8 Things You Should Never Buy at a Garage Sale

Garage sales are full of incredible finds, but these items are probably best left behind.
Savannah Sher Avatar

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Hidden Treasure or Safety Hazard?

These days, it’s easier than ever to shop for vintage and secondhand goods online, but nothing compares to the rush of finding a hidden gem at a tag sale. Prices at garage sales tend to be low since sellers really are motivated to clear out clutter—because they’re moving, perhaps, or about to undergo a renovation. Still, there are some things you should never buy at a yard sale, no matter how low the prices are.

Car Seats

Safety is the primary objective when shopping for car seats, and purchasing a secondhand car seat or booster seat for your child may not be the safest choice. For one thing, car seats are largely made from plastic, which degrades over time. Older models may not meet current safety standards, either. In fact, all car seats come with an expiration date, which is typically between 6 and 10 years from the date of manufacture. It’s also possible that the used car seat has been in an accident. In the end, you just don’t know the item’s provenance and it’s not worth risking your children’s safety for a few bucks.

Related: 12 Things Never to Leave in a Hot Car


A designer eyeshadow palette or blush can seem like an amazing yard sale find, but bargain hunters should always be wary of buying used cosmetics. All makeup and skincare products have recommended shelf lives, and they’re probably shorter than you’d expect. Concealer, foundation, eyeshadow, and eyeliner last for just one year, while blush and lipstick last for two years. Besides, used makeup products are unsanitary even if they haven’t reached their expiry date.


Baby gear is expensive and since it will only be used for a short period of time, it’s understandably tempting to buy it secondhand. However, parents-to-be should be wary of buying a crib from a yard sale due to potential safety concerns. Creating a safe sleep environment is super important and, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), parents should avoid using a crib that’s more than 10 years old.


Brand new mattresses are expensive, so shopping for a used one may seem like a smart money-saving strategy. The problem with secondhand mattresses is they may harbor bed bugs, which can wreak havoc on your home. Bed bugs may not be immediately visible to the naked eye, either, but could still live in the seams and pleats of the mattress’ material. It’s always a good idea to inspect upholstered furniture carefully for creepy-crawlies before bringing it home, but our advice is to leave used mattresses behind.

Related: 9 Ways You’re Ruining Your Mattress

Bike Helmets

According to the Bike Helmet Safety Institute, there are a few good reasons why shoppers should shell out for new bike helmets. Older models may not meet current CPSC bicycle helmet standards, and you may not be able to tell whether the helmet was damaged in an accident. Even if a used helmet looks like it’s in good condition, a helmet that was involved in a crash should be discarded immediately because its interior foam padding could be compromised. In the end, really, are you going to risk a head injury to save a few bucks?

Nonstick Pans

In most households, nonstick pans are indispensable for making omelets, pancakes, and sautéing meat. As useful as they are, nonstick pans have short lifespans because their Teflon coating flakes off and wears away with frequent use. Some of these pans’ coatings also contain the suspected carcinogen Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), though, to be fair, many cookware manufacturers have discontinued the use of PFOA in their products. Still, you’re better off buying nonstick pans new. They should be replaced every 3 to 5 years, and buying new will ensure that you get lots of use out of yours before it needs to be replaced.

Related: 11 Ways You’re Accidentally Ruining Your Cookware

Running Shoes

Snagging a pair of high-end shoes at a garage sale is a dream for many bargain hunters, but buying used shoes can be problematic. Shoes mold to the wearer’s feet over time, so even if the runners are your size, they may not fit properly. You’ll really feel a bad fit with athletic shoes, too, because proper foot support while exercising is essential. Thinking about the previous owner’s stinky, sweaty feet in shoes we put on our feet—Did they wear socks? Did they have foot fungus?—is enough to drive us to the mall shoe store.


If you can’t test the product for yourself, buying secondhand electronics is risky. When you’re at a yard sale, it’s not always possible to give an old blender or laptop a test run (or even plug the device in to see if it works). Since most garage sale items are sold as-is, no refunds allowed, you could be out some dough if you bring your buy home and it doesn’t work. Another important factor to consider is safety. Older kitchen appliances may not meet today’s safety standards and could pose fire hazards.