Tips for Buyers

Know when and where

Time and tide wait for no one, and with limited hours in the day it’s a good idea to plan your garage sale shopping trip. If you have a number of garage sales to visit on the same day spend some time doing research and find out what hours each sale will operate, and the location of each sale in relation to the others. Plan your route according to the opening times and/or location, however if there are items at a specific sale you are interested in you may want to give these sales a higher priority to give yourself the best opportunity to get there before the items sell. 


Use “Add to Watchlist” functionality to short list garage sales you want to visit!

Respect the sellers timings

Turning up early in your haste to grab a bargain can often work against you. Garage sale sellers have a lot to do in preparation for their sale and it can be quite a stressful time for them initially. If you turn up before they are ready it may bias them against you when it comes to haggling for an item. It’s best to respect the posted times for the garage sale and not risk getting the sellers off-side. 

 If you are concerned about the possibility of an item being sold before you get a chance to make an offer, try contacting the seller before the sale – Sellers listing garage sales listed on have the option of letting prospective buyers contact them beforehand to find out information about the an item or make an offer. Check the sale listing to see if the seller has given you this option

 If you do find yourself arriving before the posted sale start time, and you want a specific item, don’t go knocking on the seller’s door. Wait until you see the seller outside setting up then politely approach and say something like “Good morning, I know I’m a little early so when you are set up and have time I’d like to talk to you about that wardrobe”. This gives them time to do finish what they are doing and also lets them know which item you are interested in. Try not to turn up any more than 15 – 20minutes early. 

 Quite often a bargain can still be found at the end of the day when the sellers are ready to pack up. Don’t leave it until just before the posted closing time to turn up; if the seller has had a successful sale, or if the day has been very quiet, the seller may decide to pack up and finish the sale early.  If you get to the sale late and there is no sign of a garage sale taking place, chances are its over, and there is no point knocking on the seller’s door to ask if there is anything left. Your best chance to get a good item is to attend the sale during the posted sale times, and get there earlier rather than later in the day! 

Let the buyer beware

Unlike when buying something new, there is usually no warranty with items you buy from a garage sale. Items at a garage sale are usually sold Caveat Emptor – Let the Buyer Beware.  This means that you buy them as they are, and unless you check at the point of sale, run the risk of purchasing items that may be damaged or that don’t work. Most garage sale sellers are honest, however if in doubt about an item, ask to see it working before you commit to buying it. The seller should have a power-point available to test electrical items, and should be selling battery operated items with the batteries included. 

 The general acceptable rule is that once you leave the sale with your item you will not be able to return it or ask for a refund. With this in mind, make sure you inspect each item carefully before you hand over any money, and where possible ask to see the item working. 

 Don’t forget that many of these items will be quite old, and some “recalled items” may turn up at the sale you are attending. If you are unsure about an item visit (Australia) to see if it has been recalled, and if so, is to be avoided. 


Haggling is a great way to snap up a bargain and have fun while you are doing it. The key to haggling is to know what the maximum price you feel comfortable paying for an item. The hard part is to know where to start! An initial offer to low may insult the seller and put them offside and limiting the amount they will reduce their sale price by, and an initial offer too high but be accepted straight away thus doing yourself out of a couple of dollars savings. 

Remember that these items also have sentimental value to the seller, and sometimes the items are being sold under duress, so be careful not to inadvertently insult the seller by making an unrealistically low initial offer. A good rule of thumb is to start by offering half to 2/3 of what the asking price is, or what you are willing to pay for the item. The seller should then either accept your offer, or counter with another price which will give you the option of making another offer closer to what they are asking. If the seller is unwilling to move on the price, look around for another item you could group with it to make an offer on. For example:

Buyer: “How much for that rocking chair?”

Seller: “Fifty Dollars”

Buyer: “I’ll give you thirty-five for it”

Seller: “Sorry, I really need fifty for it. We paid well over hundred for it when we bought it”

Buyer: “Ok, if you throw in that scooter I’ll give you $50 for the two of them”

Seller: “You drive a hard bargain....Deal!”

If you are unable to get the item for the price you want leave it and come back later in the day; sellers will be open to reducing prices as the sale gets closer to ending. 

Haggling is a great opportunity to use your personality and negotiation skills to secure a bargain, so don’t take it too seriously, and always be prepared to walk away from an item with a smile on your face! 

Bring the right money

Most garage sale items will be priced between $1 and $50 so make sure you bring plenty of appropriately “sized” money.  Garage sale sellers often have a limited float available for change, so anything you can do to help make a sale easier for the seller will help you secure a bargain.

 If you don’t have enough money with you to purchase an item, you may be able to pay a deposit and have the seller hold the item until you get the remainder of the money. Make sure you give the seller a time that you will be back by, so that if you haven’t returned by that time the seller has the option of putting the item back on sale. If this happens and you miss out on the item you should expect your deposit to returned. Almost no sellers will take a cheque or have credit card facilities, so make sure you take plenty of cash!

Good Manners

Garage sales should be about having fun, regardless of whether you are buying or selling, and paramount to having fun is respecting others. Keep in mind that you are a visitor at the seller’s home, and as such should act in manner you would expect others to act if they were visiting your home.  Try and avoid taking pets as the sellers may not be “pet people” and may resent you bringing your furry friend to their sale. 

Also try and avoid messing up the displays of the sale items. Pick an item up to inspect it, and then place it back from where you got it. The sellers will have gone to a lot of trouble to display these items, and messing them up will make it harder for them to sell later on. Also try and avoid loudly dismissing any items as “junk” and so forth, as these items still belong to the seller and may hold significant sentimental to them. 

Carry items that you want to buy with you, or ask the seller to hold them while you finish browsing the other items. If you try and “hide” the item until you are finished you run the risk of it being picked up and taken by another buyer; and in this case possession is 9/10 of the law!

Remember that you are in a neighbourhood, and that some people use the weekend to relax and sleep in. With this in mind, keep conversation to normal levels and avoid shouting and making excessive noise. Be wary also of where you park. Never park on a lawn, never park illegally, and avoid parking across driveways. 

Most of all have fun and be respectful. Good manners will make the day a far more pleasant experience for all!