Storage Wars: The Reality of an Auction

Last week we shared an interview with an individual in the storage auction business.  He warned us that, unlike it appears in Storage Wars,  the storage auction business is difficult and not always profitable.  Here at Moving Insider, we like to see for ourselves so we headed out to the local storage auctions in Phoenix.   Honestly, we had no ideas of what to expect.  Here is  a breakdown of how these storage auctions go down:

storage wars

The Pre Party:

Upon arrival at the storage location, we signed in and met up with a group of individuals that were also waiting for the storage auction to begin. It was immediately clear that these individuals knew each other well and participated in storage auctions often.  In discussions with them, we learned that they follow this specific auctioneer around storage facilities almost every day.  We  felt a little unprepared because we arrived in our 2-door compact car, while everyone else arrived in large pick-up trucks or retired moving trucks. I want to add that these were not the perfectly branded trucks like you see in Storage Wars.

The Storage Auction Buyers:

Not surprisingly, the regular storage auction buyers were not perfectly dressed or manicured.  Instead they were practically in jeans, sweats and tennis shoes, ready to clean out a storage unit!  They were also not harassing each other, or wearing stone cold faces. They were actually very friendly and willing to share their experiences with us. A few key lessons I learned from them:

  1. You lose money more often than you make it.  
  2. The best way to make your money back is garage sales, or craigslist for more expensive items.
  3. It can take several months to earn back your money
  4. You donate a majority of the contents in the unit, but they use it as a tax write-off.

Storage wars

The Bidding Process:

Right on time, the auctioneer led the group to the first storage unit. All his followers busted out their flashlights (again, we were not prepared with a flashlight of our own) and looked around the room.  This is where the similarity to Storage Wars ended.  It basically contained an old couch and a couple boxes. Unlike in Storage wars, the bidding process was not glamorous, nor was it competitive. In fact, the bidding happened so fast, we missed it the first time! So, we proceeded to the next auction at another storage facility. We visited 5 units that day and honestly, the contents inside all of the units looked like junk.  Yes, they may have had that hidden treasure like you see in Storage Wars, but most were poorly kept, and two of the units smelled so bad we refused to bid because of the fear of what we might find.   Needless to say, we were not impressed.  Finally, we saw a unit that we thought might have potential. It was packed to the ceiling, and it looked like there was decent furniture in the back. So we bid, we weren’t the only ones.  It cost us $330 to win, but we did! Below are photos of the 5 units we saw that day, our winning unit was #5.

Storage wars

The After Party:

Since the entire process was very anti-climatic, once we finally won an auction, we were anxious to get in to the unit and see what was inside.  Unfortunately, before we could do that we needed to pay for our unit (which included buying a lock), rent a Moving truck and get some supplies for cleaning up the unit.  Our supplies included protective clothing, sanitizing wipes, masks, cleaning supplies and heavy duty garbage bags.  Here is the breakdown of our costs so far:

Storage wars

We’ll share more about what we found in the next post, but I can tell you now, cleaning out someone else’s storage unit is no party!

Have you seen Storage Wars or been to a Storage Auction?  How much would you bid on the storage units above?  Tell us in the comments below!