20 Garage Sale Finds Worth Buying
It's hard to know exactly what is worth buying secondhand, but these garage sale finds should be snapped up if you see them!
Large furniture can be a great garage sale find. The key to buying big items at a garage sale is to wait until the end of the day. By then, the sellers are wondering how they are going to get that huge vintage sofa off of the grass and back into the living room. Be careful with upholstered items (bed bug alert!), but once you’re confident it’s clean, try to look past garishly coloured fabric and eye-popping patterns: you can always reupholster a piece of furniture to better suit your sense of style.
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Home office supplies
Stationary is a great garage sale find. Normally, your eye instantly jumps to the larger items like couches, kitchen countertop appliances, and, yes, questionable taxidermy. But force yourself to examine smaller items too, especially ones you use regularly. Pens, push pins, and paperclips are office staples you can never have enough of.
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Garage sale artwork is a great way to add some colour to your home. It’s fun to pick up art for two reasons: You might learn about interesting local artists, or, even if you don’t like the image, you can always repurpose the frame. This is key for larger paintings and drawings, because big frames can be so expensive. Haggle if you want, since art is subjective and the sellers might not have too many interested buyers. Also, odds are that they’re tired of looking at it and just want it gone.
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Not to sound old-fashioned, but they don’t make brooches like they used to. Since their popularity has declined over the years, you can usually get a deal on these accessories, and if you like, the possibilities for upgrading them are endless. They’re a great garage sale find! Tip: Consult a vintage jewelry guide to learn how to spot key details that will help you recognize what an old brooch might actually be worth.
Garage sale finds like jewelry are always worth a close inspection. Even if they’re missing a few gemstones or look a little dirty, it’s easy and fairly cheap to upgrade jewelry made with precious metals. Give tarnished silver a good polish with a paste of baking soda and warm water. For gold, paying a few bucks for solid pieces should pay off—you can always sell them for scrap or have them melted down to create something new.
When you see pots and pans at a garage sale, look for rust, non-stick surfaces that are scratched or flaking, and chemical coatings that might leach out into your food. Cast-iron ware, on the other hand, can be salvaged and restored no matter what the condition—and it’ll last forever.
Also, if you find the following items in good working condition, snap them up: stainless steel baking items, kitchen timers, serving utensils, Pyrex or ovenproof glass baking dishes, wooden or bamboo serving bowls, wicker baskets, ceramic or porcelain dinnerware, stainless steel flatware and quality knives (you can always take them in to be sharpened). Just make sure to wash these great garage sale finds well before use!
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Ice cream makers and other seasonal or single-use appliances
If you’re in the market for an ice cream maker or single-use small appliance, definitely scour garage sales first. People hold sales to sell off unused items that take up space in their cabinets, and bulky, seasonal items are often priced to move. You’ll usually be able to scoop them up for a fraction of their retail price—even if they’ve only been used once or twice.
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Jackets are a great garage sale find. Since sellers spring-clean before their sales, bulky or unworn winter coats and vests are some of the first things to hit the to-go pile. Check for holes and wear before purchasing, and dry clean or give a good washing before putting in the closet for next year. For children, buy the next size(s) up and store in a closet for future seasons.
Tools like drills, saws, nail guns and compressors can be great garage sale finds. As long as the seller can prove that they’re in good working condition, snap them up. Ask how old the product is and how much it has been used over the years. Always keep an eye out for rust, which usually means the integrity of the metal is compromised, making the tool more dangerous to work with.
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Odds are you can pick up a stylish silverware set for cheaper than what you can find new at most stores, plus you’re likely to hear a cool back-story to boot. There’s also a chance that what you’ve got is actual silver. How can you tell? On the back of silver-plated items there will be markings that can include the company name, the country in which it was made, a product number, and the E.P. (electroplate) marking. Don’t miss this garage sale find!
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Bicycles and scooters
Bikes can be a great garage sale find, but it’s important to take them for a test drive before you commit to the purchase. Hardcore bargain-hunters might consider bringing a wrench to adjust the seat and get a real feel for how it rides. Ask the seller the right questions: Do you store it outside? When’s the last time you replaced the tubes? What’s the status of the brake pads? For kids’ bikes, the owner’s children might not have used the item much before they outgrew it, but ask. With scooters, if the frame is solid you can often replace missing or worn parts (handlebar covers, brakes, wheels) for much less than the cost of a new one. Check the maker’s website when you get home.
Lights, bells, baskets, all great garage sale finds! Try to talk the seller down if you’re buying bulk-maybe she’ll throw in reflectors for free? However, do not risk buying helmets second-hand, even for kids who might outgrow their headgear soon. Sometimes damage for the casing isn’t visible, even though the integrity is compromised.
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Children’s formal clothes
Looking for a children’s dress or suit for a special occasion? Formal clothes for kids only tend to be worn on a few occasions, and you will often find them being sold in near-new condition for a low price, which makes them one of the best garage sale finds. Yard sales are the perfect place to look for a communion dress or a suit for an upcoming wedding. Also good to score: slightly damaged, cheap party clothes for kids to use in dress-up games.
Plastic and wooden toys
Wooden blocks and toy cars are always cheap garage sales finds, and many vintage wood toys are solid enough to be passed from generation to generation. Clean wooden or plastic toys with a mixture of bleach or vinegar and hot water. Stay clear of stuffed animals, which can be hard to send through the extra-hot cycle on a washing machine and can be full of creepy crawlies. Classic board games are great to pick up too, and even if they’re missing pieces you can always repurpose markers, dice and accessories from other sets.
New parents want to get rid of baby swings, bouncy seats, high chairs and strollers as soon as their child outgrows them. This makes baby gear a staple at garage sales. Ask the seller when the item was bought and how often it was used. For any future recalls, make sure the model number is still visible. What not to buy: Secondhand car seats (the structure could have suffered from damage, even if it wasn’t in an accident), and drop-side cribs.
A lot of people lose interest in their treadmills quickly, which means you can get the equipment you’ve been looking for at half the price or better. This is one of the best garage sale finds! Look for big-ticket items as well as other indoor merch like hand weights in the spring, when New Year’s resolutions are long forgotten. Research the equipment first: It’s important to know where certain machines tend to wear out the most.
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Winter sports equipment
Garage sales are a great place to stock up on ski and snowboard equipment, but watch for broken or faulty bindings that can’t be fixed or replaced. You might even uncover something of real worth. According to Popular Mechanics, “The snowboarding world is still young enough that some of the earliest models, ones with some value, are still floating around in garage sales.” A Burton Backhill snowboard from the late 1970s or early 1980s can be worth a couple of thousand dollars.
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If you like the shape, size, or material of a certain frame, buy it. Frames a good garage sale find because they don’t go through much wear and tear, and often look as pristine as they day they were first purchased.
Bulk up your home library with new favourite reads, especially children’s books (kids outgrow their books quickly as their reading comprehension increases) and hardcover classics. Another tip: If a family in your kids’ school is throwing a sale, go. You’ll score next year’s textbooks and other school reading material for less than full price, making this one of the best garage sale finds.
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