Garage Sale Tips for Buyers and Sellers

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Rebecca Harpster
Golden Gate Better Business Bureau

Warm weather and long days create the perfect conditions for a neighborhood garage sale. For sellers, a garage sale can be a great way to declutter your home and make some extra money. Buyers can often find items for a steep discount.

Although garage sales are a fun way to spend a weekend and find great deals, there are risks involved for both buyers and sellers. The following tips from your Better Business Bureau (BBB) will help you steer clear of unsafe items and fraudulent payments.

For buyers:

  • Know what you shouldn’t buy. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends skipping the purchase of used bike helmets, infant cribs, car seats and other safety items because there’s no way to tell if they have been involved in an accident or if they have been incorrectly assembled. Visit the CPSC website,, for more information, an up-to-date list of used products to avoid, and to check if an item has been recalled. If you’re looking for a particular item, do your research online to see how much it costs in stores. If you want more security when buying an item, find a trustworthy business at
  • Test, if necessary. If you’re buying used electronics, ask to plug them in and verify that they turn on and work properly. Make sure to sit on any furniture to test how comfortable it is. But remember, whenever you buy a big-ticket item at a yard sale there’s a risk that it may be low-quality, faulty, or that it might stop working and need repairs sooner rather than later. Talk to the seller and ask questions about any expensive items that you’re considering.
  • Ask for documentation. Even though it is a friendly neighborhood garage sale, you can still ask for a written receipt for big-ticket items. Because you’re dealing with an individual and not a company, keep in mind that you won’t be able to file a complaint with BBB – so shop cautiously.

For sellers:

  • Watch out for fake checks. According to the BBB Risk Index, fake check scams are the second most risky scam to consumers. Fake check scams can be perpetrated though many types of checks: personal, business, and even cashier’s checks. Oftentimes, the target will deposit the fake check in their bank and it will clear, but it can actually take weeks for a financial institution to realize a check is fake and withdraw the already-deposited funds. If you accept checks at your yard sale, ask for a photo ID and make sure the names match. You can also call the issuing bank to verify the authenticity of a check. Someone may also try to pay you with counterfeit bills. To avoid this, you may want to consider not accepting bills larger than $20.
  • Secure your home. Unfortunately, thieves may try to use a garage sale to gain access to a home. Make sure you’re paying attention to all visitors and your surroundings. Keep all home and car doors locked. If possible, keep your garage door closed as well. Don’t allow anyone you don’t know in to your home. If you witness suspicious activity, you can alert the local authorities.
  • Be prepared. It’s important that you have enough people on hand to provide good customer service and keep an eye on your property. Consider designating one point-person that will deal with all monetary transactions. Plan ahead for the possibility of poor weather – you may want to have a plastic canopy on hand just in case it rains. Make sure to stay hydrated, and protect yourself from the sun!

You can reach your BBB at or (510) 844-2000, or by visiting