What Not to Sell (Or Buy) At a Garage Sale

Updated: May 15, 2024

Garage sales are great, but you should definitely steer clear of these items. Here's what not to sell or buy at a garage sale to keep you safe.

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Used Bike Helmets

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!

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why you shouldn't buy used car seats
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Used 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.

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dangers of buying garage sale tires
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Used Tires

If they’ve been in a crash, tires are likely to be unstable and unreliable. Make sure you can get an accurate history. Make your tires last and save hundreds of dollars by doing regular tire maintenance.

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used swimsuits
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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. Psst — this is the best time to have a garage sale.

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used mattress at garage sale
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Used Mattresses

Bed bugs could lurk in any used mattress. You might also end up sleeping with other people’s mold, mites, bacteria and bodily fluids (yuck!). This is the way to get rid of bed bugs.

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garage sale baby crib

Used Baby Cribs

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.

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dangers of garage sale computers
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Old Computers

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.

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risks of buying an old tv from a garage sale
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Older TVs

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.

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Shoe organizer with worn shoes
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Worn Shoes

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!

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Seasonal bedding storage
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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.

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used baby bottle
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Used Baby Bottles

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.

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worn plates
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Worn Plates, Pots and Other Cookware

Rust, flaky non-stick coatings and chemicals that leach out are just a few of the safety problems you can run into with older cookware. But if you see any of these vintage kitchen items for sale, they might be worth grabbing!

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CDs and DVDs
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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?

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used upholstered furniture
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Upholstered Furniture

Just like mattresses and sheets, any upholstered furniture can be home to bed bugs, fleas and spiders, as well as unknown odors and stains. Unless you’re going to reupholster the piece or have a hobby of flipping furniture, steer clear. Don’t know what to do with your old furniture? Here’s where you can sell your furniture.

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worn out clothing
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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.

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used video game system
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Used Video Games

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.

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make up
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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.

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stuffed animals
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Used Stuffed Animals

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 DIY toy storage idea.

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Blenders and Other Electronic Kitchen Appliances

Your go-to smoothie maker’s blades and mechanisms become dull and wear down over time, even if the machine looks fine on the surface. Just keep your appliances working well and know how to make common DIY appliance repairs.
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running shoes tennis shoes exercise
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Running Shoes

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.

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coat rack
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Hats

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.

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Vinyl Records

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.

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Take Photos of Paint Can Lids
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Paint

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.

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board game checkers
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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.

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antique tool drill old
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Power Tools

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.

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FH01DJA_02181003 christmas lights in a bucket
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Christmas Lights

How many strands of Christmas lights are really useable year after year? The ratio can’t be much better at a garage sale. Unless you like to gamble, save your money.

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Exercise Equipment

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?

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baby safety proof gate block staircase
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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.

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PVC hair tool storage
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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.

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Propane Tanks

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.

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Breast Pumps

Open-pump systems are especially troublesome because it’s impossible to clean entirely, making them susceptible to possible contamination.

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Grab Bags

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.