21 Things You Should Never Buy at Garage Sales

Bargains are great, but cross these gross, broken, and unsafe items off your list when you head out to garage sales. Also: 20 garage sale finds to snap up when you see them.

By Reader's Digest Editors
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    Helmets

    Helmets are designed to protect you from one accident, and one accident only. Sometimes damage isn’t visible, so buy a new helmet to make sure you’re getting full protection.

    Stockbyte/Thinkstock

    Child car seats

    Like helmets, car seats are really only meant to protect in one accident. But damaged car seats are common; a survey found that one in ten have been in an accident. Plus, car seat technology improves each year.

    Tires

    If they’ve been in an accident, tires are likely to be unstable and unreliable. Make sure you can get an accurate history.

    Wet suits and swimsuits

    Personal products that hug your body are technically safe if you wash them in hot water... and still we're cautious. But constant changes in water pressure also wear out swimwear faster than regular clothing, so it's likely a used wetsuit or swimsuit will tear.

    Hemera/Thinkstock

    Mattresses

    With bed bugs infesting homes in record numbers, chances are the critters could lurk in any used mattress. You might also end up sleeping with other people’s mold, mites, bacteria, and bodily fluids (yuck!).

    Cribs

    Scores of crib recalls, as well as changing safety standards, make it hard to verify the safety of a used crib.

    Creatas/Thinkstock

    Laptops or other devices

    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 than buy new.

    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.

    iStock/Thinkstock

    Shoes

    Used shoes have been molded to their previous owner’s feet—and poorly fitting shoes will make you miserable, or you'll just never want to wear them.

    Sheets and Pillowcases

    Sure, you can wash them in hot water, but that might not protect against bed bugs.

    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 that as safe. Go with new bottles to make sure you're getting the safest, most up-to-date bottles.

    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.

    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 disintegrate over the years.

    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, steer clear.

    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.

    Video Games

    You might want to quickly google the video game—manufacturers are now including codes for one-user only play, either for the whole game or special bonus sections.

    Fragrance or makeup (new or old!)

    The quality of both can lessen over the years (and yes, they do expire!). Even if an item is brand new in the box, skip it unless you can tell that it was recently manufactured.

    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.

    Blenders and other kitchen electronics

    Blades and mechanisms can become dull and wear down over time, even if the machine looks fine on the surface.

    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.

    Hats

    How's this for gross: Hats may contain remnants of hair products, sweat, or skin infections.

    Sources: msn.com, US News & World Report, bargaineering.com, Sammy Davis Vintage.com

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    Your Comments

    • agunrunner

      somevideo games are worth $1000

    • MarioD

      Wow, why even go to garage sale – that’s about 3/4 of what is always at a garage sale…..short of power tools and skis!

    • Semiiramiis

      Thanks for finally giving us #16. I get tired of trying to explain to people why they should be very careful about buying used video games.

    • cheryl b

      Wholly Cricket batman!! Worried Nellie has gotten ahold of Readers Digest!
      I expected things like car seats and scratched Teflon pans but seriously?? Don’t buy a used hat because of possible hair products?? Kitchen blender because the blades might be dull!! Better not buy any knives or forks either! The comment about may be bed bugs on the mattress is accurate, but by dumping linens into this you may as well list any item of fabric for the same reason. My clothes hit the bed multiple times.
      Seriously, have we come to THIS paranoia RD? NEVER buy at a garage sale?

    • In HER Eyes

      well so in other words …just avoid garage sales all together, seeing you shouldnt buy anything you REALLY need at them..

    • Hummingbird

      what a list

    • stuhuzz1981

      There’s actually a huge market for old VHS cassettes, mostly horror and sci-fi and finding a rare movie can rake in hundreds if you pick the right one. I found a movie called Lunch Meat and sold it on eBay for $100.

    • stuhuzz1981

      What? No video games? I bought Legend of Zelda mint in the box for $4 and the first three Mega Man games for ten just last year. Believe me, NES has no single user restrictions.

    • Gina Be Good 819

      Number21, didn’t mention head lice. Never buy a refurbished hat.

    • REAList

      So, basically, don’t buy anything at a yard sale… really??