Garage Sale Stay Away’s
Things you should never buy at a yard sale
Garage sale season is here. Every week, roughly 165,000 garage sales are held in the U.S., according to Statistic Brain. In the warmer summer months, you can easily waste a whole day scoping out sales. And with the average item costing just 85 cents, someone else’s trash may well turn out to be your treasure.
But for every amazing garage sale find, it seems that there are piles and piles of junk, like battered toys, threadbare sheets, and musty textbooks. Some things that people sell are just gross, like half-empty bottles of toiletries and used underwear. Others are simply weird.
Personal Garage Sale Items to never buy
1. Baby gear
Pass on the used cribs, playpens, car seats, and other baby gear. Older models may not have the same safety features as new products and used items could be damaged, putting your baby at risk. The CPSC urges parents not to use any crib that’s more than 10 years old because they have design flaws that put infants in danger.
“Be very careful when buying anything baby related,” Heiska said. She also suggests using caution when buying old toys. “Many vintage toys are safety hazards — the lawn game from the ’70s called Jarts come to mind,” she said. (Jarts, also known as lawn darts, have been banned in the U.S. since 1988.) “People who weren’t around in the ’70s may buy them and not realize their danger.”
2. Bike helmets
Bike helmets should be replaced after any crash where you hit your heads, says the Bike Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI). Older helmets may also offer less protection than newer models.
“You probably should not buy a used helmet at a yard sale or thrift shop,” the BHSI cautions. “Damage may not be evident. Cheap helmets are available new.”
The bed bug risk is real. These pests are found in every state and can be difficult to get rid of once they set up residence in your home. Keep your home bug-free by only buying new mattresses, and stay away from upholstered furniture for the same reason. Plus, used mattresses can come with stains and odors that are hard to remove, and may carry pet dander or mold. Even if it looks like a great deal, skip it.
4. Non-stick cookware
While pans with non-stick coatings like Teflon are incredibly popular (up to 90% of aluminum pans sold come with it), some worry about whether the chemicals used to make the coating are safe. (For what it’s worth, the EPA says that the use of PFOA in cookware, the chemical in Teflon that people suspect may cause health problems, does not pose a concern.)
Nonetheless, some people advise avoiding older non-stick cookware, especially if the coating is chipped or flaking. The average lifespan of a non-stick pan is between three and five years, says Good Housekeeping.
Given how quickly technology evolves, most of the used electronics you find cluttering yard sale tables aren’t exactly a great deal. Even if an item still works (and you should always test before you buy), there’s a good chance that a better – and often cheaper – model is available elsewhere.
Pay special attention to items with batteries. “If something is battery operated and it doesn’t work, there is a good chance the batteries that are in it have corroded, making it unusable,” said Heiska.
The exceptions to the electronics rule? Hobbyists and tinkerers looking for spare parts can have a field day at garage sales, says Popular Mechanics. And you may be able to score a deal on electronics that haven’t evolved much in recent years, like speakers.
6. Boxes of old LPs
Collectible vinyl records can sell for thousands of dollars, which may make snapping up a box of vintage LPs seem like a smart investment. But your chances of finding a hidden gem are slim.
As anyone who’s flipped through a crate of records at a garage sale can tell you, most of what you’ll find is pretty worthless, unless you are in the market for old Herb Alpert or Engelbert Humperdinck records. If you find a single LP you like, buy it, but don’t haul the entire box home with you unless you’re a serious collector.
“Honestly, you’re about as likely to hit the lottery as to find a valuable record in an old collection,” says the website Popular Song.
Aside from the “ick” factor, worn-in shoes have been molded to someone else’s feet, which can make them uncomfortable for you to wear. Used running shoes are a particularly bad bet, since they may be worn out and not have the support needed to protect your feet. Unless you’ve stumbled upon a pair of designer shoes in good condition or a one-of-a-kind vintage item, you’re probably better off buying new.
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