Yard Sale Safety: How to Stay Safe at a Yard Sale as a Buyer and Seller

A man looks through stacks of books while practicing safe yard sale tactics

With so much uncertainty in the world due to COVID-19, it can be hard to know if something as familiar as going to a yard sale or holding a yard sale after spring cleaning is a safe thing to do. If you’re a seller wondering what’s no longer safe to sell at garage sales or a buyer wondering how to yard sale safely, Yard Sale Radar has yard and garage sale safety tips for you.

Luckily, a big part of yard sale safety comes down to knowing what to sell and what not to sell at garage sales and yard sales. Whether you’re a buyer or seller, there are some important safety considerations you need to think about to help keep yourself and your community safe.

How to Yard Sale Safely: Protecting Your Property as a Seller

Protecting your property is the first step in learning how to yard sale safely. That’s because the single largest risk to a seller at a yard sale is the danger of cash theft or property damage. When you start thinking about yard sale safety in these terms, it helps you make good decisions about what to sell and what not to sell.

At garage sales and yard sales, where theft and damage can happen in the blink of an eye, you will want to focus on prevention-based strategies that help you avoid damage or theft while still making your buyers comfortable while they shop:

Have Strength in Numbers

Don’t run a yard sale by yourself! Have others with you so that there can always be at least two people keeping an eye on things. If you have many fragile items for sale, you may even want a dedicated pair of eyes on those items only at all times.

A large diamond ring sits next to a gold bracelet as an example of what not to sell at garage sales

Identify High-Risk Goods

When you’re thinking about what not to sell at garage sales, think about things that are hard to protect, including:

  • Small valuables such as jewelry.
  • Highly fragile items that can break easily.
  • Compact and flexible items that can fit inside somebody’s pocket or in their coat.

Also think about what to sell at your yard sale that may or may not be difficult to protect. For example, we recommend not selling high-value jewelry and watches at yard sales unless you can have a dedicated individual manning the items and interacting with sellers at all times.

  • Tip: It’s important to keep watch over all your tables, not just the ones closest to the street. Remember that a thief isn’t going to steal from the street: They are right there on your lawn, browsing around to see what they’d like to take!

It’s also important to keep an eye on your house. Keep all your doors locked except for one, and monitor that door at all times. Keep your front yard windows shut, and keep watch against people who may be lingering around the sides or back of your home.

Secure the Cash

When preparing for your yard sale, this is a key step in how to yard sale safely. Having a single point of sale at a table close to your front door helps centralize where you keep your cash and lessens the chance of left (or misplaced money) from occurring. This one location should be where you should handle every transaction, and this is where you should keep the money you need to make change.

When it comes to what not to sell at garage sales, this is another reason not to sell high-value items: Even if the items themselves can’t easily be stolen (or broken), the large amounts of cash you may acquire from their sale can draw unwanted attention. Any time you have hundreds of dollars exposed in the open, you’re creating a new level of risk, and Yard sale safety is all about preventing these types of unnecessary risk.

Take Extra Cash Inside

Regardless of what to sell and what not to sell at garage sales, take your sale money inside regularly over the course of the day so that you don’t have more than $30 to $50 in your till at any given time. A stack of money or an open cash box, especially one that’s visible from the street, is an invitation to any would-be thieves.

  • Tip: If you need change for a big sale, you can go inside and get change. There’s no reason to keep large amounts of money outside. The same can be said if you choose to sell high-priced items. If you have a large purchase, be sure to move the money inside before returning to your sale.

A group of yard sale shoppers clump together at a table

How to Yard Sale Safely: Protecting Your Safety as a Buyer

As a buyer (and also as a seller trying to protect your buyers) the main consideration in how to yard sale safely is personal safety.

Be Careful in an Uncertain Environment

Unlike a brick-and-mortar retail store, a yard sale isn’t subject to safety codes or standards. The yard could have uneven ground, creating a fall hazard. There could be pollens or other allergens that might trigger a reaction. There could be pets, especially dogs, nearby, that don’t respect your personal boundaries. No matter the situation, our advice is to step carefully, watch where you’re going, and keep an eye out for things that make you uncomfortable.

Outside of environmental risks, there is also the risk of trouble from other buyers or even from the sellers. Trust your gut and don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel uncomfortable or threatened. Having a friend join you on your yard sale adventure and ensuring your phone is fully charged can also help guard you against unwanted trouble.

Another tip for how to yard sale safely: Be sure to leave space between yourself and other buyers while shopping. This not only helps your fellow buyers feel more comfortable as they shop (no one likes to feel like they’re being rushed!), but it can help lessen the chance of you catching unwanted illness during cold and flu season.

A dirty blue couch sits against a pink wall as an example of what not to sell at garage sales

Know What Not to Buy

Another key element of yard sale safety is the safety of the actual products for sale. Sellers don’t always know what not to sell at garage sales, so it’s up to you as a buyer to know what things not to buy used and make good decisions about what kinds of products are safe to buy.

We generally recommend NOT buying the following types of goods, as they often can pose risks to your health and the safety of your home and family:

  • Safety Equipment Such as Helmets and Infant Car Seats: Since yard sale sellers do not need to legally inform you of damage, past accidents, or use of these items, they may have hidden damage that could ultimately negate their effectiveness. This is especially true of car seats which must be thrown out if ever involved in a collision of any sort. To ensure your safety and the safety of your family, these items are best purchased new.
  • Partially-Used Consumables Such as Shampoo, Cleaning Products, or Makeup: These items may be contaminated with germs. Chemical agents such as household cleaners may be mislabeled or no longer chemically effective. Additionally, without an in-tact safety seal, sellers cannot guarantee that harmful or unwanted ingredients have not been added.
  • Underclothes, Swimwear, and Lingerie: These may also be contaminated with germs.
  • Food: These items may be contaminated, spoiled, or may no longer be fresh or flavorful. (If you’re a seller, this may seem like an unfair example of what not to sell at garage sales, but remember that even unintentional food poisoning can create legal liability for you!)
  • Mattresses and Upholstered Furniture: These may be infested with pests, such as bedbugs, that will be difficult (and expensive!) to eradicate once they are established in your home.
  • Damaged Goods: Examples include rusty tools (which may carry disease), heavily splintered wood, and goods with chemical damage such as burst batteries that may all pose dangers to your health.

Use Yard Sale Radar to Find Sales in Your Area or Advertise Your Own

Whether you’re a seasoned yard sale veteran or a beginner just learning the ropes, yard sale safety tips can give you a better idea of what not to buy and sell at garage sales / yard sales so you can keep you and your family safe.

Gain the confidence you need to discover the best finds by educating yourself on how to yard sale safely. Then when you’re ready, Yard Sale Radar can help you find yard sales in your area or advertise your yard sale to interested buyers! Sign-up for our email newsletter today and receive a free informative ebook on more tips and tricks for buyers and sellers!