You can find some great bargains at yard sales, which is why weekend garage-sales warriors won't miss an opportunity to pick through the eclectic assortment of items and antiques just waiting for a new owner.
Finding deals is great, but low prices can also inspire you to buy things you probably wouldn’t give a second look if you were in a store.
So the next time you explore backyard sales, don’t let those shiny objects blind you to any defects, and make sure you leave broken, chipped, damaged and unsafe items behind.
Here are several types of products that you may want to leave at the yard sale.
Televisions, DVD players, CDs, VHS tapes and other electronic devices can be tricky, since you never know how well the previous owner took care of them. You also can't tell if the item was refurbished. In general, steer clear of things that need to be plugged in. Technology changes so quickly, you’re better off buying new.
Blenders, microwaves, coffeepots and other kitchen appliances get worn down. Blades in blenders can get dull, and mechanisms in appliances can weaken, no matter how good the gadget looks on the surface. That's why you should generally avoid things that need to be plugged in.
Plug-in holiday decorations and lights
Go ahead and buy that unusual centerpiece or tree ornament, but steer clear of lights, animated characters or anything that has wiring. Old cables in holiday decorations can be a problem — they could blow a fuse or even catch on fire.
Pots and pans
Avoid pots or pans with chipped enamel, rust or flaky nonstick coatings. Along with being impossible to fix, enamel or flaking surfaces can leak chemicals, and rust can form in the breaks.
E-readers, tablets and mp3 players often take a beating. They get knocked around, dropped and spilled on. Desktop computers, which are usually kept in a stable setting, also fall in this category. It is probably more cost effective to buy these items new, rather than gamble on used versions.
There are several reasons to walk away from upholstered furnishings — stains, water damage and past accidents. Changing an upholstered dining-room-chair seat is easy enough, but in this age of bedbugs, completely upholstered chairs and couches should be left at the yard sale.
The same advice holds true for mattresses. Never buy a used mattress, as it is likely to be infested with bedbugs, mold, mites, among other undesirable "extras."
Electronic exercise equipment
Go ahead and pick up the dumbbells, a weight bench or even the jump rope, but avoid the treadmill that catches your eye. Used treadmills and other electronic exercise machines could be defective or damaged and may not be safe, and then you are stuck with a big, heavy machine to get rid of.
Sheets and pillowcases
Yes, these items can be washed, but like lingerie, bedding at a yard sale is not the best choice. Stains, tears and bugs are all possible. Even if the linen is in its original packaging, you may not discover the damage until you open it.
Used footwear will usually maintain the impression of the previous owner’s feet. Also, the chances are high that used shoes won't fit you well. Just leave these in the pile.
Previously worn hats and helmets can be just plain gross. They will always have leftover residue, sweat, hair products and, possibly, bacteria.
Definitely avoid perfumes, powders and makeup when sifting through your neighbor's goods. Why? Cosmetics and toiletries have expiration dates, and those that have been opened could be contaminated or contain bacteria.
Strollers, car seats, cribs, clothes, stuffed animals and other used baby products should also be scratched off your list. Cribs and car seats can have safety issues (they may have been recalled or are just out of date). As you look over the adorable baby items, ask yourself, “Do I want this near my baby’s skin?” The answer will probably be no.