Personal Finance

The Ultimate Guide to Garage Sales

garage sale graphicThere’s nothing like perusing a good garage sale. It can prove to be a treasure trove for buyers looking to get deep discounts on used items and a fun way for sellers to purge their home of the unwanted clutter taking up space in their basement. But as fun and lucrative as they may be, garage sales can also be a lot of hard work for both buyers and sellers. They take a lot of planning and preparation time and you have to know where and how to advertise.

These sales can also be a challenge for buyers who are on the lookout for the best stuff at the lowest prices. Some buyers have turned garage sales into a cottage industry where they purchase certain items from neighborhood yard sales and then resell those things on Craigslist and eBay, often for a considerable profit. Whichever side of the till you find yourself on, there are some definite guidelines for both buyers and sellers when it comes to a successful garage sale. With the summer season around the corner, you’ll want to read up on our best tips and strongest warnings just in time to get out on the lawn and set up shop. There’s money to be made and we’re going to help you put as much of it as you can in your pocket.

The Sellers Section

Sellers who want to organize a garage sale have a veritable laundry list of things to plan, prepare, and price before they can welcome friends, neighbors, and strangers alike to their front yard. Plenty to do indeed, but none of it matters until you decide on the right day.

Select the Right Date

Picking the date for your yard sale can be the single most important factor that makes or breaks the whole thing altogether. Choose the wrong day and no one will show up, pick a day when it’s one hundred degrees outside and no one will show up, and if you’re thinking about having it on a Wednesday morning…well, no one will show up. So it’s all about the day (and the date, too).

Most garage sales are held on the weekends because that’s when most everyone is off from work and they can spend the morning or afternoon coming over to your house to check out what you’re trying to sell. Saturdays and Sundays are the best days to get the most lookie-loos, but Fridays and even Thursdays can be good too, as long as you’re planning on extending the yard sale across a few days instead of just one. If you’ve decided on a weekend, you may want to consider if it’s a holiday weekend or not and, more importantly, which holiday. Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends are a good idea because they’re usually long weekends that aren’t designed around a specific event that is family-oriented in the same way as Easter or Thanksgiving. Both of those holidays can be more restrictive due to people leaving town to visit family or other familial obligations and traditions.

Mind The Weather

The dead of summer sounds like it can be a good time for a yard sale but keep in mind that some folks may not want to spend the day under the hot oppressive sun just to check out the knick-knacks and old furniture you’re trying to move off your property. But if you absolutely must plan your garage sale in July or August, schedule it for the early morning when the sun isn’t all the way up yet and the air is still on the cooler side. Once it hits 2pm, it’s going to be sweltering and you’ll have fewer buyers coming over.

The best time of year for a garage sale is usually the late Spring or the early Fall, when temperatures are milder and more forgiving. Of course, if you live in California then you can pretty much plan the garage sale anytime you want as it’s warm and sunny all year round.

yard-sale-4-1220536-640x480Advertise Your Garage Sale

Any lucrative endeavor often relies on effective advertising in order to be successful. It’s no different with your garage sale. The methods through which you’ll want to get the word out are as varied and wide-ranging as the items you’ll have on display the day at your garage sale.

You can go the traditional route and put a small advertisement in the local and daily newspapers in your area. They say the printed word is dying, and yes, newspapers don’t have the circulation they once enjoyed, but they’re still a sure-fire way to get out in front of a large number of eyeballs at one time. There is also the tried and true approach of placing flyers and signage in and around your immediate neighborhood as well as those that are situated within a five to ten mile radius. Slapping some handmade handbills on telephone poles and road signs can help you capture a lot of traffic.

Don’t forget to post some signs in your own front yard so when people drive by they know you’ll be having a sale this weekend or next. Keep them up on the day or days of the event itself, too. You may want to consult with local authorities on the legalities of stapling and taping signs to posts and poles before you do it, otherwise you may find all of your advertising has been removed by the city. Then no one is going to know about your garage sale except the cops.

Finally, in this day and age, the online route is often the best and most efficient method of advertising just about anything. So start researching all of the best places to post a yard sale advertisement for maximum visibility. Craigslist is a great place to start because it not only attracts attention from people who live in the area but those folks who are also looking for specific items; if these people know you have that item then they are more likely to come by and even stick around to browse your other offerings as well.

