Add to GuideAsk a Question

Selling at Yard Sales vs Online Auctions

Category Selling Tips
Choosing the best way to sell your unwanted things can make a difference in how much time it takes you, and how much money you get for them. This is a guide about selling at yard sales vs online auctions.


Share on ThriftyFunThis guide contains the following solutions. Have something to add? Please share your solution!

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh4 found this helpful
August 24, 2011

If you've ever devoted an entire Saturday to a yard sale, but only earned a few dollars, you've probably questioned your selling technique. Yet, for every yard sale failure there's a person who sits in front of a computer screen wondering why she can't earn a profit selling her items online. Which is the better choice, yard sale or online auction? A mix of the two is your best bet.

Finding the Right Buyer

A good sale is made only if the perfect buyer finds your product. Could that happen at a yard sale? It certainly could, but it often doesn't.

An example would be a brand name youth leather baseball glove that remained at the end of my spring yard sale. I was asking a meager $3 for the lightly used glove. Reluctant to toss it in the donation bin afterwards, I posted it on eBay with a starting bid of $0.99. It caught the attention of more than a few viewers, and in the end sold for $13. What's the lesson learned? Somewhere a parent was looking for a glove for his son, and the new gloves were beyond his price limit. His browser found my auction, and everyone was happy in the end.


Online sales allow you to reach more viewers, creating the opportunity to find the best buyers. Evaluate your items and ask if there's a wide audience for your sale or if it is more limited to buyers. The same father could have come to my yard sale, but he didn't.

What Won't Sell on Your Yard

Unless you're very lucky, there are some items that will never earn you a profit at a yard sale. At yard sales, people demand that items work. Malfunctioning electronics are better aimed at online sales, and yes, you can sell broken electronics and earn some cash towards the replacement. People scroll through auction listings looking for parts or looking for cheap electronics that can be fixed and resold. When selling electronics, eBay even has a condition category called "parts not working."

When our Xbox flashed a red circle and refused to turn on, we replaced it. Yet, someone out there knew what to do with the malfunctioning system, and the broken machine sold online for $16. Would it have earned that amount at a yard sale? I'd bet the new system that it wouldn't have sold.


Other great products that you can list online are extra cables and adapters that are floating around your house. If you no longer have a need for certain audio cables and video adapters, list them online. These cables are pricey new, and people appreciate the discount earned by purchasing them used. However, this is a very select audience, so online auctions allow your item to find the person looking for it.

Keep It Hands On and Off Line

Just like the products that sell online for more than they're worth in your yard, certain products don't do well online. They get lost in the myriad of listings. Keep craft items and knickknacks for yard sales. The beauty of the yard sale is that people see the item; they touch it and fall in love with it. Online auctions don't offer this type of sale.

Did you ever buy a sweater because you couldn't get over how soft it was? There's little sensory impulse purchasing online. People look for particular items or categories. At a yard sale they're surprised; the fun of yard sale shopping is not knowing what you might find. Those are the things to keep in mind when you set up your yard sale.


The Best of Both Sales

Use this split sales option to your advantage. Start off by separating your items carefully, and list some online at a fair price. If the items don't sell, move them into your yard sale pile and reduce the price. This should allow you to put forth your best effort in finding the perfect buyer to create the perfect sale. After all, shouldn't you both be happy?

Comment Pin it! Was this helpful? 4

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh2 found this helpful
July 29, 2010

For the average person, selling used items is easy and generates a pleasing profit. Whether you opt to organize a yard sale, list on eBay, advertise in the newspaper, or post to another online sales site, you'll most likely earn enough money to go out to dinner but not enough to make a car payment. There's a trick to selling your used items, and with a little homework your time can be worth its while.


Get Paid by the Hour

When organizing used items, remember that the profit you make isn't a profit if you spend ten hours posting the sales ad. Some families host weekend yard sales, or worse, several weekends of the same yard sale. Add the time it takes to set up, tear down, and sit there for each day, and you'll see that you're earning 25 cents an hour. Aim to find the proper selling vehicle and you'll do much better in your time to profit ratio.

On-Line Listings

There are some things to consider when listing an item on-line. The first consideration is whether or not the item will generate interest. There are a few who peruse the categories of listings, but most search for specific items. The second consideration is whether or not the item will earn enough profit to counter the listing fees. If the answer to either is no, then sell the item in a different fashion.

