The trick to getting your money's worth at a garage sale is knowing what to buy — and what not to buy. The next time you visit a thrift store or garage sale, you really need to skip these 10 things. (See also: The 5 Best Deals in Every Thrift Store)
By purchasing a bicycle or motorcycle helmet at a thrift store, you could be unintentionally putting your safety at risk. You have no idea who owned it before you, how old it is, or why they got rid of it. According to the Bike Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI), your helmet should be replaced after hitting your head in any crash. They recommend never buying a used helmet because it may have been involved in an accident. Instead, purchase a new helmet and feel confident that your head is protected.
In most cases, you should steer clear of old mattresses and box springs at the thrift store. Mattresses naturally gather things like allergens and dust mites from the previous owner, and you'll never know what caused a stain. The bed bug risk is also always a worry. Apart from being gross, mattresses also conform to the first owner's body and sleeping position. This will leave the bed lumpy and uncomfortable for you.
Cribs and car seats are constantly being updated with new safety features, and recalled when other features fail. If you purchase a used one at a garage sale, you risk purchasing one of the millions of cribs that have been recalled for safety reasons. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) found that a crib more than 10 years old will also have design flaws that put infants in danger. This is also true for many other used baby items, such as...
4. Child Car Seats
Car seats are only expected to last between five to nine years (check your expiration date). If you buy one at a garage sale, you won't know if it was involved in a crash. Car seats are only meant to go through one accident, even if the child was not in the seat at the time. Go the smarter, safer route, and buy new.
5. Underwear and Bathing Suits
If they've touched someone's nether regions, you should take a pass. Bathing suits also wear out faster than regular clothing, so they may already be near the end. Instead of saving a few dollars on used underwear or bathing suits, just wait to purchase these essentials when they are on sale (such as during the winter, in the clearance bins, or during a semi-annual sale).
If you don't know who's used it, you shouldn't be applying any cosmetic product to your face. In fact, in a study by LA Times, it was discovered that 100% of makeup testers at a popular department store cosmetic counter were contaminated with E. coli, strep, staph, and other bacteria. If these issues run rampant in a department store, they are sure to be found in your local thrift store's makeup selection as well.
7. Bath and Beauty Products
You should stay away from bath and beauty products, including creams, lotions, and perfumes, because there is no guarantee that you will actually get what the bottle states. The seller could have replaced the contents with anything. Cosmetics don't last forever, so you may be buying something that's already expired and risk exposure to harmful bacteria.
8. Running Shoes
If you buy used running shoes, the tread and cushioning are probably already worn out and you will end up injuring your feet, knees, legs, and/or back by running in them. Used shoes have already been molded to someone else's feet and it will be difficult to get them to re-mold to yours. As is the case with any used footwear, you are also at risk of catching a foot fungus or other bacterial infection from wearing someone else's shoes.
You can already find a good deal on old or used items at most electronics stores — and these generally come with some sort of warranty. See what kind of deals you can get online or at your local electronics or home goods store before considering shopping at a thrift shop. You may also want to consider refurbished electronics, which have been professionally repaired by the manufacturer or an authorized dealer.
10. Puzzles and Games
Certain games (particularly vintage ones) can be a unique thrift store find at an affordable cost. On the other hand, puzzles and games with lots of pieces are never a good idea. If there's even one piece missing, you won't be able to play. Where's the fun in that?
More From Wise Bread: