Secondhand treasure: How to bag bargains at garage sales

Larissa Gardner
4 min read

With one of the biggest annual garage sale events in the country happening this weekend, the Garage Sale Trail, we thought we’d put together a handy guide to help you find great stuff at garage sales.

Over the two-day event more than 15,000 garage sales will be operating with over two million items to peruse and buy. Woah that’s a lot of secondhand goodies!

Image: Garage Sale Trail

According to Gumtree’s Secondhand Economy report, 50 per cent of Aussies admit to throwing unwanted items in the bin.

We’re big advocates of shopping at humble garage sales as they stand for reuse, help reduce waste and allow you to meet interesting locals in your neighbourhood.

Plus, you can score fabulous one-off items you can’t buy in any store at a low cost. One man’s trash is another one’s treasure, after all.

Whether you’re a seasoned garage sale bargain hunter or this is your first time hitting up the trail, hopefully these tips put you on the right path to finding all sorts of secondhand bargain treasures.

Have a plan

Mark out all the garage sales you intend to visit on a map or have all the addresses preloaded into your satnav or maps app so you have a clear plan of attack and route to take.

You may have key things you’re after, such as dining chairs, hats or bookshelves for instance. If so, jot down a checklist and how much you would pay max on each item to make sure you don’t miss anything or overspend.

Also, ensure you have a contingency budget. Often with garage sales you may not know you want something until you see it, so it’s good to have a limit that you’re happy to spend on these ‘surprise items’. This will help you avoid blowing all your cash in one morning and ending up with loads of extra stuff you don’t really need.

Image: Garage Sale Trail

Skip the sleep in

As the old saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. When you’re planning to hit up garage sales on the weekend we recommend sacrificing your sleep in and hitting the road early. Typically, all the good bargains and best quality pieces will go before lunchtime. However, if there’s an item that you really want but it’s too expensive and the seller won’t budge on price, swing by on your way home at the end of the day and if it hasn’t sold yet the seller might be willing to give you a discount at that time.

Best buys

When browsing secondhand goods for sale, not every item is created equal.

When it comes to secondhand furniture, solid timber items are the easiest to repair and repurpose. Often a quick sand and paint or varnish will make a scuffed faded table, for example, look like a million bucks. Give mattresses, old plastic chairs and flat pack furniture a miss in general and always check for mould, uneven legs, missing pieces and any irreparable damage before buying pieces. With crockery and glassware always carefully check for any cracks or chips.

When buying secondhand clothing and accessories keep your eyes out for any damage like missing buttons, stains, tears, mustiness and check that zips work. However, you can always use small flaws (that you can easily mend) as a haggling tool to get a better price. Also avoid sweat-stained shoes, swimwear and earrings for hygiene reasons. Always wash items before first wear too.

We recommend wearing leggings and a tight-fitting tee on the day so you can easily try on items over your clothes on the spot. Look out for designer labels and vintage clothes, where in the event something doesn’t fit quite right or you change your mind you’ll likely be able to on-sell it online (maybe even for a little profit).

Image: Garage Sale Trail

If you’re buying electronics or appliances always try before you buy to ensure everything is in good working order. Remember secondhand goods generally shouldn’t cost more than 10 per cent of the price of the same item new. So, do a quick online search before agreeing to purchase something to make sure you’re not being ripped off.


Don’t be afraid to haggle and ask a seller for their ‘best price’ on an item that is marked outside your budget. You’ll find on buying anything secondhand there’s usually some wriggle room to get the price down further.

Better yet, if there are four or five items you’re interested in propose to bundle them together to get a better price than you would buying them all individually. This will be especially tempting to sellers who are wanting to make money before moving house and declutter and need to get rid of things quickly in bulk.

Arm yourself with lots cash including gold coins and small bills to make it easy to drive a hard bargain. If something is labelled $20 offer $18 cash, you’ll find you can save a fair bit throughout the day by offering just under the asking price. You may even be able to buy something extra with all the small savings combined. Often at the end of the day sellers are keener than ever to offload their goods, so you never know what you could score for just a few dollars.

Pack a survival kit

The night before you go to a yard or car boot sale, pack a bag with all the essentials you’ll need when hunting for secondhand treasures. Such as tools for dismantling bulkier items to fit them in the car, a measuring tape, rope to secure loads, tote bags for carrying smaller items, snacks, water and lots of cash, of course!

Where to find garage sales near you-

We hope these tips help your snap up lots of secondhand treasures on your next garage sale expedition.

Happy bargain hunting!

The Homely Team

Larissa Gardner
Larissa Gardner is the Marketing Manager at arguably Australia’s best looking real estate website With a superb devotion to product innovation, user-centred design and innovative marketing platforms for real estate agents, helps millions of Australians find their next home.

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