What to buy and what to avoid

Garage sales are a great place to find a deal on a variety of goods. You can buy just about anything from clothes to furniture, appliances and even Halloween costumes.

Before you fork over your hard-earned cash, know what’s a good idea to buy at yard sales – and what isn’t. While you should avoid certain items at yard sales for safety reasons, others may end up costing you more down the road (bedbugs anyone?).

Spring and fall are high seasons for yard sales, depending on where you live. If you’re planning on hitting up a few sales in the upcoming weeks, read on for our best tips.

What to buy at a yard sale

One of the most important rules of yard sale shopping is “everything is negotiable.” Don’t shop a yard sale the same way you shop at Walmart. The sticker price is just a starting point for the negotiation.

People who throw yard sales are looking to make money on items they would otherwise donate. Everything that doesn’t get sold ends up getting thrown away or given to charity. Get there early and haggle for every item you want to purchase.

Here are some items to add to your yard sale shopping list:


Not all cookware is created equal. Certain brands like Le Creuset and Pyrex last for many years. The same goes for cast iron pots and pans, even ones that are a little rusted. Scrutinize each item for chips and weaknesses that can compromise its integrity. Then haggle on!

Picture frames

Picture frames can be very expensive when new. However, yard sales can be a treasure trove of used picture frames in a variety of sizes. Keep an eye out for framed art, which can be another great way of scoring cheap picture frames.

Kids clothes

Kids grow so fast that sometimes they can only wear an outfit a few times before it’s too small. Yard sales are a great place to find gently used or even brand-new children’s clothing.

Keep a list of the next two sizes of clothes you need for each of your children and look for them every time you hit a sale.

Kids gear and toys

Children’s gear and toys can also offer significant savings. Just be careful about what you buy as some items may have loose or missing pieces. Stick to toys without small pieces and clean everything well before giving anything to your children. Also look for kids’ toys and book organizers, which can cost a fraction of the price of buying new.


LEGOs can be a great score at yard sales but don’t expect to find complete sets. Unless the set is sealed in the original package, chances are it will be missing some pieces.

Since LEGO pieces can be interchanged, look for mixed bags or buckets. These can be used to build different creations without worrying about missing pieces from a set.

Sports equipment

Sports equipment such as balls, baseball, and softball bats and sports bags can be quite expensive when purchased new. If your child plays a sport, look for gently used gear at your next yard sale hunt.

Exercise equipment

Yard sales are an excellent place to find used exercise equipment such as free weights, kettlebells or a chin-up bar. Avoid bigger electronic exercise equipment such as treadmills since you never know if they work.

Wood furniture

Solid wood furniture can last for decades if you take care of it. Garage sales are a great place to find well-made furniture for a fraction of the price. Make sure you have a way to get it home before plunking down your money.

Halloween costumes

If you’ve ever shopped for Halloween outfits during October, you know they can set you back $30-$40 per person (or even more). Instead of waiting until fall, start looking for costumes at yard sales ahead of time.


Tools can be another great thing to hunt for at garage sales. Basic tools such as wrenches and screwdrivers can be great to have on hand for home repair projects. Stay away from electric tools such as sanders or table saws, which can cause an injury if they malfunction.

What to avoid at a yard sale

While garage and yard sales can be a great place to find gently used and even new items for cheap, there are some items you should avoid. Here are some things you should take a hard pass on even if they are a steal.

Car seats

If a car seat has been in any kind of accident, it’s no longer safe to use. They are also no longer safe to use past their expiration date. Since you don’t know the history of a car seat at a yard sale or how it was stored, just don’t buy it.

Baby gear and furniture

While certain baby items can be a steal at a yard sale, you should avoid other items no matter the price. Because of recalls, furniture and certain baby gear such as bouncers or rockers can be unsafe.


Helmets are a very important piece of equipment designed to protect your noggin or that of your child. Used helmets may have chips and cracks that are not apparent but make them weaker and more likely to fail. So, it’s best to buy them new.

Soft furniture

While that couch or ottoman may be a steal, consider the possibility of bed bugs and other critters. Soft furniture is a hiding place for all kinds of bugs so avoid buying second-hand to save yourself on the exterminator bills.


The same goes for bedding such as blankets, sheets, and pillows. Just say no to anything that can bring you unwanted visitors and cost you much more to get rid of than the price of the item.


Besides potentially harboring bed bugs and other critters, mattresses are a bad idea at yard sales because they could hurt your back. As a mattress gets older, it loses support and can cause many nights of tossing and turning.


Used shoes can be another source of discomfort. As you wear a shoe, it molds to your foot. Wearing shoes that have molded to someone else’s feet can cause pain and discomfort. Shoes also lose support over time, which can also hurt your feet.


Just say no to used swimsuits. A swimsuit is almost the same as underwear since you wear it directly next to your skin. They can also stretch, fade and lose shape. Just shop end-of-season sales if you’re in need of a new suit.


Many don’t realize that makeup expires. Also, makeup that has been stored poorly can turn rancid and cause breakouts. Even if the makeup is sealed in a package, avoid buying it at yard sales to be safe.

Vacuum cleaners

New vacuum cleaners can be pricey. It can be tempting to buy a used vacuum at a yard sale but think twice before plunking down your hard-earned cash. If you buy it, you don’t know if it works.

Or worse, if it comes from an unclean household, it can cause many problems in your home. Just say no.

Go save yourself some money

Shopping yard sales can be a lot of fun and lead to major savings. Just make sure you keep these rules in mind as a guideline for what you should and shouldn’t buy. Go out and find some bargains, negotiate even better deals, and maybe look for that hidden gem that’s worth way more than the seller thinks.

–By Veneta Lusk



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