Let me get this out of the way, my reality TV show guilty pleasure is Storage Wars. (Well, that and Teen Mom, but I’m going to chalk that one up to pregnancy hormones.) I like the characters, I like the setting and most of all I like the discoveries. It’s like a treasure hunt playing out on television and every time I watch I want to buy a locker myself.
The first time I tried it out was 2012. I remember it mostly because I was on maternity leave with my son. At that time, I went to auctions with him strapped to my chest in a Baby Bjorn.
I checked out a couple of auctions, bid on a few lockers and it was pretty much like the show, though with fewer fun characters. I didn’t win anything, but I gained some experience.
Fast forward to the present day, when I decided to give storage lockers another shot. While there are still live auctions, the storage locker industry is now online, allowing you to bid on a locker from the comfort of your couch. I’ve won a few online and that’s when the real work started.
How it Works
You bid online, much like an eBay auction. There’s a deadline and whoever has the highest bid at the deadline wins the locker. On the site I used, the auction is extended by a few minutes if there’s a last minute bid.
So far I’ve used the online auction site Storage Treasures, so I know that one is trustworthy. Other ones out there include Storage Auctions, Locker Fox and Self Storage Auction. I use Storage Treasures because it appears to have the most storage units available in my area.
The only downside of bidding online is you have to go off of pictures. That means if someone takes a crappy picture, that’s all you have to help you make a decision.
Buying tip: I buy small because I can only haul so much in my SUV.
The Winning Bid
The first locker I won was a combo of furniture and boxes. My winning bid was $20, but I also had to pay a fee based on the final bid price ($3) and s.ales tax ($1.85). Total price $24.85.
There’s usually a deadline of 72 hours to get everything cleared out so you want to make sure you’re available immediately.
I showed up at the storage site and paid the fee and a $100 cleaning deposit in cash. The desk attendant took me to my locker and I immediately started going through the stuff.
Buying tip: Bring a padlock because odds are you’re not going to be able to take everything in one trip.
This locker was neater than most storage lockers and fairly easy to go through. I happened to do this one on a day that baby girl was at daycare, so I was able to go through the boxes much quicker than I would have if she was there.
I have gone through storage lockers with her there and it is also doable, though sometimes I need to stop what I’m doing and focus on her. It’s completely safe at this point because she’s not mobile yet.
Discovering What’s Inside
I tossed about one-third of the stuff including a dresser that was a little too broken. I donated another one-third to Goodwill. Unless you get a high-end locker, odds are the clothes and knick-knacks you find aren’t resaleable. I gave a futon in pretty good condition to my in-laws and then took the rest of the stuff to sell.
Buying tip: If you find some fairly new broken cell phones, keep them because sometimes you can sell them online to repair shops.
I sold a twin bunk bed for $30 and magically I made my money back.
I’m still selling off some of the other stuff. I sold an iPod and a wi-fi hotspot on eBay and made use of a $30 Netflix gift card I found inside the locker. So far, I’ve made over $100 on the locker with a few more knick knacks that need to be sold.
It took about four trips to get everything out.
Buying tip: Know where a local dumpster is because you’ll have a lot of crap to get rid of. Ideally, it will be unlocked, empty and free of charge.
I swept up the locker, took my lock and checked in with the storage office. I got my deposit back and I was on my way.
The Bottom Line
- You have the potential to make good money depending on what you find.
- It’s kid-friendly for the most part.
- Personally, I think it’s fun. A little like gambling or treasure hunting.
- It’s possible to lose money so only buy what you can afford.
- You could end up spending hundreds of dollars just to buy a good locker.
- This is hard work. There’s a lot of hauling, packing and selling after the cleaning.
You can totally do this with kids as long as they’re well behaved. The older ones can even help sort through and carry things. Just be careful because you can never be sure what you will find in a locker such as pills, drug paraphernalia or pornography.