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  • Writer's pictureLisa Lee Freeman

What NEVER to buy at a yard sale

This is my absolute favorite time of year for yard sales. People get in the mood to declutter and toss their stuff across lawns and driveways ahead of the winter hibernation season. Some haul them to flea markets—my absolute favorite bargain-shopping destination for gorgeous fall weekends! But after working as a consumer expert at Consumer Reports for a decade, I don't look at these flea-for-alls like I used to. Yard sales can be a real minefield when it comes to safety. Here are six of the riskiest things to buy secondhand.

  1. Children's products. Stuff like used cribs (especially drop-side models!), child car seats, bicycle helmets, and strollers may not meet current safety regulations. And car seats might have been in an accident or parts might be damaged or worn, which might not be obvious when you inspect it. Also steer clear of draw string clothing, which is a choking hazard, and teddy bears with sewn on eyes and other parts, which can also get stuck in a child's throat.

  2. Upholstered furniture and pillows. Two words: bed bugs. I know someone who ended up tossing an expensive couch because of two fancy, buggy pillows purchased at a second-hand store in New York.

  3. Humidifiers. One word: bacteria.

  4. Old bird cages or pet carriers. They could carry disease or be made of toxic materials that are not safe for your bird or other pet.

  5. Electrical products like lamps and extension cords. They could have faulty or worn wiring that could start a fire and burn your house down.

  6. Plastic food containers. Worn ones can cause toxic chemicals to leach into your food. NEVER heat up food in plastic containers, even new ones.

Whatever you buy, it’s a good idea to check to make sure it's not on the recall list. Well, I hope I haven't ruined yard sales for you. If not, have fun out there!!!

For more tips on buying (and selling!) at yard sales, check out episode #17 of the Hot Shopping Tips podcast.

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