Maybe you’re a seasoned pro bargain hunter, antique collector, or just love casually shopping. If you identify with any of those groups, you’re probably wondering which is better: an estate sale or a garage sale.
Both estate sales and garage sales can be an opportunity to tap into your thrill of discovery. Plus, each type of sale can feature a variety of items at a deeply discounted price.
In this post, we will feature the following showdown: estate sale vs garage sale. We’ll go over the similarities, differences, and tips to help you make the most of your next garage sale or estate sale shopping experience.
Definition Of An Estate Sale
An estate sale is a formal event that typically takes place within someone’s home. The occasion for hosting an estate sale can vary.
Most tend to think of estate sales occurring when someone passes away. However, estate sales can also be held if the homeowner wants to downsize.
Or, if someone is planning to move to a new home and is unable to take all of their belongings with them. While there are still more, those are the most common reasons to host an estate sale.
Advantages Of Estate Sales
Professionalism And Structure
Estate sales tend to be more formal due to many being professionally organized and managed by one of several estate sale companies. Many times individuals and/or families can contact outside agencies to handle their estate sale and help sell their own or their family members' possessions.
However, sometimes families or individuals themselves run the estate sale themselves. Another formality of estate sales is their structure.
Many estate sales have a ticketing system. This means that if you show up for an estate sale, you may get a ticket. You will only be able to shop if and/or when your ticket number is called.
Variety Of Items
Estate sales have a goal: to clear out the entire estate. Due to this, you can find items all across the spectrum of what potential buyers may be looking for. This includes clothing, shoes, kitchen items, home decor, media, vintage items, antique furniture, other antique items, collectibles, and more.
Typically estate sales have items set up throughout the house in a natural format. You can walk into the living room and find large items like furniture and electronics. When you go into the kitchen, you’ll likely see appliances, kitchen utensils, and other kitchen necessities.
Each bedroom typically has a dresser or closet with shoes, clothing items, and accessories ready for purchase. Sometimes there are still items in the garage, like yardwork equipment or other outdoorsy items.
As discussed in the last section, you can find a variety of unique items at estate sales. Within the wide variety, it is likely that you can find high-dollar, expensive, and other valuable items.
This can especially be true if the estate sale is held in what is thought to be a more “well-off” neighborhood, selling the personal belongings of the current or previous homeowner.
That is why estate sales can be a lucrative place to shop for those that run their own reselling business and are looking to flip items for a profit.
Drawbacks Of Estate Sales
Due to estate sales typically having high-end items, these sales can come with higher prices when comparing an estate sale vs garage sale. This can vary depending on the location and the sale but expect to see increased prices when compared to garage sale shopping.
However, you can potentially avoid this by shopping on the last day of the sale. Although items will be picked over, many times the estate sale hosts will deeply discount items in order to just get rid of them. This is typically the best time to get the best deals.
You can also attempt to bring down the prices by negotiating, however, that will likely only work on the last day of the sale. Due to the demand estate sales usually draw, the hosts of the sale are not likely to participate in price haggling. At least, not initially.
Some people take their estate sale hunting very seriously. No judgment here- do your thing! But this can make it an unpleasant experience for casual or first-time estate sale shoppers.
Often estate sales can be very crowded, and you can feel like you have others looking over your shoulder. If you are intimidated by shopping in the midst of the craziness, scope out the sale and see if you can find a time when there is a lull.
Or, try to go on day two or three of the estate sale where others may have already done all of their shopping on day one or two of the sale. This may be the best way to avoid the craziness.
Limited Amount Of Sales
Although estate sales are still common, they can be few and far between, depending on your area. In general, estate sales are much less common than garage sales during the spring and summer months.
You can scope out your local paper to see ads for upcoming estate sales.
Definition Of A Garage Sale
A garage sale, also known as a yard sale or residential sale, is generally different from an estate sale. A garage sale is typically hosted within a person’s garage, driveway, yard, or any combination of the aforementioned locations.
Garage sales can also occur for any reason or occasion. Most tend to think of hosting a garage sale in the summer after all of the spring cleaning and junk clearing is finished.
These type of sales are usually advertised on hand-made signs posted throughout the neighborhood with the date and time of the sale, along with the general location or full address of the person's home.
Advantages Of Garage Sales
Due to the nature of garage sales being held for clearing out clutter or other unwanted items, you can find extremely affordable prices on most items.
Some garage sales have price tags for each individual item, while others price items by sections. For example, there may be a clothing rack of items priced at $5 each.
In addition to the already discounted prices, price negotiation is more acceptable and more commonplace at garage sales. So even if prices are on the higher side, shoppers can attempt to haggle with the seller to get a better deal.
Negotiations are usually more successful when bundling or buying multiple items. You can also leverage your negotiation tactics either at the end of the sale day and/or the last sale day.
Most of the time, those hosting a garage sale simply do not want to bring the unsold items back inside and would be willing to take an offer on one or multiple items. Therefore, you can use this leverage as an easy way to negotiate.
Support Local Individuals
Almost all of the time garage sales are run by individuals or families, or groups of families (as in a community sale). This differs from estate sales which can be managed by a professional estate sale company.
So, shopping at garage sales can put extra cash right back into the pockets of those in your community.
Drawbacks Of Garage Sales
As we know by now, garage sales are a way for individuals or families to get rid of unwanted household items before they decide to just donate the items. Because of this, the quality of items may be lacking.
In addition, the range of items may also be lacking. At estate sales, you can expect all sorts of items to be ready for purchase. Garage sales are limited to the select few items that the homeowner no longer wants.
Although, this is not a reason to count out garage sales altogether. This will depend on a case-by-case basis. It may be your best bet to try to arrive at the garage sale early and beat the other garage sale shoppers in order to have the widest selection.
Lack Of Organization
Due to garage sales being run by individuals instead of agencies, there may be an overall lack of organization. Many times random items are scattered throughout different tables, inside of bins, and even on the lawn.
This also makes garage sales more time-consuming as you have to sift through many items for the potential to find something that you are looking for.
Plus, here's a pro tip: as with any purchase, look at the items closely before handing over the cash. I personally have made the mistake of buying a mismatched pair of shoes from a local garage sale.
Most garage sales are held outdoors, so it goes without saying that this type of sale can be ruined by the weather. In general, garage sale seasons are limited due to garage sale hunters not wanting to go out and brave the cold, or even sometimes the extreme heat.
In addition, rain in the forecast can ruin your plans, too.
Now that we've learned the similarities and differences between an estate sale vs garage sale, it all comes down to your personal preferences and shopping experiences. However, it doesn’t have to be as black and white when it comes to the argument of estate sale vs garage sale.
I encourage you to scope out all different kinds of sales. If it works out, then great! But if you show up and the vibes are off, you can leave and try to find your next sale.
After all, both garage sales and estate sales take a lot of work to put on and manage. Because of that, the sellers will appreciate any support they can get.
At the end of the day, it is all about the thrill of the hunt. Plus, you have the opportunity to find great prices and a good deal on some real treasures at both garage sales and estate sales.
Which type of sale do you prefer? What is your favorite garage sale or estate sale find? Comment below!