11 Garage Sale Finds You Should Never Pass Up

Consider this your secondhand shopping list throughout garage sale season!

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Garage sale finds - vintage chair
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Vintage furniture

Want to snag the biggest bargain on vintage furniture at a garage sale? The key is to wait until the end of the day. By then, the sellers are wondering how they are going to get that heavy old sofa off of the grass and back into the living room—and they’ll be more likely to take your intial offer. Be careful with upholstered items (bed bug alert!), but once you’re confident it’s clean, try to look past garishly coloured fabric and eye-popping patterns: you can always reupholster a piece of furniture to better suit your sense of style.

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Garage sale artwork and frames
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Garage sale artwork is a great way to add some colour to your home. It’s fun to pick up art for two reasons: You might learn about interesting local artists, or, even if you don’t like the image, you can always repurpose the frame. This is key for larger paintings and drawings, because big frames can be so expensive. Haggle if you want, since art is subjective and the sellers might not have too many interested buyers. Also, odds are that they’re tired of looking at it and just want it gone.

Don’t miss these budget-friendly decorating tips from HGTV star Sarah Richardson.

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Old vintage brooches and jewelry
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Vintage jewelry

Not to sound old-fashioned, but they don’t make jewelry like they used to—costume jewelry included. Since the popularity of items like brooches has declined over the years, you can usually get a deal on these accessories, and if you like, the possibilities for upgrading them are endless. Give tarnished silver a good polish with a paste of baking soda and warm water. For gold, paying a few bucks for solid pieces should pay off—you can always sell them for scrap or have them melted down to create something new.

Clearing out your own closets? These home organization hacks can help you declutter.

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Cast iron pans
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When you see pots and pans at a garage sale, look for rust, non-stick surfaces that are scratched or flaking, and chemical coatings that might leach out into your food. Cast-iron ware, on the other hand, can be salvaged and restored no matter what the condition—and it’ll last forever.

Also, if you find the following items in good working condition, snap them up: stainless steel baking items, kitchen timers, serving utensils, Pyrex or ovenproof glass baking dishes, and quality knives (you can always take them in to be sharpened). Just make sure to wash these great garage sale finds well before use.

Find out how to clean a cast iron pan so it lasts forever.

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Ice cream maker
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Small kitchen appliances

If you’re in the market for an ice cream maker, single-serve smoothie blender, or rotisserie, consider scouring garage sales first. People hold sales to sell off unused items that take up space on their countertops, and bulky, highly-specialized small appliances are often priced to move. You’ll usually be able to scoop them up for a fraction of their retail price—even if they’ve only been used once or twice.

Find out more money-saving tips that’ll slash your monthly expenses.

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Winter coats on rack
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When it comes to apparel, jackets can be among the best garage sale finds. Since sellers spring-clean before their sales, bulky or unworn winter coats and vests are some of the first things to hit the to-go pile. Check for holes and wear before purchasing, and dry clean or give a good washing before putting in the closet for next year. For children, buy the next size(s) up and store in a closet for future seasons.

Here’s how to wash dry clean only clothes at home.

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Various tools
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Tools like drills, saws, nail guns and compressors can be great garage sale finds. As long as the seller can prove that they’re in good working condition, snap them up. Ask how old the product is and how much it has been used over the years. Always keep an eye out for rust, which usually means the integrity of the metal is compromised, making the tool more dangerous to work with.

Here are 20 essential tools for the home mechanic.

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Garage sale finds - vintage silverware
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Odds are you can pick up a stylish silverware set for cheaper than what you can find new at most stores, plus you’re likely to hear a cool back-story to boot. There’s also a chance that what you’ve got is actual silver. How can you tell? On the back of silver-plated items there will be markings that can include the company name, the country in which it was made, a product number, and the E.P. (electroplate) marking. Don’t miss this garage sale find!

Find out 12 tricks to clean silver.

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Vintage bicycle
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Bikes can be a great garage sale find, but it’s important to take them for a test drive before you commit to the purchase. Hardcore bargain-hunters might consider bringing a wrench to adjust the seat and get a real feel for how it rides, paying particular attention to the condition of the brakes and tires. (Although tires can always be filled with more air, check the treads for wear and the sidewalls for cracking.) For kids’ bikes, the owner’s children might not have used the item much before they outgrew it, but ask.

Our bicycle buying guide can help you make an informed purchase.

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Free weights
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Exercise equipment

This is one of the best garage sale finds! A lot of people lose interest in their fitness gear quickly, which means you can get the equipment you’ve been looking for at half the price or better. Look for big-ticket items (elliptical machines, treadmills) as well as other indoor merch like hand weights in the spring, when New Year’s resolutions are long forgotten. Research the equipment first: It’s important to know where certain machines tend to wear out the most.

Psst—these household items are fitness equipment in disguise.

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Stacks of books
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Bulk up your home library with new favourite reads, especially children’s books (kids outgrow their books quickly as their reading comprehension increases) and hardcover classics.

Next, find out how to haggle like a pro.

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