Don’t Buy These Things at a Garage Sale

published Jul 18, 2015
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(Image credit: Dabney Frake)

Garage sale-ing offers the thrill of the bargain hunt and helps us in our quest to reuse and recycle — but not everything is “good as new,” even if it appears so on the outside. Here are 14 things that, for the sake of your safety, your wallet, or the ick factor are probably not worth even their garage sale prices.

Mattresses: Mattresses are very absorbent. I’ll just leave unsaid all the fluids that mattresses can absorb over the years. I certainly don’t want to sleep on a sponge of other people’s fluids, and I don’t want one in my house either. Mattresses also house dust mites and can harbor bed bugs. Skip the used mattresses. Please.

Car seats: There are many safety reasons not to buy used car seats. Unless you have bought the car seat new, you really have no way of knowing whether the seat’s effectiveness has been compromised in an accident. Other things like leaving the car seat out in the sun and just plain old age can compromise a car seat’s safety — and all of these possible defects can be unseen. Furthermore, most used car seats do not come with their instructions, which are vital for installing the seat correctly.

Cribs: Many older cribs either lack safety features or are missing pieces, making the unit unsafe. Remember that if a certain type of crib has been recalled or isn’t made anymore, it’s because someone’s child was seriously injured or worse by that model. This is clearly something we wouldn’t knowingly risk, but ignorance is not bliss.

Underwear or swimsuits: Used clothing this personal has been in places that we generally don’t share with strangers. That’s certainly enough to make me keep away, but if it doesn’t gross you out, consider that undergarments and swimsuits rely on elastic to be useful and since they are washed frequently, the elastic (or spandex fabric, in the case of swimsuits) is rendered weak at best. Go for new.

Helmets: It’s impossible to tell if a helmet has been damaged and even a tiny fracture can make a helmet less effective, should you ever need it to protect your head or your child’s head. Use your head to keep it safe. Spring for new helmets.

Shoes: Shoes mold to their wearer’s unique feet and won’t protect your feet well if they are already in the shape of someone else’s tootsies. They could cause discomfort or even injury, in the case of poorly fitting running shoes. Used shoes don’t fit. Don’t wear them.

Hats: Though they may not seem as personal as undies, hats are quite, um, acquainted with their owner’s sweat and other head situations, such as lice. Skip ’em used.

Tires: Unless they are for a swing or some other project, don’t even think about getting tires at a garage sale. They aren’t safe.

Laptops: Buying a laptop at a garage sale is basically buying someone else’s problem. Waste of money.

Bedding: See Mattresses above. And, yes, I know you can wash bedding, but you may not be able to wash it hot enough to kill the vile, practically un-killable bed bug. (Did you know they can survive a year without a meal and their disgusting exoskeletons have evolved to resist even the most potent commercial pesticides?) Plus, other people’s fluids again.

Baby bottles: There is no way of knowing whether older plastic baby bottles are made of BPA-free plastic. In addition, old nipples can become brittle and weak, and could pose a choking hazard.

DVDs and CDs: Unless you’re willing to risk losing the money you spend on them, don’t buy used DVDs or CDs unless they are in their original packaging. Most of them are scratched and useless.

Makeup and personal care products: Makeup should never be shared with strangers; that’s a given. But even if the items are new, lotions, makeup, perfumes, etc. all have an expiration date and can be damaged by exposure to heat or the sun. They can lose their effectiveness or even change their chemical composition and become harmful or rancid.

Kids clothing with drawstrings: New children’s clothes aren’t made with drawstrings the way they used to be. This is because of unspeakable tragedies. Now you know and won’t pick them up for any price.

What won’t you touch with a ten-foot pole while garage sale-ing and thrifting?