least 18 years old to attend an auction. Sorry, young entrepreneurs!
  • You’re required to completely empty the contents of the storage unit you win, and you won’t be able to use the storage property’s dumpsters. (In other words, do you have a plan?)
  • If you fail to clean out your storage unit, you’ll not only lose your security deposit, you also won’t be able to attend future storage auctions. That’s right. Storage auctioneers like Bryan keep a list of banned buyers!
  • You must stay focused after your win. Why? You have a very short amount of time to clean out your storage unit. Typically, you’ll have only 24 hours to remove the contents. More time is sometimes given for larger, fuller units. If you get extra time, you’ll know that before the auction starts, which means other bidders will be more attracted to the unit.
  • Buyers beware! You get what’s inside, like it or not. There are no refunds for dashed dreams and empty computer boxes. What’s the strangest thing Bryan has seen inside a storage unit? Well, it was a pet cat, preserved by a taxidermist!


Take Along Some Essentials

  • Carry cash. Not only do you need cash for paying for storage units that you win, but you’ll also need cash for the security deposit.
  • Take your driver’s license with you. You’ll need a photo identification to take part in an auction.
  • Pack a lock. After your win, you’ll have to immediately secure your unit.
  • Drive a truck. If you’re planning to buy something large, arrive in a vehicle that will accommodate your purchase. Otherwise, make plans to return soon in an appropriate vehicle. Remember, you have a short amount of time to remove the contents you won.


Now that you know what to expect before and after your first storage auction, you’re probably wondering how to bid. I have some tips for you coming up soon, so check back!


What do you hope to find at your next storage auction? How much cash are you willing to spend at the auction?