Business Columns & Blogs

Buy and sell wisely at garage sales

Have a sale planned yourself? For safety, confine the sales space to your driveway and/or lawn.
Have a sale planned yourself? For safety, confine the sales space to your driveway and/or lawn. MCT

Summer is the perfect time to go treasure hunting in the Treasure Valley. And while you could spend your time mining for one of the many gems native to Idaho, you may have better luck finding a bargain at your neighborhood garage sale.

Garage sales are a great way to find affordable prices on unique items, but the Better Business Bureau doesn’t want you to get ripped off. Buyer beware, keep these tips in mind when hitting the sales:

▪  Research ahead of time. Do you have a few items on your list of things you’re looking for? Check them out before you head out. Knowing what current asking prices are for new or gently used items will help you recognize a deal. Determine the price point you’re willing to spend before leaving the house.

▪  Investigate on the spot. Has something caught your eye? Don’t impulse buy without a quick check on your smartphone to make sure it’s worth your dollar. If it looks like the item needs some TLC, find out how much it’s going to cost to fix it. If the seller is claiming an item is a high-value item, such as a collectible or antique, don’t take their word for it, do your research.

▪  Ask questions. Inquiring with the seller about an item might give you a little more insight to the history of the item, how to use it or best uses. Most items sold at garage sales do not come with an owner’s manual or return policy so ask away!

▪  Steer clear of certain items. There are a few things you should never buy used, no matter how much you might save. Safety items such as bike/motorcycle helmets, car seats and cribs should all be purchased new. There is no way of knowing the damage they’ve gone through with their previous owner.

▪  Try before you buy. When it comes to electronics and mechanical items, ask to plug them in and test them before purchasing. When buying anything battery-operated, check the battery compartment for corrosion.

Planning your own sale?

▪  Prepare for cash. Make a change box that is prepared with $5 bills, singles, and quarters. Be cautious with accepting bills over $20 in case of counterfeit. Visit websites that show currency security features and consider investing in an affordable detection pen for a quick way to check. Report fake currency to the U.S. Secret Service. Additionally, make it a rule not to accept personal checks.

▪  Set the stage. Make the boundaries clear with tables or other large items outlining the perimeter. Keep the sale limited to your driveway or yard and do not let anyone into your home. Remember to lock your doors.

▪  Assemble a team. Enlist the help of your friends and family to ensure things run smoothly and safely. The extra sets of hands and eyes will be beneficial if things get busy. Always put one person in charge of the cash box at all times.

As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”!

Emily Valla,, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to or call (208) 342-4649.