Even with the availability of online buying and selling, the best deals can often be found via private sellers in or around their homes. You may see ads in newspapers, on Craigslist, or spot a sign as you drive down a residential street advertising low-dollar bargains. Knowing the differences between a garage sale and an estate sale can help you save time and money—especially if you already know what you’re looking for.
When people decide to rid their lives of clutter you see signs for garage sales. These sales consist of items no longer useful to the owner. These may include (but are certainly not limited to) out of style clothes or clothes that no longer fit, kitchen utensils that have been replaced or are no longer needed, books that have already been read, music, movies, toys, and miscellany such as handbags, shoes, furniture, lamps, or art.
The death of someone usually results in an estate sale. Sometimes they are also held when someone moves from a house into an apartment or other smaller living space. This is often an “everything must go” event. Items found at estate sales can include fine furniture, collectibles of all kinds, jewelry, appliances, shelving, high-end clothing, boots, shoes, coats, luggage, and more. Expect better quality merchandise at an estate sale, mainly because rather than cleaning out unneeded or unwanted items, estate sales liquidate everything a person has ever owned.
Garage sale and estate sale items are both priced to move. You’re bound to get some excellent deals either way. Depending on who is handling the sales, garage sale prices may be easier to negotiate. Estate sale prices may drop as time goes on, since the goal is to move all of the merchandise.
Garage sales and estate sales are usually found in residential areas. Consider though, block sales are a convenient way to find lots of great items without doing a lot of driving. A block sale happens when a neighborhood gets together to host multiple garage sales on the same day. This allows potential buyers to hit many different sales on foot. Unless there’s a sudden spate of deaths in a neighborhood, estate sales will focus on one home only.
Timing can make all the difference with a garage or estate sale, since the best and most cost-effective items will move fast. A garage sale usually lasts one day or perhaps one weekend. Estate sales often continue until everything is sold—with prices dropping as time passes. Estate sales can also result in bidding wars as buyers compete for antique or otherwise valuable items. Some say eBay, and similar sites, have reduced the value of estate sales. Others insist estate sales are still the best way to get quality goods for affordable prices.
Garage or estate sales mean having plenty of cash on hand. While some vendors may have the capability to take credit cards, most will not. Also, if you plan to buy furniture or large appliances, be sure you have an appropriate vehicle with you—as well as tarps, rope, or bungee cords, and whatever else you need to protect the items to transport them safely.
Getting great deals on used goods is one of the best things about garage sale season—AKA summer. Knowing what you can expect in advance is the best way to make the most of your shopping time.