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 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.


    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.


    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.



    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!).


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


    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.


    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.



    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.


    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

    • CWV

      You just listed everything that is in a normal garage sale…caveat emptor.

    • Bill Baden

      the person(s) who wrote the article are lacking in the IQ department

    • Comment Board Poster

      So, what can you buy? Sounds like the only things they don’t have a problem with you buying are marital aids.

    • Ben Childs

      I would add compressors to that list. There were numerous home/portable compressors recalled 10 years ago. These compressors can suddenly explode even though they look good on the outside doesn’t mean the tank isn’t rusted internally. Compressors that weren’t recalled may have internal tank damage from not being drained properly after every use.

      • dragontech64

        But there are also web sites that specialize in recall information that goes back YEARS. And most compressors can handle some internal rust without problems. Most of this list is either bull or alarmist crap to con people into buying the newest everything, and dumping used but good product into landfills. Let’s keep that corporate payola running.

    • Shiloh64

      I do agree on some things,but not on sheets.I bought some very expensive large lot of sheets egyptian cotton at a yard sale in excellent condition took them straight to a laundry mat washed/dried them and then bought them home and still came out way ahead on expense of retail.Think of it this way if you’ve ever been in the hospital chances are your hospital bed had sheets that someone that was very sick laid on or possibly even died on . I’ve found some very nice clean shoes at yard sales condition being the key factor for me.Haven’t bought brand new pair of shoes in years.

    • LadyDes

      I no longer have children, but I do have grandchildren and I know many others who do as well. I receive emails from several different consumer sites that are not profit. They email me for any type of recall. I then post them to my FB. I don’t allow anyone to dictate to me how I feel or what happens to me in my life. I am 100% responsible for my own happiness and well being. That said, I do all research on whatever I need.

      SUGGESTION: Maybe if you do decide to buy a used crib, take a list of recalled cribs throughout a certain time period and use it to check against when you go to yard sales.

      We can’t tell people what to do or not to do, but we can help arm them. Get into the solutions and quit name calling and telling people that what they do is all good or all bad. That is not our job. Our job is to help people make the most informed choices, if they do decide to do something that we do not agree with. Just look at them as your adult children. You can no longer tell them what to do, but you can give them suggestions and then let them be free to make their own choices, right or wrong.

    • Madarakita

      So what this list really amounts to:

      Don’t buy anything at garage sales unless its dishes, silverware, or books.

    • J. Joan Short

      This is the most ridiculous list I’ve ever seen. I’ll give you the intimate clothing and mattresses, but all the other things that you guard against because they may have scratches, cause scratches, deteriorate with use – you do realize that people are paying a nickel, dollar or usually less than 10 dollars on garage sale items. I don’t think anyone buys a garage sale item with the thought that it will perform or last as long as a new item.

      These things cost the kind of change you can find hiding under your sofa cushions. Get a grip.

    • glimmergirl912

      Come on Reader’s Digest… some people/kids wouldn’t have clothes or shoes if they didn’t shop at Garage Sales. I sell all of my good used items at Garage sales to pass on the savings to other families. I bought a like new Lazy Boy recliner chair that a family purchased for their Grandma who ultimately didn’t like reclining in the chair. I got it for the bargain price of $35.00. The key is to use discretion and examine the products carefully that you buy..

      • dragontech64

        Ah, but that would take common sense, and we are supposed to believe nobody has that any more.

    • nolan bautista

      WTH? Everything they mentioned is all you see in garage sales..