There are other useful resources to consider as well, everything seems to have a website dedicated to it these days and so it is with garage sales. There are a myriad of sites that people visit to find garage sales in their area, so conduct a Google search or look up sites like or and post the day, date, and details about your sale.

Picking Your Inventory

There’s no real strategy to this part of the preparation process, it all really depends on you and your family. If you’ve decided to mount a garage sale you probably have a few items in mind to sell already. But if you really want to make some good money you’ll want to offer more stuff for buyers to take off your hands. So walk around your house and look around to identify the things you don’t use anymore, any toys that have been forgotten, clothes that don’t fit or are out of style, and old CD’s and DVD’s that have been watched already. If it’s taking up space for no reason, then it can go out to the yard.

Don’t forget to look through your storage; go through the attic, basement, bedroom closets, hall closet, kitchen drawers, and by all means, look in the garage for items that have been stacked up for years to find long-forgotten items that you don’t need anymore. Put it all together and bring everything outside. Examine each piece carefully to determine the condition, how much demand there might be for it, and balance the original value of the item versus what you think you might get for it now. Then you start pricing.

Pricing Your Items

If there is one thing to keep in mind throughout this entire endeavor it’s this: you’re not putting on a garage sale to get rich, you’re doing it to clean out your house. Be reasonable and practical, but don’t give the stuff away. Don’t assume that all of your buyers are going to want to haggle you down on price either, so don’t set your prices high just to compensate for the seemingly inevitable squabble. You may end up just turning people off from the outset and they will decide to just walk away without purchasing anything.

Set fair prices for what you’re offering and then work from there. If you’re putting out old records or comic books or some other types of collectibles, then you’ll want to do some research first. Consult some price guides or similar resources that can help you set the right price for the stuff you have to sell, but if you’re putting out old universal remote controls, cell phone chargers, and used books, then price them to move and get that clutter out of the house.

The Buyers Section

If you’re one of those bargain hunters who sees garage sales as more than just a hobby and loves a deal more than life itself but still finds it tough to get the items you really want, then you’ve come to the right place. We have some expert analysis on what items to purchase at a yard sale and what to avoid completely, as well as some helpful haggling strategies to make sure you get the most for your money. Resellers, we have some ideas for your next jaunt along the garage sale circuit too.

The Best Items to Target

Conceptual red dart target board with arrow in the center on cloudsThe great thing about garage sales is that no two are ever alike. You’re likely to come across some pretty unique items the more sales you visit and if you begin to develop a weekly routine for bargain hunting you’ll find some amazing items that could be worth far more than what you initially paid for them. Every yard sale is going to have those one or two things that you won’t find anywhere else. Items that are so odd and different that you just have to own them. They could be anything – a strange painting, some unusual books, a doll or toy that you once clung to as a child yet has long since disappeared.

Garage sales are an endless source of wonder and discovery when you least expect. They can also be goldmines for buying a number of items that still hold some level of financial value and the current owner either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that they could be selling it for a lot more money than what’s been written on the sticker tag. While garage sales may offer a wide variety of uncommon or even rare items for sale, you will also find that many of them have common pieces that are not a novelty by definition but might have an exclusive worth inherent to the type or condition of that particular item.

Let’s face it, beyond the handful of cool and noteworthy items on display, you have to swim through a sea of monotony where some of the merchandise is concerned. Remember, the people who are putting on these garage sales are trying to pawn off their junk onto you and anyone else who walks past their showroom on the sidewalk or front yard. You’ll often have to rummage through boxes of random detritus and well-worn debris before finding those selective few gems among the bunch.

But with that in mind, you will also want to be on the lookout for certain categories of merchandise that often prove to have some amount of worth either to you or someone else to whom you can resell those items. You may be surprised at some of the categories that present the most potential for resale. There are the obvious things like electronics, just about anything that’s newer or still in very good working order and somewhat technologically updated could be easy to resell elsewhere.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a TV, a Blu-ray player, or a GPS, if it’s in great shape and isn’t 20 years old, you may want to plunk down some cash and take it. The same goes for items like household equipment, automotive gear such as wheels or electronics, tools, sports gear, lawn furniture, and any antiques or collectibles that appear to be in very good to near mint condition. All of these things could represent a substantial amount of money on the resale market.

