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How To Find Bargains At Garage Sales

Updated on January 26, 2016
drpennypincher profile image

Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.

Garage Sale Boombox- only $1.  This is just right for my shop.
Garage Sale Boombox- only $1. This is just right for my shop. | Source

Garage Sales

I have found some really great deals at garage sales over the years. Garage sales offer a chance to find some real bargains on certain types of items if you shop carefully.

What to Buy at Garage Sales?

I have found that you can get good deals on tools and exercise equipment at garage sales. As you'll see in my list below, some of the best things I have found at garage sales are in these categories.

Most garage sales have old clothes for sale- I have enough old clothes already, so I don't really look at the clothes.

You also see books, CD's, DVD's, and VHS tapes for sale at garage sales. I have a list of a few CD's that I would buy for $1 or maybe $2 if I saw them at a garage sale. I have occasionally picked up hardcover books for $1 at garage sales if it is something I have been wanting to read. Why not just check out a book for free at the library? I can sell the book when I am done reading an maybe even make a little profit...

Shopping at garages sales is hit-or-miss. Many times you don't find anything of interest. I usually don't make a special trip to go to a garage sale unless I see something listed in the craigslist ad that interests me. If I see a garage sale along my way, I like to stop if I have time and check it out. It doesn't cost anything, and I may find something I can use that doesn't cost much.

I keep a list of garage sale items I am interested in on my phone. Having a shopping list for garage sales is useful for the same reasons that taking a shopping list to the store is useful- you don't forget what you are looking for, and you may avoid buying extra stuff that you don't need.

This year, I am looking for a nice pair of binoculars for about $5 and a bike carrier that fits a 2 inch receiver in the hitch on my car.

My Best Garage Sale Deals

Here are some of the things I have bought at garage sales that have turned out to be good deals:

This Garage Sale Bargain Weed Eater was Only $5
This Garage Sale Bargain Weed Eater was Only $5 | Source

Weed Eater, $5

I bought a plug-in electric weed eater from a very old man at a garage sale about 5 years ago. It has always worked great. The only thing it needed was to add string since I use it a lot.

Why this was a great garage sale purchase:

  • I plugged this in and tried it out at the garage sale before buying it to make sure it worked.
  • I was looking for a weed eater, so this was something I knew I would use.
  • The price was much cheaper than buying a new one.

Boom Box, $1

I was checking out a garage sale last year and found a nice little boom box for sale. It is small enough to fit on my shelf, and the price was hard to beat at only $1. I took a bit of a chance and trusted that it would work without plugging it in and trying it out. I was mainly interested in the radio function, so I would have wanted it even if the CD and tape player functions don't work.

Why this was a great garage sale purchase:

  • This was something I use a lot.
  • It only cost $1.

Barbell with Weights- Only $10 at a Garage Sale
Barbell with Weights- Only $10 at a Garage Sale | Source

Barbell for Weightlifting: $10

I stopped in a garage sale last week to look around. I was hunting for some nice binoculars or a bike carrier. This sale had neither of these items, but they did have a nice barbell with 60 pounds of weight for sale. My kids like exercise equipment and I have been wanting to get a barbell for awhile. We had looked at some at the sporting goods store around Christmas time, but they were pretty expensive. This one was not very expensive at only $10 and it was in great shape.

Why this was a great garage sale purchase:

  • The barbell with weights is something I wanted and will use
  • Item is in great condition and it will never wear out.
  • Much less expensive than a new item.

Weight Training System- Only $50 at Garage Sale
Weight Training System- Only $50 at Garage Sale | Source

Crossbow Weight Training System, $50

One of my sons saw this neat weight machine system at a garage sale priced at around $100 and was very interested in it. This is a weight machine that uses flexible rods to provide weight resistance. This is a safe way to lift weights.

I was driving a pick-up truck at the time and it would be easy to haul it home. I wasn't that excited about bringing home a large object, though, so I told my son I would offer $50 and see if they would take it. Well, they took the offer and I ended up bringing the weight machine home.

