A Beginner’s Guide To Shopping Summer Garage Sales
How To Shop Your Local Garage & Yard Sales
Shopping secondhand these days takes little more than the click of a button with online thrift sites like eBay, Depop, and Etsy. Yet garage sales remain one of the most reliable, time-honored ways of snagging pre-loved home goods.
Shopping at garage sales helps us lower our carbon footprints and participate in a more circular economy, giving new life to items by keeping them out of landfills. Going garage-saling instead of hopping online for secondhand goods also connects us to our communities, helping us to know our neighbors and towns a bit better. Plus, it’s one of the most affordable ways to shop—you can score some pretty hefty deals from folks keen to clear out their cellar or attic.
Below is a beginner’s guide to shopping garage sales, covering everything from what to bring and where to go to how to find the very best deals and treasures.
Plan Your Route
Sometimes the best opportunities come unplanned—this goes for spontaneous garage-saling, too. To find sales organically, take driving routes that stay off highways, pass by lots of neighborhood entries, and keep your eyes peeled for signs. These unadvertised sales sometimes have the greatest finds.
If you’d rather plan out your route the night before, websites like Yard Sale Search, GSALR.com, and Garage Sale Finder all list garage sales nationwide, and you can search via zip code for the sales in your area. The virtual maps make it easy to plan an efficient route so you can hit multiple sales in a single morning. Sometimes sellers will even detail what kind of wares shoppers can expect—this way, you can know whether to prioritize a certain address or skip it, depending on what you’re looking for. You can also find garage sale listings on the tried and true Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
Timing is relevant, too. Go as early as possible if you’re in the market for big-ticket items like TVs and furniture because these sell quickly. But if you’re looking for more unique pieces and you head to sales at the end of the day, you might hit gold with sellers who’d rather part with an item than charge more money for it. “When you get close to closing time, sellers are often ready to practically give things away in order to get rid of them,” Aaron LaPedis, author of “The Garage Sale Millionaire,” told Consumer Reports.
Before you leave the house, make a list of everything you’re keeping your eyes open for. This way, you’ll be less likely to spend on impulse buys and won’t forget to look for anything you’ve been meaning to get your hands on. Measure any relevant spaces in your home before you leave, and bring the tape measure to take the guesswork out of whether or not an item will fit in your home.
Another garage sale shopping essential? Packing supplies. Bring boxes, bags, and newspapers for any fragile items you might purchase. You can’t be sure of what the seller will (or won’t) have on hand to secure your goods for transport.
Don’t forget to bring small bills, either! While some garage sales have become a bit more “modernized” and allow buyers to pay with Venmo, most still prefer cash in the form of smaller bills. Plus, it’s pretty uncomfortable breaking out a $50 when you just haggled the price of something down to $5.
How to Haggle (Fairly)
Speaking of haggling, it doesn’t come easily to everyone, but it can be worth stepping out of your comfort zone when you’re saving money to learn this valuable skill. Many sellers also expect to negotiate, and will intentionally set their prices higher in anticipation of buyers trying to get a lower price. Some sellers don’t even bother to tag items as they’d prefer to see what a buyer is willing to spend.
Start the conversation by simply asking what kind of flexibility a seller has on their price. If the price is listed, don’t suggest less than half the item’s asking price. Expect the seller to counter as well—ideally settling somewhere in the middle.
Pro tip: One of the best ways to haggle at a garage sale is by bundling. Sellers want to get rid of items, so the more you’re willing to purchase, the better the deal you’ll get. Gather everything you’re interested in and make the seller an offer for all the items in total, or ask them if they can offer you a bundled discount.
Finally, don’t be afraid to walk away from an item if you feel it’s overpriced. Unless it’s something you truly love, or you’re not willing to risk it going to another buyer, you can always visit a few more sales and circle back at the end of the day to see if it’s still available.
Equipped with your measuring tape, boxes, planned route, and newfound haggling skills, you’re in for a decent weekend activity and hopefully some pretty cool finds. Shopping garage sales is one of the most affordable and environmentally friendly ways to curate your home. Just remember: The best deals won’t find themselves. Never pass by a garage sale just because you think there won’t be anything good. Instead, park your car and take a moment to browse. Who knows—you may score the perfect treasure all while getting a chance to meet more of your neighbors. Happy garage-saling!
Natalie Gale is a Boston-based freelance journalist. When she’s not writing about art, food, or sustainability, you can find her biking to the farmers’ market, baking, sewing, or planning her next Halloween costume. Say hi on Instagram!