Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

What You Need To Know About Auctions On Storage Wars

After a two-year hiatus, Storage Wars will return to A&E for its 13th season on April 20. The series will bring back some favorite castmates from seasons past, like the now-separated bidders Brandi Passante and Jarrod Schulz and the (adorably still-together) auctioneers Laura and Dan Dotson. There's plenty of mystery surrounding the upcoming season: How will bidders navigate the world of storage unit auctions during a global pandemic? Will Passante and Schulz bicker more or less now that they are no longer together? Will we still hear "Don't forget to pay the lady!" from Laura Dotson? (Okay, the answer to that one is probably no mystery...)

While the times and cast have certainly changed since the show first premiered in 2010, the rules of the auctions remain the same. Those rules (and the psychology behind them) were explored in an academic blog post from Cornell University in 2012. In case you need a refresher, here's how the bidding works on Storage Wars – and why it makes such great TV.

Storage Wars auctions are cash only

In our increasingly digital world, fewer people are carrying cash, opting instead for the ease of a debit card, but the cash-only rule for storage unit auctions is part of what makes Storage Wars so fun to watch. Bidders enter the auction with a set amount of cash, and cannot go to an ATM for more money in between bids, write checks, or use cards to pay for units. This means that bidders have two main goals: First, to get each unit they want for as little as possible, so they have money left over for other units. Second, drive up the prices for units they don't want, so that they have less competition for the ones they do. 

Of course, rivalries and pettiness play into this second goal too, as in the episode "Snake, Rattle, and Roll," when "The Rangers" Ricky and Bubba Smith dramatically hike up the cost of a storage unit that city-slicker Victor Rjesnjansky wants to buy, even though they have no interest in the unit, in order to win one for the country boys.

Another key component of the drama in Storage Wars is the unknown. Bidders have only five minutes to look in each unit, without going inside or touching anything, so most of the time the value of any given unit is pure conjecture. Different bidders have different interests, areas of expertise, and levels of risk-aversion, so each bidder's favorite units tend to differ. With that in mind, bidders try to drive up the price of their competitors' favorites in attempt to deplete their budgets and secure their own favorites. The unknown nature of storage unit bidding and the auctions' cash-only policies combine to make Storage Wars highly competitive — and loads of fun to watch.

Bidders may not be the only ones who are salty on Storage Wars

Auctions on Storage Wars are what are called ascending-bid auctions, where the auctioneer sets the starting bid and then bidders progressively increase their offers, with the highest offer winning the unit. Sounds like the epitome of fairness and transparency, right? Each unit goes to whoever is willing to pay the most for it. Well, that's assuming that the contents of the units themselves are just left up to chance.

The authenticity of the storage units featured on the show rose to widespread scrutiny in 2012, when former cast member Dave Hester sued A&E over "salting" the storage units, among other things. "Salting" is when producers inject the units with expensive items to make for more exciting television. While Hester and the network settled out of court in 2014, the rumors of salting remain.

Regardless of whether or not the units on Storage Wars are lightly seasoned, we're looking forward to the return of a series that combines the anxieties of uncertainty and limited resources with larger-than-life characters to make reality TV gold!