How To Buy Abandoned Storage Units In Australia | Easy Guide

People have a variety of reasons to use self-storage. Some are undertaking home renovations or a house move, others are making a seasonal or lifestyle change, and some simply just want to declutter their lives. However, sometimes storage units are deemed as “abandoned”. And if you are a fan of the American reality show Storage Wars, you’ll know just how tantalising an opportunity this can be for some! But what’s involved in storage unit auctions? Here is our guide on how to buy abandoned storage units in Australia.

When is a storage unit deemed “abandoned”?

An abandoned storage unit is a unit that has been “neglected” by the person renting it in terms of them failing to meet their payments as per the contract they signed with the self-storage company. Payment terms can differ depending on the storage company and missing one payment generally won’t be an issue — the company will generally contact the renter to advise them. However, if payments are missed consecutively and/or they get no response, they will have no choice but to declare the unit abandoned.

What are abandoned storage unit auctions?

When property is abandoned in a self-storage unit, abandoned storage unit auctions may take place for the contents of the unit. Contents can range from furniture and clothing to jewellery, electronics and antiques — just to name a few. You name it, people store it!

However, unlike what occurs on Storage Wars, most of these auctions are held online at iBidOnStorage (not on-site at the storage facility). This company is Australia’s only online auction platform dedicated to the storage industry, and it specialises in storage unit auctions. It is a platform that delivers a marketplace “where both sellers and buyers of storage units can benefit and prosper”.

The company takes direction from the Self Storage Association Australia via a strict process of notification that is followed by Self Storage Association members before the space is assessed and the goods are sold or disposed of.

Bids are typically accepted for five days, which allows all buyers an opportunity to bid on the lot of their choice. The auction site takes photos and post descriptions of the contents and bidders make their decisions by viewing these. Bidders cannot access the units or their contents on-site. Strict contracts govern each auction to protect the self-storage facility, the bidders and the previous renters.

How do I bid at an abandoned storage unit auction?

The process is relatively simple and undertaken online.

  1. You will need to register for an iBidOnStorage Buyer’s Account to start bidding. You will also need a valid email address and a verifiable mobile phone number to activate your account. You should read the terms and conditions carefully as it is vital you understand the procedures you are required to follow.
  2. Once you’ve created your account, you will be directed to the Account Information Page. Here you can update your personal information, change your password, and nominate your Notification Settings.
  3. To start bidding, you simply select the “Current Auctions” tab at the top of the screen. You can filter the settings on the left of the page, which will help you find auctions that are nearest to your location. Always consider the distance you will need to travel to collect the items if you are the successful bidder. All units are sold as a “job lot”, “as is”, on a “what you see is what you get” basis, and all sales are final.
  4. Before placing a bid, you will need to enter your registered credit card details. If you win an auction, the total due will be deducted from your card. In addition, a “Buyer’s Premium” (which is calculated as a percentage of the sale price) will also be payable at the time of purchase. This is typically around 17.5 per cent.
  5. If you are the winning bidder, you are responsible for cleaning out the storage unit. Most self-storage facilities allow winning bidders up to 72 hours (although in some cases it may be as little as 24 hours) to collect their property. This ensures the unit can be rented out again as quickly as possible.

How do I make the most of the auction process?

A certain amount of risk is involved with the storage unit auction process. Even though you can view photos and a detailed list of items, you cannot guarantee that the contents of the unit you are bidding on are valuable or worthwhile enough to keep or sell. That’s why some preparation is important. Here are our tips on making the most of the process.

Practice runs

Before actually bidding on a storage unit, it is recommended you follow a few auctions online to see how it all works. This will allow you to become familiar with the system and the bidding process. It will also give you some insights into the type of contents that might make a profit if you decide to sell them.


Once you know what to look for, it’s time to make some decisions! Decide what types of items you would like to bid on before starting. If you are contemplating selling them, do some research and then base your decision on what you think will sell most easily in your suburb, state or online. Then determine how much people might be willing to pay for the item/s.

Before bidding, keep a price point in mind so you don’t get carried away and exceed your budget. Look at the photos carefully and keep an eye out for high-value items, including those with reputable brand names. Also note the condition of the unit. Boxes should be clean, undamaged, and neatly stacked as this will give a good indication of the condition of the items inside.

Bear in mind you must also be able to pick up the contents if your bid is approved, so ensure you have an adequately sized vehicle for the size of the item/s.

Self-storage auction winners!

People store a wide assortment of items, and most of them will vary in value and condition. However, it is possible to discover a treasure hidden inside abandoned self-storage units. High-value items have been discovered through this process, including rare books, jewellery, record collections and historical memorabilia. Here are some of the most valued items found on Storage Wars (ample inspiration for giving storage unit auctions a go!)

Collectible toys can be worth a pretty penny these days, as two people found out soon enough. They came across several boxes of My Little Pony collectibles, including a large stuffed pony! All up, the items were valued at nearly US$900.

In one episode of the show, a buyer paid US$400 for a storage unit. Later, they unearthed a trunk filled with “faceless” notes. Regardless of whether it was a printing mistake, or the faces were removed on purpose, the notes were still considered legal tender and could be spent. They netted the finder over $24,000!

A gentleman in California stumbled across a stack of newspapers when looking through some old boxes in his storage unit. They contained detailed information about the death of Elvis and what happened in the days after his death. Much to his surprise, he sold them for around US$90,000!

A husband and wife spent about US$1000 on a storage unit and, while sifting through the boxes, found eight pieces of Spanish gold dating back to the 16th century. They were valued at US$500,000!