If you are looking for items that can really bring in that pretty penny, you’ll want to consider the more desirable stuff like baby clothes, toys, bikes or scooters, and even musical instruments. These all have a higher resale value because people are always looking to buy them, mainly because they can be expensive to purchase brand new elsewhere. Anyone who has a child knows how tough it can be to clothe him or her, especially since children can shoot up like weeds at a young age. Buying brand new clothes can be quite costly, so if you have children you already know what you’re up against purchasing their garments off the rack every few months. Garage sales provide a cost-efficient substitute in the form of lightly worn clothing that you’re only going to use for a few months before the child gets older and bigger.

Bikes and scooters, even some toys, are also high on the list for resale or personal use.  A bike or scooter will always be necessary and reliable for transportation while toys can sometimes be worth more to collectors who are seeking out that rare piece in a line. Those toys that aren’t a limited edition exclusive piece are great for kids who just want something to play with.

As your experience with yard sales increases, you’ll start to gain a better understanding of how much items are worth and how to tell if you should pass on a piece, buy it for resale or if it’s merely something you want to hold on to instead. Then there are the obvious things like gold, jewelry, even furniture and appliances, that can have high value based on the condition of the piece and the ability to resell it to others.

Name Brands

Designer labels often infer quality and anything with a recognizable brand name up for grabs at a garage sale is usually an instant attention-getter. It can be anything from clothes to electronics to you name it, any high-end brands and manufacturers that are household names are often a great bargain because you know that you’re getting quality at a much lower cost than if you were to buy that item new at a retail store.

Of course you still want to be sure that the item is in good shape and worth what the seller is asking for it. Even if it has a fancy designer on the label, if the item is unusable or too badly worn or damaged then it’s not going to be something you want to purchase for yourself or try to resell to others. You simply won’t be able to get someone else to buy it if you were already second-guessing whether or not you should purchase it in the first place, even if it is 80% cheaper than in stores. But for some items, brand names are a definite plus and can mean a higher resale value on eBay or Craigslist.

Buying Furniture

Furniture has long been a staple of many yard sale events and some of the items for sale can be a great find, while other items may be worth leaving behind because they pose a hazard to you and your household if you bring them home. Wooden furniture is your best bet since it’s often made of higher quality materials and top craftsmanship and you can usually find such items at prices for pennies on the dollar.

If wooden furniture is a solid bet for yard sale success, then you should steer clear from certain upholstered pieces such as couches or chairs. These can have bugs in the fabric that will infest your home once that piece of furniture is in your living room, or worse, the bedroom. Beds aren’t a great idea either unless you can get a sense of how old it is and how long it’s been used (or not used, which is preferable).

Haggling for Discounts

This is the aspect of garage sales that some people love and others loathe: haggling over prices. There are some folks who are experts at the art of the haggle and some who are downright terrible at it. So bad, in fact, they don’t even bother. But for those who believe that the first price is never the final price, haggling can be a beneficial ally in helping you save loads of money.

There are ways to negotiate successfully and methods to avoid, but the basics are pretty simple. You always start lower than you want and move up, just like some of the prices you’re bound to find at a garage sale are priced slightly higher than the seller is expecting to receive. In either case, if the other party agrees to the initial number then someone has won the negotiation. However, it often doesn’t work that way and both parties inch lower and higher to meet somewhere in the middle.

Making your way to a compromise is the most common form of haggling at a garage sale, but there are other ways to get a lower price on that item you want. Point out any imperfections or damage to the item and ask if the seller can lower the price. Buying a number of items together can sometimes get the price down on one or all of those items since you’re buying in “bulk”. The amount of your discount can also depend on the item you’re buying. If it’s a big-screen TV or a washer/dryer set, you’re likely to get a deeper discount than if you were purchasing a box of CD’s or DVD’s.

Our Final Thoughts

Garage sales can be fun and lucrative for both buyers and sellers. For buyers the trick is to get there early, bring loads of cash, and know how to negotiate and when not to, like if the price on an item is already significantly lower than what it usually costs. For sellers, you have to figure out the best day and time for to put on the sale and advertise it effectively so that you can get the most visitors to your front yard. In the end, when it’s all said and done and money has changed hands, buyers should be satisfied that they uncovered some fantastic finds and sellers should be happy that their unwanted clutter is no longer taking up space in their home. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.