A Real Storage Auction – What to Expect

With so many eager auction hunters approaching me with questions about what it’s like to go to a repossessed locker sale, I thought I would post this recording of a live auction as an example. In this video, you can see Dan “the auction guy” Dotson, of Storage Wars fame conducting a well-attended auction at a large self storage property in the Inland Empire of California. This auction had nine delinquent storage units and drew a full crowd of interested auction buyers. My hope is that by watching this real live self storage auction you can all get a better idea of what to expect when you attend your first sale. As you can see, there’s really nothing to be nervous about!

Here is a basic breakdown of the video as it occurs:


There’s not much of the pre-auction process explored in this video – we see Dan pop into the self storage manager’s office at the beginning of the sale and pretty shortly after that he is leading a full group of eager bargain hunters down the main row of storage units. Generally, this is pretty much what you can expect when you get to your first sale. You will likely have to wait around in the parking lot when you first get there – you should also be looking out for the bidder registration form to fill out. This is important – don’t get left out in the cold by not being able to bid on units you want!

The Turn Out For This Storage Auction

Was a little bit high. Yes, it’s a big facility and it’s in California, but some of these folks probably showed up just to watch Dan in action and for a chance to be caught on film!

Dan Let the Buyers “Root Around” in the Units

This is also unusual. Most of the time, the strict house rules of the storage facility will forbid anyone from even touching something inside the unit. Touching anything inside, or even crossing the threshold of the unit, can get you expelled from that storage sale and barred from attending any future sales with that company.

In this video, however, Dan Dotson explained his reasoning for allowing people to go inside and poke around. Because these units were totally abandoned by their previous owners – because the managers were not even able to get a response regarding the account – they are all assumed to be of lesser value than an average delinquent storage locker. They are junkier and unlikely to have much hidden treasure in the way of small high-value items like jewelry or gold watches. Therefore, Dan allows the buyers of these abandoned storage lockers to go inside and poke around because he doesn’t want anyone playing up the units – inflating their value with lies and implications that they are extremely valuable. Basically this is a judgement call that Dan made to keep his buyers happier and to prevent misunderstandings.

Don’t expect this to fly at your average storage auction!

The Movement

One thing this video is good at doing is highlighting the constant and quick movement that occurs at storage auctions, especially when you have a large volume of people moving about and trying to view the units for sale right before the bidding begins.

This is one of the tougher aspects for the auctioneer and the property manager – getting people in and getting people out. Everyone attending the auction wants a chance to see inside the auction units. Everyone wants to get a chance to peer inside. You see the buyers filing in and out of the hallways in this video because Dan is trying to keep people moving quickly. Otherwise selling off 9 delinquent storage lockers would take all day long.

The Prices

In the post “Storage Wars” world, the same delinquent storage lockers of old are simply selling for more money. That’s just the way it goes when there is an uptick in public awareness, demand and interest. Since being popularized by reality shows like Storage Wars and Auction Hunters, repossessed storage lockers that would have gone for $125 tops even two years ago are now regularly selling for $300. This is due to increased bidder competitiveness. Since everyone attending an auction feels like this unit is their ticket to riches, they are likely to fight each other harder for it.

You see Dan Dotson confirming that one woman paid $375 for one of the larger units, either a 10×20 or a 10×30. This is a full garage’s worth of stuff, but the fact remains that not long ago the same unit might have gone for $200! This is the premium you pay when everyone wants in on the action. Keep this in the back of your mind when you are trying to make that crucial decision as to whether or not a particular unit is worth that one last bid or if it’s better off given to your competitor. Sometimes the potential value of the unit simply does not exceed what’s really driving the price up – everyone’s excitement!