32 Things You Should Never Buy at a Garage Sale
Garage sales are great, but you should definitely steer clear of these items.
Helmets are designed to protect you from one accident, and one accident only. Sometimes the damage isn’t visible, so buy a new helmet to make sure you’re getting full protection. On the flip side, if you see any of these things at a garage sale, make sure to snap them up!
Child Car Seats
Like helmets, car seats are really only meant to protect in one collision. But damaged car seats are common; a survey found that one in 10 has been in a crash. Plus, car seat technology improves each year. Keep your car clean inside and out with these awesome cleaning tricks.
Wet Suits and Swimsuits
Personal products that hug your body are technically safe if you wash them in hot water…but still we’re cautious. Constant changes in water pressure also wear out swimwear faster than regular clothing, so it’s likely a used wetsuit or swimsuit will tear. Think twice about buying these items at the thrift store, too.
Scores of crib recalls, as well as changing safety standards, make it hard to verify the safety of a used crib. If you’re the one hosting the sale, find out what to do with the items that don’t sell at your garage sale.
Laptops, e-readers, tablets or mp3 players are more likely to be dropped, knocked around and spilled on, simply because they’re out in the world. A desktop computer sits (mostly) safe at home, but even that would likely cost more to upgrade or repair than to buy new. Here’s what you need to know about recycling old computers.
It’s hard to determine how well TVs, DVD players and other electronic devices have been cared for by their previous owners. Plus, technology changes so quickly that you can often get a better quality device. If you’re buying refurbished devices directly from a manufacturer, you’ll be covered by a warranty. But a random TV at a garage sale could be hit or miss. If you’re shopping for a new TV, check our TV buying guide.
Used shoes have been molded to their previous owner’s feet. Poorly-fitting shoes will make you miserable, or you’ll just never want to wear them. Plus, they might smell! Just in case you do decide to buy, try this one trick to make shoes not smell.
Sheets and Bedding
Sure, you can wash them in hot water, but that might not be enough to protect against bed bugs. Check out this how-to guide on getting rid of bed bugs once and for all.
While sanitation and cracks can be an issue, the real culprit is the chemical BPA that’s present in most older bottles — and as of June 2012, the FDA no longer accepts it as safe. Go with new bottles to make sure you’re getting the safest, most up-to-date bottles. Check out these tips for creating a smart nursery.
DVDs, CDs and VHS Tapes
If you’re still using this technology and looking to scoop up a bargain, know that scratches have ruined many a DVD or CD. And VHS tapes lessen in quality the more times they’re played, not to mention they disintegrate over the years. Know what the secret ingredient is for cleaning DVDs and CDs?
Clothes That Require a Tailored Fit
It might look like it fits — until you put it on. Unless you can try something on, it’s often not worth the money you’ll spend on alterations. Don’t miss this article on things thrift and consignment shop owners aren’t telling you.
You might want to quickly Google the video game before you purchase it. Manufacturers are now including codes for one-user only play, either for the whole game or special bonus sections. Plus, we wouldn’t buy a used video game or console unless we could test it out first. But new or used, make sure you’ve got an incredible place — like this arcade room — to play the game.
Fragrance or Makeup (New or Old!)
The quality of both can lessen over the years (and yes, they do expire!). Even if makeup is new in the box, skip it unless you can tell that it was recently manufactured. Learn why synthetic soap is better for your shower.
Stuffed animals can be hard to send through the extra-hot cycle on a washing machine. And like mattresses and upholstered furniture, they can be full of creepy crawlies and other unsavory finds. Of course, if you spot one of these valuable childhood toys, you might want to snap it quickly. Put those toys in the right place with this storage idea.
Used running shoes are often devoid of the cushioning that runners need. Stick with new shoes for the cushioning and fit that will protect knees, feet and legs. Just be careful if you want to try to wash running shoes. They could end up looking like that sweater you accidentally washed in hot water.
How’s this for gross: Hats may contain remnants of hair products, sweat or skin infections, and even head lice. So keep your hats to yourself, and hang them on this DIY hat and coat rack.
For every limited-edition Bob Marley you find at a garage sale, there are about a million The Captain & Tennille records to wade through. Considering the poor condition the records could be in, unless you’re a collector and real connoisseur, picking up vinyl records at a garage sale simply isn’t worth the effort. What is worth the effort is these free things on Craigslist.
If you’re trying to find the right color paint for your home at a garage sale, think again. You’ll never find a perfect match to the color, and whatever is at a garage sale likely isn’t going to be enough. And if you’re trying to pawn off old paint at a garage sale, don’t — try this instead.
Puzzles and Games
Puzzles and games are a staple of garage sales, but so are missing pieces to those things. Imagine your favorite Monopoly piece missing from the board you bought at a garage, or a chess game with a missing rook. Get a grip on those unruly board games and toys with these incredible ideas.
The types of power tools you’re going to see at garage sales will most likely be relics. It’s best to avoid them because there’s no way of knowing how long they’ll continue to function before they fade away. And before you go out and buy new, consult our cordless tools shopping guide.
Old, unused exercise equipment is definitely one of the things you should get rid of, but picking some up at a garage sale is another story. As pristine as it looks, who knows how much life is left with that exercise bike or elliptical?
Old Baby Gates
We’re leery of used baby gear, especially safety items. All it takes is a missing spring or stopper to make that gate more of a hazard than a safety device. If you do buy a used gate, use it for pets, not little ones. See how to baby proof your home in nine steps.
Old Hair Dryers
Electrical shock protection is required on all hair dryers, but older models might not have that feature. Hair dryers with a large rectangular plug and a laboratory testing mark typically have electrical shock protection. Thinking about a bathroom remodel? Check out the transformation of this 1950s bathroom.
You might want an extra propane tank on hand, but forget about getting a used one at a garage sale. These tanks need to be recertified every few years and it’s just too risky to buy an old or used one. Find out the easy way to tell how much propane is left in the tank.
Open-pump systems are especially troublesome because it’s impossible to clean entirely, making them susceptible to possible contamination.
The thrill of the potential for found treasure in a garage sale grab bag seldom matches the disappointment of bringing home a bagful of junk. As tempting as those cheap grab bags look, you’ve just paid someone to get rid of their trash. Discover some brilliant uses for plastic bags you’ve never seen.