It’s true, you can make shockingly good money garage sale flipping.
How do I know?
Well, I’ve been garage sale shopping for years and have made thousands from it.
Today, I’ll share with you how to make money at garage sales using what I’ve learned after going to hundreds of yard sales.
1. Get access to extra items
Most people don’t realize that the items you see on display aren’t the only items for sale.
Some yard sale hosts leave items inside that might be more expensive, heavier, or simply seemed like they wouldn’t sell.
To get access to these extra items, ask the garage sale host: “Do you have any [item category of interest] you’d be willing to sell, that isn’t out here?”
I always recommend doing this. My best item so far with this strategy was an unlocked iPhone for $20!
Great item categories to ask about:
- Video games
- Old action figures
- Pokemon cards
- Home and auto tools
There are lots of other great items to resale as well.
2. Visit the best locations first
Some garage sales are treasure troves of amazing stuff, while others are more or less junk.
The question is, how do you find yard sales with amazing stuff consistently and easily?
The answer, Yard Sale Treasure Map!
It’s an app that displays all the local garage sales happening in your area, and provides pictures of what is being sold (sellers upload pictures about 90% of the time).
I’ve used this app for years to not only find the best sales happening, but also plan my route on Friday and Saturdays to ensure I always visit the sales with stuff I’m most interested in first.
If you are not using a garage sale finder app, I highly recommend you give it a try.
Tactic for Success:
A few other helpful sources to find garage sales before the weekend include: Craigslist “garage & moving sale” section, physical/online newspapers, and simply google “garage sales in [your city name]”
3. Get deep discounts by bundling items
When I think back on all the yard sales and swap meets I’ve been to, this strategy has never failed.
Bundling items to get a discount is not unique to garage sales, it’s a technique used throughout the business world – the more you buy the bigger the discount.
With garage sales though, you can bundle anything there (in other words, buy multiple items), and ask for a lower total amount than if you bought everything individually.
For example, I went to a yard sale once where the person was selling Hot Wheels toys (still in packaging) for $0.25/each. They had probably 80 cars, which means the total would have come out to $20 for all of them.
I asked if they’d accept $12 for all of them, and they accepted.
That’s a 40% discount earned from bundling!
It’s important to remember, people have garage sales because they want to get rid of stuff first and foremost. So when you offer to take a large batch of stuff off their hands, they’ll usually gladly accept a discounted rate.
Bundling is also a common strategy to sell fast on eBay too.
4. Get there 15 minutes early
Garage sales most commonly start at 7-8am on Saturdays. However, some will start as late as 10am, and some even start on Fridays.
Regardless when the start time is, purchases usually begin 15-30 minutes before the posted start time.
Long time yard sale shoppers know this, and often scoop up many of the good items before the sale technically even started.
Some people take this too far though, and arrive an hour early (or more) to try to snag the better items. I don’t agree with doing this, because it’s so early that many sellers haven’t even started putting out items yet, or are still preparing the sale.
So, I think arriving 15-20 minutes before the posted start time is the earliest someone should arrive, so you get access to the best items and don’t upset the seller.
5. Bring plenty of cash and types of bills
When I was getting started, I remember visiting a huge neighborhood yard sale in my area.
I was shocked how good the finds were. But then halfway through the neighborhood, I ran out of cash.
It was a good reminder to always bring plenty of cash on yard sale days, because you never know when you’ll hit a string of amazing sales.
A good rule of thumb would be to bring $200-$300 cash, otherwise you’ll probably run out of cash if you find a streak of amazing sales.
Not only that, it’s helpful to bring a variety of bills with you ($1s, $5s, $10s, and $20s), so you won’t get stuck in the situation of needing the seller to give you change, and they don’t have it.
This can result in the sale falling through.
6. Check sold listings to tell what something is worth
When you get into garage sale flipping, you’ll eventually come across something that you think is worth a lot of money, but aren’t sure.
The last thing you want to do is overpay, and end up losing money.
If you find yourself in this situation, the fastest way to determine how much something is actually worth is sold listings on eBay.
Simply type the name of the item into the eBay search field, and then go to the filtering option, and select “sold listings”.
This tells you how much people have actually paid for that item, revealing the true market price. With this information, you’ll know how much you could sell it for, so you can avoid overpaying.
I used this process recently for a pair of vintage Nikes at a yard sale, because the person was asking for a pretty high price.
I checked sold listings, and saw there was still room to turn a profit, which allowed me to buy confidently.
Here were those Nike shoes.
7. Be kind
We should always remember that the person hosting the garage sale might be parting with things from their childhood, stuff from a loved one, or need to get rid of things they love to pay bills.
For this reason, it’s important to always be polite and respectful to yard sales hosts. Saying little things like “good morning” and “thank you” go a long way.
Although that should be reason enough to act this way, this behavior can lead to better deals, and some people reward kind people with things like discounts or free stuff.
8. Negotiate better deals
One of the best parts of yard sales is the opportunity to negotiate. There are very few places you can negotiate pricing. Aside from garage sales, the only places I’m aware of are flea markets and pawn shops.
Surprisingly, many people still don’t negotiate prices, even though I’d argue it’s expected by hosts, and even built into item prices a lot of times.
Effective negotiation at yard sales involves two things:
- Don’t lowball – in my opinion, lowballing is any request below 40% of the posted price. Even at 40-50% below the posted price, you are very far from the original price, so most sellers won’t even entertain it. Therefore, I’d say asking for 10-20% the posted price is usually a safe bet.
- Be respectful – as discussed above, people will always be more receptive when you’re respectful. This is especially true in negotiation. If someone says their bottom dollar is $X, that’s the cue they don’t want to be hounded to go lower.
Negotiation is art, and there are even laws of negotiation used by many of the world’s great leaders.
I hope this guide helped you learn how to make money at garage sales. Not only can you earn good money, but it can also be thrilling when you find treasure.
John-Paul Cody has been an avid online seller for years, across platforms including eBay, Mercari, Craigslist, and more. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from UNC Chapel Hill, and works in data analytics and marketing.