Lost luggage auctions

Grab bargain unclaimed suitcases

Walking away with someone else's luggage could bag you big bucks. It's all about buying people's unclaimed suitcases, via lost luggage auctions.

When airlines are unable to reunite lost bags with their rightful owners, they often sell them off through specialist auction houses. Bags are considered lost after 21 days (see what to do if you've lost your luggage below).

After this, while galling to imagine if it's yours, suitcases can be auctioned off and usually cost £10-£75. The contents won't always be valuable, but pick a winner and profits are possible from selling them on.

How do I bid? To bid, you usually need to go to an auction house on the day, though these days some have online options. The biggies include Greasbys in Tooting, south London, where you must bid in person. There's also BCVA in Bristol, where you can bid at the auction house or online, though you must collect in person.

Wellers in Guildford lets you bid in person or online (you can pick up or in some cases arrange a courier, but check first). Finally, Mulberry Bank in Glasgow is online only, though you must collect in person.

Some other auctioneers may sell lost luggage on occasion – you'll need to call up local ones to ask. If you find more which do this, let us know in the Lost Luggage Auctions thread.

Is it all pants? Not necessarily – you may get lucky with designer goods. In fact, as many auction houses now separate the contents from the suitcases, you may not have to bother with any dirty laundry at all.

Sale prices vary, so expect to pay anything between £10 and £75 per case.

Of the big auction houses, Wellers and Mulberry Bank only sell empty cases – the contents are always taken out and sold separately. Greasbys and BCVA sell some empty suitcases, but others with clothes and other items still inside. Where suitcases are sold with their contents, auction houses will often let you see what's inside before you buy, or give a description, eg, "gents' clothing".

Either way, it's usually the suitcases themselves that are worth most. Even if you do buy a full suitcase, you're unlikely to get a bag brimming with diamonds. Airlines will have unlocked cases first – they need to check for passengers' ID and ensure what's in there is legal – and auction houses will remove significant valuables such as iPods, jewellery and perfume. 

If you try it, please feed back in the Airport Auctions forum thread.

It's pot luck. Could be full of designer gear or someone's soiled smalls!
Forumite seftonsun

Here's what happened when MSE went to a lost luggage auction... It's fair to say we got more than we bargained for, but check out the video to see how our bidding went and how much we reckon our haul would be worth. 

Video player requires JavaScript enabled. You can watch this video here: https://youtu.be/SqVsD4YHUBA

How can I best bag a bargain? Most auction houses let you inspect the contents or give descriptions. Go to the advance viewing, usually a day before bidding starts.

Note suitcases' make and models, then benchmark the case’s value on eBay – brands to watch out for include Samsonite, Tumi, Trunki and Linea.

Don’t get blinded by bidding fever – set a maximum and don’t be pushed past it. You’ll need to show photo ID and sometimes pay a refundable deposit to bid. 

Remember, if you get something you don't want, you can always flog it online – see our Ebay Selling Tips and Facebook Selling Tips for help.

Always factor in fees. Our typical price above includes the fees you'll usually pay. But it's important to understand that your final cost will be more than the amount the item closes for when you bid. 

There are two fees that may be applied.

  • The buyer’s premium: This is typically 15-20% of the item’s price – you also pay VAT on this premium. So if you successfully bid £30 for a case, and the buyer's premium was 20% (plus VAT) – the total payable would be £37.20.
  • VAT on the hammer price: A few auction houses also add 20% VAT to items' hammer prices. This would push your price to £43.20.

I've got the bug. Any other second-hand buying tricks? When it comes to eBay, many just bid. To home in on the uber-deals, try our 40+ Ebay Buying Secrets guide.

If you fancy buying some stolen goods on the cheap, check out our Police Auctions guide, which explains how to do it (and it's all entirely legal).

Help! The airline lost MY luggage – what should I do? Before you leave the baggage reclaim, go to the luggage or airline counter and fill in a 'property irregularity' report, keeping a copy for yourself. You can claim without one, but it will be easier with it. 

You then need to put in a claim with the airline within seven days – check with your airline for how to claim. If they don’t find it within 21 days, it’s officially lost. 

Related Guides

How much compensation could I get if the airline loses my luggage? There are no rules that set the amount – the maximum will be about £1,000, though it's very rare to get this much. You are likely to get more by going via your travel insurer, so check your policy. See the Travel Insurance guide.

SPOTTED OUT OF DATE INFO/BROKEN LINKS? EMAIL: BROKENLINK@MONEYSAVINGEXPERT.COM