Garage Sales VS Estate Sales: What’s the Difference?

Posted in: I'm Moving, Neighborhood Advice

Last week, we kicked off garage sale shopping season with 7 tips to help you shop til you drop! This week, we want to take your bargain hunting one step further. If you’re new to the thrifting game, then you’ve probably been bombarded with all kinds of different “sales”….garage sales, tag sales, estate sales, yard sales…the list goes on and on.

You may think that they’re all the same, large sales where people get rid of old stuff they don’t want. But listen up, there can be a big difference between a garage sale and an estate sale, and those differences should affect the way you plan your shopping day. We’re here with the 411 to help you navigate your next garage sale vs estate sale bargain hunting adventure.

Garage Sale vs. Estate Sale

Garage Sale

What is it?

A garage sale is typically the sale of someone’s unwanted household items. Usually held in the garage or a driveway, a garage sale is a way for homeowner’s to purge items they no longer need. A slight variation on the garage sale is a yard sale… where someone has so much stuff to sell, it spills over into their yards and front lawns.

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What should I expect?

Expect to find unwanted kitchen utensils, children’s clothing, toys, sports gear, and kitchen goods. Sometimes homeowners get rid of furniture, but don’t expect to find a ton at a garage sale. Garage sales can be very unpredictable, and you can find some really great treasures if you dig deep and sort through everything.

How do I get the best deals?

Most garage sales are held on the weekends, and you’ll often see neighborhood signs directing you where to go. One of the best parts about thrifting is the negotiating. More than likely the homeowner just wants to get rid of anything you’re interested in…so make an offer and see what happens! It never hurts to ask “is that the best you can do?” Put your negotiation skills to the test and try to get the best deal possible!

Estate Sale

What is it? 

An estate sale is the sale of items from an estate of someone who has passed. It also includes the sale of items from a home that has been abandoned or foreclosed.  Sometimes estate sales are held by living family members of the deceased, who are trying to get rid of unwanted items.  But often you’ll see estate sales run by companies hired by the living family members, to help with the burden of emptying and selling an entire home of possessions.

What should I expect?

To us, estate sales are the best sales because you’ll find a wide variety of items that have been collected over a lifetime. This is your best bet for antique furniture, vintage clothing, fine china sets, and one of a kind pieces. Often times everything in the home is up for grabs, so you’ll simply peruse every room in the home and come back downstairs or to the front of the house with any items you want to purchase. Most large items will be marked, but don’t expect everything to have a set price. Because of the high quality goods, estate sales are often the most pricey.

How do I get the best deals?

Estate sales typically run for 3 days… Friday-Sunday. Many advertise well in advance, and our go-to resource is Here you can find any upcoming estate sales in your local area.  The nicer the neighborhood, the nicer the stuff inside the home… so keep that in mind.

Also, sometimes they’ll have pictures of big items online so you can get a sense of the goods before stepping inside the home. When estate sales are run by professional companies, there are some rules to consider…

  1. Get There Early. Arrive early, and you’ll be handed a number to wait in line (yep, just like you’re at the deli. Sorry they won’t be handing out any sandwiches!) For security purposes, they don’t want too many people in the home at one time, so they’ll call shoppers in by groups of numbers.
  2. Take What You Want. If you see something you want…pick it up and take it with you! It will likely be snatched up by the time you come back around.
  3. No Haggling. Typically price tags are not up for negotiation. In fact, sometimes there will be bids for higher priced items like antique furniture. You’ll fill out a bid slip, and the person with the highest number will be contacted later to come pick up the item.
  4. Shop Last Minute. If you’re looking for a really good deal… go the afternoon of the last day. This is probably the only time you’ll find marked down items.

So there you have it, the difference between garage sales and estate sales. Even though they can be very different shopping experiences we still have a couple tips that apply to to both.


  1. CASH IS KING! Hit up the ATM and load up on those dolla dolla bills!
  2. ENJOY YOURSELF! Have fun and enjoy the adventure of finding unique and affordable pieces to personalize your home.


What’s your favorite Estate Sale story? Ever find anything explosive?


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