Estate Sale vs Garage Sale: Antique Treasures to Look For

Are you ready to antique shop this summer? Here’s the difference between estate sale vs garage sale shopping to help you plan your outing.

One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to head out with my husband to local estate sales. I love looking for vintage items and antiques for our home and my storefront.

Knowing the difference between estate sale vs garage sale shopping can help you plan what type of sale you may want to check out. Plus I’ll share what antique treasures that are best to look for.

vintage china closet in antique store
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Estate Sale vs Garage Sale: What’s the difference?

During the late spring and summer months, garage sales seem as if they are popping up on every corner. Each summer my husband and I check out Estate to find out where the local estate sale companies will be holding their upcoming sales. Locally, sales are held from Thursdays to Sundays. 

Garage Sale

What are the key differences between an estate sale and a garage sale? Garage sales are held by family members that are selling their unwanted items. A tag sale or yard sale is held in the seller’s yard, garage, or on their front lawns. 

An estate sale is when the contents of the entire home are sold. Read on for more information regarding this type of special sale.

sterling silverware in a velvet box

What you can expect to find at garage sales

You can expect to find everything but the kitchen sink at a garage sale.

The truth is, you may actually find a few kitchen sinks! Of course, with this example, it’s just a figure of speech. You’ll see your fair share of sinks at garage sales.

More often you will find everything from household goods to kitchen utensils and children’s clothing. Garage sales are a wonderful place for bargain hunters.

Oftentimes, used or new sporting equipment, golf clubs, and ice skates are among the other items you will see.

I love when I find unique and pretty wicker baskets which can be quite a bargain. It’s a great idea to collect them and use the baskets to deliver flowers to friends or fill them with treats when someone is under the weather. I don’t worry about the baskets being returned. You can expect to find baskets for a dollar or two.

Filling the baskets with baked goods is a fun option as well. For the holidays, add homemade jam wrapped in a pretty dish towel and deliver! For a few dollars, they make a great budget-friendly way to wrap and give a gift.

Why do they call it an estate sale?

Estate Sale

Discover the ultimate shopping experience – an Estate Sale! Professional liquidators bring the entire contents of a house or home, known as an estate, to potential buyers. Expert estate liquidators will be on hand to offer you a selection of personal belongings, from the homeowner’s collection to items from those who have passed away Prepare to embark on a journey of exclusive finds and fascinating history!

gold leaf mirrors leaning against a wall

What you’ll see at an estate sale

Large items are easily found at estate sales. Vintage sofa and dining room sets are readily available as part of the contents of the home. I have often seen bedroom sets, antique armoires, bookcases, lawn equipment, and at times vehicles also being sold.

Other items of higher quality you’ll find are vintage clothing and antique furniture with reasonable price tags.

Estate sale shoppers are savvy when it comes to most purchases. Often times antique dealers will get there early and know exactly what they are looking for. Dealers will also know the value of the items.

Both types of sales are a great way to find good deals. 

vintage wooden scoops in a antique shop

10 Tips for What to expect when Estate Sale Shopping

Top 10 sale tips

  • On high-end items be sure to do your research. The easy way to do this is to check out the sales online prior to going to the sale. First, when possible, View the photos online to see what is selling.
  • Do a quick research to see the value of the item. This way when you get there, you know how much you should spend on the item.
  • This leads me to this point. The key is to know what you are looking at in terms of value. Have a main goal in mind.

I have a hard time passing up any fine China. China dishes tend to be my downfall.

  • Be prepared for a large crowd and stand in line if you are shopping on the first day of the sale
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Bring extra cash
  • If you see an item you are very interested in, either carry it in your hands or ask if there is a dropping zone to pay for it at the end of your shopping time. (I’ve had a few items I didn’t pick up and within a few minutes, someone else had purchased them)
  • Have a few carry bags, newspapers, and boxes in your car in case the sale has run out of wrapping supplies for delicate items.
  • At the end of the day, you can expect that they may offer better prices to sell the items
  • On the last day of the sale, you can get great prices, but you risk waiting and the items have already been sold
antique horse bookends on table in store

Do you haggle at estate sales?

At the estate sale or the garage sale, the pricing has typically been set. As an option, feel free to ask politely if that is the best price they can offer. Every sale I’ve been to is very willing to negotiate a better price.

  • Offer a reasonable price somewhat below the asking price so as to not offend the seller
  • When purchasing multiple items a discount may be given depending on how long the sale has been going on, and if they are willing to negotiate with you. (At one sale, I purchased three boxes of items and they provided me with great pricing. Much lower than if I had purchased just one item.)

What should not be at a garage sale?

At most garage sales you will find a wide variety of items According to The Drivin’ and Vibin’ team they share this article on what you should not sell at a garage sale. CAUTION: 7 Things You Can’t Sell at a Garage Sale. Most often these items are due to safety or health issues.

What time of year is best for garage sale?

Depending on the area of the country in which you live will depend on the best time of year to attend sales. Living in the northeast the best time of year would be from Spring to late fall. Check your local paper for listings, on Facebook Marketplace, or online for locations of sales.

In upstate New York, during the winter months, sales will drop off due to the colder weather. Occasionally in our area, estate sales will continue to occur but not as often during the winter months. Garage sales will cease completely during the cold weather.

My vintage find favorites

portrait of lady in antique frame hanging over fireplace mantel
A vintage portrait of unknown women. I named her Mary Madeline.
A favorite silver platter and blue and white dish set purchased at an estate sale

One of my all-time favorite finds was this antique gold frame with the portrait in it.

When I first purchased it, the frame had two cherubs in it. It sat that way for almost 20 years. One day I opened the back of it to replace the cherub artwork with my mother’s portrait after my mom had passed.

To my surprise, I discovered this lovely lady. I named her Mary Madeline. Since she had already been living with me for years unbeknownst to me, I decided she should stay. I found another beautiful frame for my mother!

vintage perfume bottles on silver tray in antique shop
Beautiful silver tray with antique perfume bottles
antique wooden box with blue and white hydrangea arrangement in it
Antique wooden boxes are great for many uses
Old luggage is great for stacking. Use as home decor or store items, or to fill with colorful planted pots of flowers.
My husband is making a coffee table out of an old whisky barrel (I’ll share soon)

15 Top Things to not pass up when antique shopping

  • Any brass item
  • Candleholders
  • Gold picture frames
  • Unique wicker baskets
  • Serving ware or silver utensils
  • Coffee table books
  • Furniture pieces (such as beds, dining room sets, marble top tables, bookcases, and china closets)
  • Copper items
  • Pottery crocks
  • 1950s table linens
  • Etched stemware
  • Antique dish sets
  • Oil paintings
  • Old wooden boxes
  • Glass cloches

Shop & Source on my Vintage Shop

Click the photo to shop

blue and white Chinoiserie  tea set
Blue & White Chinoiserie Tea Set for Four
Small Oval Vegetable Serving Bowl
Libertas Prussian Blue And White Bowl
(2) Shelley Forget Me Knot Teacups
green thumbtack
pinterest pin estate sale vs garage sale

Local vintage shops

Waverly Square Antiques

Stone Soup Antiques Gallery

Treasures Consignment Shop

Shopping online is another popular way to find antique shops.

Did you know I am also a vendor for an online antique booth at Vintage Keepers? This link will take you directly to my online shop.

So get ready to shop for great deals with great prices. Just be sure to bring a little extra money in case you find a treasure you didn’t expect! Happy thrifting!

Susan Signature with feather pen


  1. Fantastic post, Susan! Oh my goodness, how I would love to go estate sale shopping with you! Some day!

    1. That would b so fun! I have a feeling we could find some great deals!

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