How to Buy from Yard Sales

Yard sales can offer a large variety of items at considerably lower prices than regular stores. Taking time to plan before you shop your local yard and garage sales can help make your efforts more rewarding.


  1. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 1
    Find yard sales in your area.
    • Check the classifieds in your local newspaper.
    • Look for flyers at grocery stores, churches, and other areas with community billboards.
    • Browse websites with event or for-sale listings in your community.
    • Keep an eye out for yard sale signs while driving on the weekends.
  2. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 2
    Gather supplies before you shop.
    • Make sure you have adequate cash in small bills. Most sellers at yard and garage sales will not accept personal checks, and the items you're interested in may sell while you're gone if you have to make a trip to the ATM.
    • Bring a hat and sunglasses to protect your face from the sun if it's a warm day and you plan to go to multiple yard sales.
    • Consider taking a tape measure with you if you are looking for furniture. Measure areas in your residence where you might want to place new furniture and record them in a small notebook that you can bring with you for reference while shopping.
    • Keep hand sanitizer or cleansing wipes in your vehicle or purse, fanny pack, or pocket. You may accidentally touch dirty or unsanitary items at some yard sales.
  3. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 3
    Decide what time of day you want to shop.
    • Plan to arrive at the sale's start time for the largest selection. Be aware sellers may be less likely to negotiate early in the day.
    • Choose a later arrival time if you want to get the lowest prices. Sellers are often willing to sell items for much lower prices towards the end of a sale so that they have fewer items to put away or donate.
  4. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 4
    Check out the neighborhood. Although you never know what you might find at a yard sale, you can draw conclusions about what types of items might be available based on the neighborhood.
    • Look for swing sets, children's toys or bikes in yards. These indicate there may be many families in the neighborhood and a better chance that you will find toys, baby items, and children's clothing.
    • Focus on established neighborhoods with retirees if you are looking primarily for collectibles or antiques.
  5. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 5
    Read yard sale signs carefully.
    • Make sure there is a date and time listed on the sign. People often leave up old yard and garage sale signs for days, or even weeks, after the sale is over.
    • Look at the condition of the balloons if the seller has tied them to the yard sale sign. Full balloons indicate an ongoing or recent sale, but droopy, under-filled, wrinkly balloons can be a sign that the sale is no longer current.
  6. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 6
    Examine the yard sale's presentation. Sellers who take the time to organize their items and whose merchandise is clean are more likely to have quality items that are well-maintained.
  7. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 7
    Ask the seller if you are looking for a specific item. This will save you time and allow you to stop at more sales on the same day.
  8. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 8
    Request prices on unlabeled items before offering a price. You will often get a better price if you wait to see what the seller thinks the item is worth than if you offer first.
  9. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 9
    Look over items carefully before you buy at yard sales. Sellers offer items as is and usually will not take a return.
    • Check battery compartments for corroded batteries.
    • Ask if you can plug in any electrical appliances to make sure they function correctly.
    • Run your finger around the rims of dishware and glasses to check for chips and cracks.
  10. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 10
    Avoid buying potentially hazardous items.
    • Use caution when purchasing baby items as these have often been recalled. Do not buy a used car seat as you have no way of knowing whether the seat was involved in an accident, even if you know the model was not recalled or expired. Older cribs often have slats that are spaced too far apart.
    • Leave used bike or motorcycle helmets on the table. Helmets may look fine on the outside, but you can't know if they were involved in an accident that caused internal damage.
    • Consider whether you want to risk bringing pests home with you before buying a used mattress. Used mattresses can hold dust mites, bed bugs or even mold spores.
    • Check the plugs on hairdryers. The plain 2-prong plugs used on hairdryers prior to 1991 in the United States don't properly protect the user from accidental water immersion.
  11. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 11
    Prepare to pay around 15 percent of an item's original price at a yard sale. Prices are usually comparable to those you see in thrift stores.
  12. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 12
    Negotiate if you believe an item has been overpriced. Most sellers are open to offers, and they will let you know if they think a price is too low.
  13. Image titled Buy from Yard Sales Step 13
    Provide your name and number if a seller won't negotiate. The seller can call you after the sale if the item doesn't sell and the seller is willing to sell the item for less.


  • It may be easier to shop yard sales without small children. Consider hiring a babysitter if you have children.


  • Be careful handling fragile items. Most sellers will expect you to pay for an item if you break it.
  • If you buy an item and suspect it may be hazardous or are not sure if it has been recalled, you can contact the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. You can look the item up on their website or call and speak with a customer service representative.

Article Info

Categories: Garage and Yard Sales