We have had this for over 5 years and still use it a lot. This turned out to be a great purchase, even though I was reluctant at first. It seems like many exercise equipment items are under-utilized, and I didn't want to buy something that would sit in a corner and be used for hanging clothes on.

Why this was a great garage sale purchase:

  • Bargained on the price to get a good deal, much cheaper than a new or used item from a store.
  • Convenient- the item was near my house.
  • This is something we use a lot.

Downside of Shopping at Garage Sales

There are a few negative aspects of shopping at garage sales.

Many garage sales offer similar items that you may not be interested in: kid's clothes, old VHS tapes, CD's, or DVD's. I stopped by a garage sale the other day and it felt like I had been there before since so many of the items for sale were familiar. It was the same stuff that everyone else tries to sell because they don't want it anymore!

Another downside of shopping at garage sales is that you will likely not be able to return an item if you change your mind or if it breaks right away. This is one major advantage of buying things new at a store- you can bring it back.

Some people have trouble resisting buying things at garage sales that they don't really need. This can also happen while shopping at stores, so I guess this isn't really a problem with garage sales, but with the shopper. Make sure the items you buy are garage sales are either things you will actually use or things you will actually sell or give to someone else. Otherwise you can accumulate a lot of junk from garage sale shopping.

How Often Do You Shop At Garage Sales?

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More on Garage Sale Bargains from Dr. Penny Pincher

More on finding bargains at a garage sale and how to have a successful garage sale yourself and sell unneeded items to make money:

Garage Sale Tips- Buying Bargains and Selling Secrets

Garage Sale Shopping Tips

  • Bring a list of items you need. This will help you remember what to look for and avoid buying stuff you don't need.
  • Test out electrical or mechanical items before buying them. They may be for sale because they are broken... You can't return things you buy at a garage sale, so make sure they work.
  • Bring cash- many garage sales are cash only, and cash is quicker and easier than writing a check. If you don't bring cash, you may need to run home or run to the bank- and your bargain item may be gone by the time you get back.
  • Do you really need that? Just because it is cheap doesn't mean you'll use it. You don't want to end up with a garage packed with stuff you don't use...

© 2015 Dr Penny Pincher


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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      My pleasure. I like the way you think about garage sales. The next one on my block I'll go to and check it out.

    • drpennypincher profile image

      Dr Penny Pincher 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Kristen, you can easily find great deals at garage sales- even without bargaining. You can get even better deals if you are willing to negotiate on the price. Thanks for voting up!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great tips on how to shop at garage sales. You'll get a bang out of your buck, if you haggle the price to a reasonable amount for great finds like yours. Voted up for useful!

    • drpennypincher profile image

      Dr Penny Pincher 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      MarloByDesign, thanks for the awesome rating!

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 2 years ago from United States

      I love garage sales too and appreciate your suggestion about keeping a garage sale list. Great Hub. Rated 'Awesome'.

    • drpennypincher profile image

      Dr Penny Pincher 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      FlourishAnyway, I have shopped at estate sales and estate auctions as well. It is really interesting to see what possessions someone has accumulated. I have found some cool- and very cheap- art and collectibles at estate sales.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Spring sure is the time for bargain hunting! I haven't gone garage sale shopping in a very long time but used to love visiting estate sales.

    • drpennypincher profile image

      Dr Penny Pincher 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      frugalfamily, I have scored my first bargain already this year with the barbell set for weightlifting. Next, I am eager for the hunt for some high quality binoculars really cheap!

    • frugalfamily profile image

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 2 years ago from Houston, TX

      Congrats on such great deals! With Springtime here, this is a great reminder of the treasures to be found:)

    • drpennypincher profile image

      Dr Penny Pincher 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      revolutionbjj, I still get excited about going to garage sales every spring. Bargains await!

    • revolutionbjj profile image

      Andrew Smith 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I used to be an avid garage sale shopper, but not so much lately. May get back into it at some point.