What to Buy at Garage Sales

Updated May 2, 2017 . AmFam Team

If you’re looking to pick up a few items on the cheap or are hunting for your next treasure, going to garage sales can yield some great results. But to make the most out of your time, it’s important to understand what’s worth buying and what to avoid.

Take a look at our list of the best and worst items to buy at garage sales.

Racks of clothes laid out in a garage sale.

What to Look for at Garage Sales

Garage sailing can produce some great bargains if you know what to look for. Keep your eye out for the following items:

A father and daughter baking together in their kitchen.

Cooking items. Stainless steel pots, pans and flatware, cast iron cookware and microwaveable glass baking dishes make great second-hand additions to any kitchen. Watch out for scratches and rust, and steer clear of non-stick items that are flaky.

A mother and child with a blanket over their heads using a flashlight to read a book together.

Books. Score big savings on best sellers, classics and more. Keep your eyes peeled for rare old books, especially first editions, which can fetch a tidy sum from book dealers.

A mother doing laundry with her child.

Kids’ clothes. We all know how fast kids can outgrow their clothes, which is why you can find kids’ gear that’s in good condition at rummage sales. Coats, formal outfits and baby clothes are good bets. Smart tip: get clothes a size or two larger for longer wear.

A person kayaking on a lake.

Sports and rec equipment. Yard sales yield great deals on bikes, golf clubs, basketballs, free weights and other sports gear. However, think twice about treadmills or other exercise machines, which may have mechanical issues.

A person working in their home project with tools spread out on a table next to them.

Tools. Hand tools and garden tools are always a good find, provided you’re willing to give them a little TLC. When considering power tools, be sure to test them out first.

Two people painting a piece of furniture.

Wooden furniture. Tables, chairs, desks and other pieces of wooden furniture are often a great value at rummage sales. But, be prepared to put a little time and elbow grease into cleaning, painting or refinishing them.

A person sitting on the beach with her dog and a tent in the foreground.

Camping gear. Buying brand new camping gear can get incredibly expensive! Thankfully you can find some great deals on camping gear at garage sales. Look for things like camp stoves, tents, cots and lanterns.

A grandfather fishing with his grandchild.

Fishing equipment. Are you an avid fisherman? Maybe you’re just starting out. Between fishing rods, reels and tackle, fishing can actually be an expensive hobby to start. But bargain hunting for your equipment at garage sales will help you cut back on the upfront costs.

What Not to Buy at Garage Sales

You may come across certain items that seem like a steal, but the reality is there are certain things that you’re better off passing up. When out garage sailing, avoid purchasing these types of items:

An old, worn laptop surrounded by a messy desk.

Electronics. Electronics at a garage sale can be hit or miss — especially because there’s no way of knowing how well they were cared for. Laptops, MP3 players and tablets could have water damage, or have built-in rechargeable batteries that are spent. If you’re looking to score a deal on electronics, shop at reputable dealers for refurbished devices with a warranty.

Two people making a bed together.

Sheets and pillowcases While you can wash them, sheets and pillowcases can carry bedbugs. Enough said!

A table covered in used, messy makeup.

Makeup and other toiletries. Did you know makeup can expire? Unless you’re sure of the expiration date for makeup, skincare and haircare products, it’s best to skip out.

A father placing a helmet on his child.

Helmets. Helmets can lose their level of protection after just one accident. In fact, helmets are actually designed to protect you from only one accident. Your safety isn’t something to bargain with — ensure you’re getting the best protection you can by buying a helmet new.

A grandfather placing his grandchild in a car seat.

Child car seats. Just like helmets, car seats decrease in performance with use, especially in accidents. Given that car seat technology improves each year, it’s best to buy the latest and greatest versions on the market.

An infant in a crib, looking up at their parent.

Cribs. We get it — cribs are expensive! What may seem like a great deal could be putting your child at risk. With the amount of recalls and standards of safety changing, it’s hard to ensure if a used crib is safe. Keep your little loved one safe by doing your bargaining elsewhere.

A person using a penny to check the tread on a tire.

Tires. Used tires can be unreliable. When it comes to your safety, new tires are the way to go.

A person vacuuming a mattress.

Mattress. Bed bugs, mold, other people’s fluids — you never know what’s lurking in someone else’s mattress! Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a new mattress.

A group of runners, running on a street.

Used running shoes. Most running shoes have an expiration date on them based on the number of miles put on them. You’re not doing your feet any favors by buying used since the shoe likely has worn out cushioning which means less support. Plus, think of all the sweat and bacteria that isn’t yours!

Garage Sale Shopping Tips

Now that you know what to look for and what to pass up, use these garage sale shopping tips as you head out:

A bin of old records for sale.

Bargain for a price. Don’t be unrealistic with your asking price — that can come off rude — but don’t be afraid to negotiate a better deal.

A couple drinking coffee and reading the newspaper together.

Know when to shop. Be strategic about when you head out to shop. Getting out early in the morning means you’ll be one of the first customers who get to see the big-ticket items that usually are sold within the first few hours. But going at the end when sellers are wrapping up for the day means you’ll likely find items that have prices reduced or sellers more willing to negotiate.

A person admiring a jar at a garage sale.

Ask questions. Strike up a conversation with the sellers and find out about the item you’re considering — especially more expensive pieces. Learn about its history, condition, age and how many previous owners it had.

A person holding out her wallet full of cash in small bills.

Bring small bills. It might be difficult to haggle for a lower price when you have a $50 in your hand! Opt for ones, fives, tens and twenties. It’ll be easier to negotiate, and the seller will appreciate not having to break a bigger bill.

Keep these tips in mind before heading to garage sales in your area. You’ll save money and walk away with some great steals!

Two people going through the junk in their garage.

Are you hosting your own garage sale? Take a look at our garage sale safety tips.

This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. We do not make any guarantees or promise any results based on this information.

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