Think twice before you grab that “great bargain” at a garage sale.

By Marisa Cohen
Updated September 11, 2017

You can get amazing deals at garage sales and on Craigslist or other virtual yard sales, but there are certain items that are never worth the trouble, danger, or dirt—even if they’re free.

Greg Ruffing


We have just two words: bed bugs. Anyone who’s ever dealt with the nasty critters will tell you that no bargain in the world is worth the chance you’ll bring them into your home. Also, the life span of a mattress is only about seven to 10 years, so it’s likely that used pillow-top queen set is past its prime, and has started sagging into the shape of its previous owner.

Bike Helmet

Whether you’re picking up an Elmo helmet for your kid’s first set of wheels or protection for your own mountain-biking excursions, spend the money on a brand-new lid. Once a helmet has been bumped or dented in a crash, it should be discarded, says Neal Cohen, a consumer safety lawyer in Washington, DC. “Even if it hasn’t been in an accident, the protective foam deteriorates over time,” he adds. Also, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) updates safety regulations frequently, and you want to make sure you have the best protection on your noggin.

Car Seat

Like milk and yogurt, car seats have an expiration date. And just like bike helmets, they should be replaced after they’ve been in an accident. “You don’t know what sort of trauma that seat has been through, how it was handled by the previous owner, if it was dropped or in an accident, or if any parts were replaced,” Cohen says.


You want the place your baby sleeps to be the safest spot in the world—something you can’t guarantee with a used crib, says Cohen. “Even if a crib looks fine at first glance, it could be missing hardware or the parts may have gotten loose, leaving a dangerous gap between the mattress and the side of the crib,” he says. In fact, in 2011, the CPSC regulations were updated, banning any cribs with drop-sides. Recalls also happen all the time, says Cohen, and you want to make sure your bargain crib isn’t on the list. (Check out to search for product recalls.)

Food Processor

Any time you’re using a product that involves a sharp blade whirling around at top speed, you want to make sure it’s in perfect working condition, says Cohen. Just last December, Cuisinart recalled 8 million food processors, because the blades were breaking off and landing in the food. Not really the tag sale bargain you’re looking for.

Laptop Computer

Because they get bumped around in backpacks and splashed with lattes in coffee bars, laptops tend to take a lot of abuse. Buy one from some random dude on Craigslist, and there's no assurance it will actually work. If you want to save money on a refurbished computer, shop at a reputable computer or big-box store where you’ll get tech support and some kind of warranty.

Stuffed Animal

Bed bugs, lice, spit-up, bacteria; no matter how cute that giant stuffed llama is, the microscopic creature crawling around in its fur can be positively frightening. Spend the dough on a brand-new fluffy.