Excluding Vehicles from Self Storage Auctions

Buying vehicles from storage locker auctions

The storage auction experts at StorageTreasures often get complaints about motor vehicles withheld from self storage auctions. We know you want to buy the car as it is right there in front of you in the abandoned storage unit.

Did you know that it is illegal for a storage facility to sell items you cannot take “free and clear”?

“Free and clear” means they must give you the documentation you need to get a title for the car.  In addition to this rule in the self storage auction statutes, storage operators must also follow each of their state’s department of motor vehicle procedures. Below are some reasons an operator might need to withhold a car from a self storage auction.

VIN Searches

A facility manager must do a VIN search whenever a vehicle is in a unit to determine if the car belongs to someone other than the tenant. In a perfect world, the storage tenant would have informed the manager that they stored a vehicle in the unit, allowing them to get proof of ownership, including any lienholders, before the auction.

Often, tenants store cars without the manager’s knowledge. If this happens and they discover the vehicle by surprise, they need to pause the storage auction and do a VIN search. It is legal for the manager to sell all the other items in the unit and withhold the car until they have done the background work. For this reason you might see the vehicle for sale again later.


If you have ever bought a car using a loan, you know you don’t own that vehicle outright until you pay off the loan. Until the loan is satisfied, the car still belongs to the lender. In several states, the operator can fulfill their requirements to the lienholder simply by notifying them of the pending storage locker auction. However, a storage facility cannot sell a vehicle in other states, like Florida, unless the lienholder relinquishes the vehicle. Learn more about vehicle sales in Florida.

It is often difficult to get in touch with the lienholder to obtain this release. However, not having the release leaves the manager with no choice but to remove the vehicle from the abandoned storage unit for sale.

Incorrect Paperwork

The storage operator has to do a great deal of paperwork behind the scenes to guarantee you can get a title after the sale. This paperwork often includes confusing and vague requirements. In addition, the conditions often have strict time schedules, and as such, it is easy to make a mistake in the procedures. If the facility discovers an error has been made, they cannot sell the car at a storage auction.


You can see how the storage operator takes on an outstanding liability with such expensive property. Most state’s lien laws give the manager the option to have the car towed to escape further liability. Tow companies have more options to dispose of vehicles than self storage operators, which is sometimes the safest route for the operator to take in dealing with vehicles.

You may think the manager is keeping the car out of the auction so they can sell it to someone privately for a higher price, or they don’t want you to have it.  We assure you that this is not the case. It is challenging for a storage operator to process a vehicle for auction. However, with that difficulty comes the risk of a lawsuit.

If you see a vehicle you love on StorageTreasures, you can try reaching out to the local storage auction facility to ask why they didn’t sell it. If it was towed, it would be at a local tow yard. If the storage operator couldn’t get the tenant to pay, the tow operator likely won’t be either and will place it in their auction. You might be able to find it from there.

While selling vehicles is difficult for storage managers, it is not impossible, and we often have motor vehicles available on our website. Go to www.StorageTreasures.com and look for listings today. If you buy a car on our website, you can learn more information about getting a car title after auction here.


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