What to Buy what to Skip at Yard Sales

Summertime is often loaded with yard sales and that means awesome bargains. For some people, attending yard sales is almost a full-time profession. These thrifty buyers know what to look for and what to stay away from when it comes to yard sale shopping. Items that are in good enough condition can even be resold at another yard sale or online. Indeed, there is savings to be had and money to be made at yard sales. The trick is knowing what to look for when searching through those boxes.

Some people are not seasoned yard salers, therefore they may not know exactly what is a steal and what items are a bust. This is where a yard sale guru would come in handy, but if you are fresh out of gurus, then maybe some suggestions will help you.

Good buys

Wooden furniture

Antique furniture has become wildly popular in the last few years. What this means is that everyone thinks their grandmother’s chest of drawers is now valuable. Good deals can still be found with yard sale furniture. Look at how sturdy the piece is and whether it needs to be repaired or not. Keep in mind that good furniture can be repainted, refinished and repaired. 

The chances of finding a valuable antique piece of furniture sitting in your neighbor’s yard sale is slim, but it never hurts looking anyway. Nice pieces of usable furniture can be picked up for pennies on the dollar at a decent yard sale. 

Electronic gadgets

You can usually find a nice array of dusty video game consoles, computers and parts from 1985, and a host of other electronic dinosaurs at a yard sale. Unless you collect/restore vintage electronics, then leave those alone and search for newer gadgets. Today, most people want the latest and greatest gadget out there from computers to gaming consoles to cell phones. When they get that latest gadget, they will often sell their “old” (often less than a year old) one. These “old” gadgets still have most of the features that are appealing and are worth the cheaper price tag.

Be cautious when buying used electronics, and always plug them in and turn them on to make sure they function properly. A price of $5 is too much to pay for something that doesn’t work!  


Avid readers can find themselves in book paradise at a yard sale. Since many people are now doing their reading electronically, books are boxed up and practically given away at yard sales. Old books, newer books and everything in between can be found crammed into boxes or bags. It’s almost like a book bonanza.

The one thing to always do before laying the money down and making off with your treasure box is check each book for damage. Water damage can absolutely ruin a book. You can always tell if a book has gotten wet by the discolored stains, the pages fanning out or sticking together and by the condition of the cover and binding. You will also want to look for torn or missing pages. It makes no sense to buy books just to throw them away due to damage.

Branded clothing

You might be surprised at how many pieces of great designer and brand name clothing you can pick up at a yard sale. When people do spring cleaning, they usually clean out their closets too. Some people sell items that no longer fit or that they just don’t want anymore. Sometimes you will even get lucky enough to find brand new clothing with the tags still on them! 

The obvious thing you will want to look for on yard sale clothing is rips, tears, stains and missing buttons/broken zippers. Some damage can be repaired and is worth that effort if the price is right. Stains can be more problematic, and is purely a judgement call on your part.

Sports/exercise gear

Yard sales are a great place to find free weights, jump ropes, hand grips, sports balls and gloves. These items are not likely to be damaged or broken. Many parents sell sports related gear after their children have outgrown the items. As far as exercise gear, some people sell their old stuff or stuff that they just don’t want anymore.

Check sports and exercise gear for stains and obnoxious odors. Bluntly put, people probably used to sweat while using those items and the smell can linger. Even if stains and/or odors are present, some gear can be cleaned with bleach or even just mild soap and warm water. 

Decor items

You can’t really go wrong buying household decorating items at a yard sale. One person’s junk is another person’s new living room focal point. The fact is, some of the older items that end up in yard sales are now coming back into popularity among the trendy folks. Maybe you don’t care about being trendy, you just like vintage decor. 

You do want to check items for stains and obvious signs of damage (unless you are decorating in that style). Basically when it comes to decor items, what you see is what you get, and there are rarely any unpleasant surprises.


Yard sales and thrift shops are meccas for music lovers. You can find vinyl records, eight tracks, CDs and even cassette tapes. The reason people often sell these items is because they are making room for new stuff or they have gone digital and have their music on their computer and other electronic devices. Even if your preferred music medium is digital, you cannot beat great deals on your favorite genres. Besides, where can you go online to get complete albums (and boxes of them) for less than $5 a box? 

Always check to make sure the case or sleeve is not empty. Once in awhile when people are gathering up items to sell at their upcoming yard sale, they forget to make sure the tape/CD/record is in its proper cover. Also check for deep scratches and warping on CDs and records. 

Bad buys


Some cribs are actually illegal to sell or use nowadays. Aside from that, it is just better to buy a new crib with a warranty. The only exception might be if you know the people that are having the yard sale and know that the crib is not very old. Even in this scenario, it is good to check out the condition of the crib thoroughly. It is best not to take a chance with the safety of your child.

Another reason you do not want to buy yard sale cribs is the lining and mattress could be stained or even contain bugs from being stored too long.

Autographed items

Beware of any yard sale item that supposedly was autographed by a celebrity. More often than not, autographs are fake. The seller may not have been the one to fake the signature, but it is probably a fake nonetheless. Another thing to be aware of is special and limited edition items that were originally sold with an autograph already on the packaging.


Not only is buying a used mattress pretty nasty in general, it can also contain bedbugs or other creepy crawlers that you can’t see in the light of day. There is also the nasty business of “water” stains. Some people claim that a mattress got rained on while in the garage or storage unit. This may be a true story, and if so there is always the possibility of mildew in the mattress. 

The truth is, it is just better to buy a new mattress and call it good. You can buy a bed frame from a yard sale, especially if it is a nice wooden one!

Mysteriously stained items

These items are to be feared and avoided. For example a really nice sofa that has that one mystery spot that no one seems to know where it came from or when it happened. The spot just appeared magically and has been there since the beginning of the modern era or some silly excuse like it. Avoid badly stained items!

Sometimes odors accompany those mysterious stains and should also be feared. One thing to really watch out for is an item that has the stain, odor and a “crunchy” feel to it. This mess could be the result of spilled drinks/food, cleansers or a number of other substances.

Yard sales offer a veritable smorgasbord of awesome treasures and great deals. Aside from the shopping, yard sales are a lot of fun on a beautiful summer morning. You can make yard sailing a weekly event with friends and family or a nice solitary activity.

Although yard sales are a lot of fun, you do have to be careful what you buy. Some things are an obvious steal of deal and others, not so much. Certain items like heavily stained clothing and mattresses are things that should be avoided due to safety and health concerns.