Never buy these things at a garage sale

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At this time of year, garage sales and flea markets are in full swing. Not only do they offer the opportunity to pick up a myriad of reasonably priced items and make unique vintage finds, but buying used is (usually) a more sustainable way to shop.

That said, there are some things you shouldn’t buy when you see them at garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores, and/or thrift stores. Here’s what you need to know.

Items not to buy at garage sales

Most of the items on this list are there for health, hygiene and safety reasons, and apply if you plan to use them for their initial purpose. In other words, if you buy something with the intention to recycle itthese guidelines do not necessarily apply.

car seats

It is common to see products designed for babies and young children, such as car seats, at garage sales because at some point no one in the household can use them. But for the most part, buying car seats at garage sales or flea markets is not a good idea.

Because their parts (especially plastic ones) deteriorate over time, car seats come with an expiration date, typically 6 to 10 years from date of manufacture. Also, once they have been damaged, they should not be used again.

Even if you find a car seat that hasn’t expired yet and you know where it came from (and it’s been accident-free), make sure it’s delivered with its gray cardso you can tell if it has been recalled for any reason.

Non-stick cookware

Unless it is new and has no signs of peeling or scratches, skip the non-stick cookware at garage sales.

Anything that contains mold

Whether it’s furniture, clothing, books, or household items, it’s best to leave behind anything with visible mold and/or a musty smell.


According to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), cribs that are over 10 years old or that are broken or have been altered should no longer be used. It is because they laid a security risk if there is gaps between loose components or broken slats, as the baby could fall through them while their head remains inside the cradle.


It’s one thing if you find a vintage Art Deco powder container with remnants of the original product that you plan to display and never actually use. But in general, buying used or older cosmetics should be avoided. If products are opened and/or used, skip those for sanitary purposes. And anyway, makeup has a short shelf life (usually around 12-18 months), so it’s probably expired.

Bike helmets

Whether designed for children or adults, bicycle helmets are not an item to buy second-hand. Like car seats, they should not be used after an accident. Moreover, as the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute points out that older helmets may not meet current safety standards.

Baby gates

Through normal wear and tear, used baby gates often lack crucial components, such as springs, and may no longer be safe to use.

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