Bidding on Storage and Shipping Container Auctions

Television shows like Storage Wars and Auction Hunters have brought the spotlight to an aspect of the storage industry that most viewers weren’t aware of prior to their debut – the auctioning off of unclaimed contents. With this type of media exposure, the attendance at these auctions is growing. Having seen some of the treasures that have been uncovered in unassuming storage units, the hope of ‘hitting the jackpot’ draws in new bidders.

Joining the Storage Auction Bidding Crowd

As with most things these days, the quickest and easiest way to find storage and shipping container auctions is searching for them online. With the growing interest, websites are now offering to share information with potential bidders.

  1. is one of those sites. The site is operated by professional auctioneers who perform many of the storage unit auctions around the country. If you want to bid on storage units from the comfort of your living room,
  2. can connect you with storage units auctions that allow you to bid online, saving you the time and gas of attending an auction in person.
  3. provides listings of auctions by state. Auction listings on this site will list the number of units being auctioned along with a general description of the contents in each of the units.


Who Gets the Money from Container Auctions?

When the contents of storage units and shipping containers are being auctioned, the owners of the contents have defaulted on payment to the storage or shipping company. The most common reasons for this happening are the three D words: death, divorce and debt.

Ari Mir, Chief Marketing Officer for Clutter Storage, a concierge storage service operating in Los Angeles and Orange County gave some insight into the process from the viewpoint of storage facility owners. A storage facility has a certain legal process they need to follow before they can legally auction off the contents of abandoned storage units, according to Mir. The process and amount of time that must expire before these auctions can take place varies from state to state.

Storage units and shipping containers can’t be rented if they aren’t empty. This means a loss of revenue for these business owners. Funds raised from the auctions help offset the lost revenue and pay fees to the auctioneer. In some cases, funds in excess of the revenue lost are paid to the owner of the contents of a shipping container.

In the two years that Clutter Storage has operated their storage service, they have never auctioned off any of the items entrusted to them, Mir told us, and they don’t ever expect to. “We offer a unique, full-service storage option.” Mir explains. “Our storage fee includes pickup up of your items and delivering them back to the owners again.” Rather than self-storage, it is a valet storage concept. If payment stops, then the contents in storage are delivered back to the owner, so there’s no revenue lost by Clutter Storage.

Bidder Requirements

Every auction will have its own specific terms that bidders must agree to, but cash-in-hand is the general rule. The cost paid by the winning bidder will usually include an auctioneer fee and may include a cleanout deposit to the storage facility. The deposit, when required, is returned to the bidder if they empty the unit within the number of hours allotted following the auction, usually 24 to 48 hours.

Since storage units usually hold personal household items, personal photos and documents are commonly found among the contents. Bidders are often encouraged or required to return those types of items to the storage facility or the original tenant of the unit.

Are there hidden treasures to be found at container auctions? Certainly. But those are few and far between. The majority of units contain very ordinary household items of lower value. Happy bidding!

Kathleen Krueger

Kathleen is a full-time freelance writer and owner of Crafter of Words LLC. She specializes in providing high-quality blogs, website copy and email campaigns for businesses. She frequently writes on topics of interest to home owners such as remodeling, storage and moving.

Latest posts by Kathleen Krueger (see all)