The Best and Worst Things to Buy at Yard Sales

Yard sale season is upon us, and I can’t wait for a free Saturday to hit the streets and find some bargains! As with any kind of shopping, a bargain isn’t a bargain unless you’re actually going to use the item. Believe it or not, it took me a while to learn that. I don’t want to fill my house with useless junk that looked cool when I go yard sale shopping!

yard sales

Now that I’ve learned my lesson, I have a few staples that I always look for at yard sales. These are the best yard sale buys! And there are other items I’d never buy at a yard sale, or if I did, I’d be very careful. What are the best and worst yard sale buys? Read on!

The Best Things to Buy at Yard Sales

  • Furniture.  It’s very rare that I buy furniture from a furniture store. Why would I, when I can find well made furniture at a major discount when I’m yard sale shopping? When shopping for furniture at yard sales, you need to be patient and perhaps willing to compromise on style a bit. On the other hand, I love to buy a well made chest of drawers and personalize it with some paint and new hardware!
  • Clothing.  Clothing, especially baby and kid clothing is a major yard sale bargain. If you find the right sales, sometimes you can fill a bag for $1.00. Other times, you can buy brand name clothing for pennies on the dollar. With thrift stores getting more expensive, yard sales remain the best place to find secondhand clothing.
  • Kitchen Items.  I need new serving bowls for my kitchen, and while I was shopping over the weekend, I almost bought some at a retail store. But then I remembered that I could likely find some great serving bowls at a yard sale this summer, and I probably won’t have to pay more than $1.00.
  • Also, if you’re looking for a trendy kitchen appliance, yard sales are a great place to look. Too often people buy the latest kitchen fad, only to use it once and then get rid of it when they need more room in the kitchen. These items are usually priced to sell, just so the owner can get it out of the house.
  • Decorative Items.  Need Christmas decorations? A new vase? How about a decorative shelf for the wall? Yep, yard sales are a great place to look. I love to shop yard sales for decorative items, because at yard sale prices, I can afford to change my seasonal decor frequently.
  • Craft Supplies.  I’m not a super crafty person, but I like to keep crafts supplies on hand for the kids. I can usually find great crafting items for pennies on the dollar. I’ve seen bags of fabric scraps, jars of buttons, and bundles of knitting needles selling at rock bottom prices. If you’re a crafter, check out the yard sales. You may just find what you need for your next creation!

The Worst Things to Buy at Yard Sales

  • Car Seats. You want your baby to be safe, but brand new car seats are very expensive. It’s tempting to try to save money by purchasing that new looking car seat at a yard sale. Don’t do it. That car seat may have been in an accident, compromising the integrity of the seat. Even a slow speed crash necessitates a new car seat, even when the damage isn’t visible. Your children’s safety isn’t worth the money savings.
  • Mattresses. Bed bugs are becoming more and more common, it seems. I won’t buy used mattresses from yard sales, because I don’t want to chance infesting my house. We accidentally had a bed bug infestation several years ago, due to a piece of furniture we bought secondhand. It’s an experience I never care to repeat. I know what to look for in furniture, now, but I won’t buy a used mattress. Ever.
  • Electronics.  Computers. TVs. Blue Ray players. They’re expensive when bought new, but they aren’t great bargains at yard sales. For one thing, it’s hard to tell if these items work well, even if you give them a brief try at the yard sale site. For another, if they don’t work well, you can’t take them back. And a bargain isn’t a bargain if the item doesn’t work.
  • Old Painted Toys.  Be careful when buying old toys at yard sales. They’re not always a bad deal, and you can actually find some pretty good bargains. But when it comes to painted toys, hold off, unless you’re a collector. Older and foreign made toys may contain lead paint. While the toys may be cute (and cheap), it’s not worth risking your child’s health.
  • Cribs. Over the last couple of years, many cribs have been recalled. You don’t want to buy an unsafe crib for your baby. Yard sale cribs may have been recalled, have missing hardware, or been painted with lead based paint. The slats may be too far apart, and they may not securely fit an infant mattress. Or if they come with a mattress, it may be too soft for a baby. There are too many risks. Buy a crib from a retail store, not from a yard sale.

Yard sales are fun. They’re like a huge treasure hunt, and you can find some really good bargains. By knowing what to look for and what to avoid, you can make sure your next yard sale shopping experience end with a happy note, rather than a headache.

What do you always look for at yard sales? What would you NEVER buy at one?

Photo by j.sanna.


By , on Jun 25, 2012
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Budgie:

    Being an avid yard sale shopper, I agree with everything listed except electronics. Electronics can be a good buy if you either have know-how got it for a great price. I’ve bought a couple of DVD players that work perfectly for $2 a piece. My husband is a computer guy and can fix up PCs that some folks are willing to practically give away. We have an old-school TV in our basement that works perfectly that I purchased for $2. It’s a great time at this period in time to pick up computers and TVs for great prices from people who are chasing technology.

  2. Lynnae McCoy:

    Oh yeah! Tools are definitely a good thing to buy!

  3. I’d have to add tools/hardware to the “must buy” list. If you know what you’re looking for/at, a yard sale is a GREAT place to buy a pressure washer, air compressor and other tools, the bulkier the better. If it’s a heavy item, many people will let it go cheap rather than try to figure out how to get it to a pawn shop or other resale center.

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