When sorting through items, choose items that will generate both interest and profit to post on-line. Antiques do this easily, so do collectibles. Be wary of items that create shipping problems; those that require expensive shipping costs to the buyer are often passed by. Something large that requires a freight delivery will do better off line. Delicate items such as water globes aren't worth the shipping hassle just as oversized or oddly shaped items that don't fit in typical packing boxes. Save yourself the hassle and list them on sites such as Craigslist ( Through this site, people will contact you about the item and then come to your home to pay in cash and collect the item.


When listing on-line, do some homework first. Look through the eBay listings for similar items and get a feel for what they command. Note that there's a difference between what an item sells for and what an item is listed for. Many items are listed at prices that are too high, and you'll notice that they end without buyers.

Also consider listing fees when selling on-line. eBay offers a number of free listings each month, which is a benefit. However, if an item sells eBay will still take a portion of the profit as a seller's fee. Typically, if items sell for $0.99 or less you're not making a profit. Remember that sites like eBay encourage PayPal payments. These are wonderfully convenient, but PayPal also charges a fee. Soon, your profits have dwindled to pennies, and you could have earned more selling your item at a yard sale.

Items to avoid selling on-line because of the number of listings and lack of interest include: used household items (typical yard sale fare), items claiming to be "collectibles" without a substantial following or series, used children's toys (though some are highly collectible), adult used clothing, and hand crafted decorations.

Yard Sales

Items that do not meet the requirements of a successful on-line sale are best left for an afternoon yard sale. Choose a weekend that is during the typical "yard sale season" and host your sale during the morning hours. Yard salers are early birds, so be prepared to open your sales at 7 or 8 am. List prices that allow for bartering, but don't give away your items; have a set price in mind and stick to it. Offer multiple item discounts and reduce prices during the last hour of your sale. Be sure to advertise your yard sale. A newspaper ad might cost $20, but it will generate $20 additional dollars in sales easily.

Some newspapers offer to run ads for one or two items free of charge. Running on an "as space allows" premise, this is a great way to sell a few items without hosting an official yard sale. It's something to consider for larger or more fragile items.

Comment Pin it! Was this helpful? 2


Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
July 18, 2010

I had a booth in a small town antique store. I didn't really make any money, but as long as I made enough to cover my rent and expenses, I kept my booth open. As the economy worsened, my booth no longer paid for itself, so I brought everything home. Now, I would like to have a yard sale with all of my remaining items. Any suggestions?

By Mamie from Kingston, TN


July 18, 20100 found this helpful

I don't have any advice, but in the area that I live in people expect to get everything at a yard sale, for next to nothing. It doesn't matter what the item is the customers just plain act like you should be giving it away. It might be different in TN, but in SD people don't want to pay anything for items at a yard sale.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
July 20, 20100 found this helpful

That's how it is in the antique business too. Most of the time, I would buy something that needed some work on it, like a old bedroom dresser or rocking chair. I would touch it up (clean, sand, refinish, etc.) to make it nice to sell, but no one wanted to pay enough for an item to even cover my expenses. Goodwill may be the easiest way to get rid of my old stuff. Thanks!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
July 23, 20100 found this helpful

Try ebay or craigslist or take a loss and sell to another dealer.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
July 26, 20100 found this helpful

Sorry about your booth not bringing you income now. Just think about all of the time you spent having the booth, keeping up with the descriptions, displaying and etc. You are even loosing money if you just pay for your booth space. You are loosing lots of time, effort (which is money) and, the cost of the antiques when you purchased them. So, any money you would get elsewhere would have been in your hand quickly and allow you to do something else to make money with that money. However, you probably were making money at first and that encouraged you to do more. Glad you are getting out before loosing more. Bartering might bring you something you like, instead of having what you do not need. Who knows, only one person needs to want what you have and there is that sale. Oh, what if you advertised estate sale or antique sale on your signs and put them out by Wed. since some dealers buy on Thur. and Fri. and sell on Saturdays, that is what a person told me once. Hope you get back something for your hard work.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question...
Related Content
Selling TipsOctober 11, 2014
Back to School Ideas!
Summer Ideas!
Pest Control
Ask a Question
Share a Post
Better LivingBudget & FinanceBusiness and LegalComputersConsumer AdviceCraftsEducationEntertainmentFood and RecipesHealth & BeautyHolidays and PartiesHome and GardenMake Your OwnOrganizingParentingPetsPhotosTravel and RecreationWeddings
Published by ThriftyFun.

Desktop Page | View Mobile

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Contact Us

© 1997-2019 by Cumuli, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Generated 2019/07/24 12:33:54 in 797 msecs. ⛅️️ ⚡️
Loading Something Awesome!