The Estate Sale: A Good Prepping Venue


While you go about your prepping, and/or are simply living frugal and on the lookout for tangible value, you will often find treasures at an estate sale.

An estate sale, unlike a garage sale or flea market, is a setting where ‘everything must go’.

It is an estate liquidation sale or sometimes auction, to dispose of a substantial portion of the materials on the premises usually due to the death of the property owner.

While the unfortunate reality resulting in the necessity for an estate sale is usually a sad thing (although there are those which result from moving to another location), the fact is that you will be helping the family and putting to good use the items which may have otherwise been discarded.

Usually at a garage sale, people are selling, well, their old junk. Once in a while you can find a bargain, but it’s generally the old stuff that’s falling apart. At flea markets, again, the bargains are not that popular. After all, at flea markets, the vendors are in it to make some money. It is a way of life for many of these people.

However at an estate sale you are likely to find better items, a wide selection of things, and often some very valuable bargains.

The estate sale is also THE place to get hand-operated tools- drills, meat and grain grinders and other food mills, food processors, steamer-juicers, nut-crackers, axes, saws, canning supplies, and many other high-quality goods – ideal for preppers.

Estate sales will usually have much nicer things for sale at very reasonable prices. And because most of the homeowners were elderly, your chances are pretty high of finding older and antique items – many of which are very practical things that preppers are looking for. Not only that, but you will almost always benefit from buying an older item since it was probably made a LOT better than the most of the stuff that’s made today.

Not only will you be able to find quality items at a great price, but you can also walk away with a great prepping idea by something you saw at the sale.

Going to an estate sale is a great way to expand your prepping supplies at reasonable prices…so have fun and explore!

What has been your experience with estate sales?


  1. If it’s run by a private company I find the prices to be ridiculous.

  2. have to agree with Johnson, above.

    also, even those who are run by family, also, these days, seem to feel everything should be priced as a “priceless antique”.

    I still go, but with jaded expectations, and the odd time I scoop a “deal”, am pleasantly surprised.

  3. It is best to wait till the last day of the sale when they mark all the prices down. Then you can maybe find some good deals. Rarely, but sometimes. Garage sales are much better.

    1. The comments so far exemplify that the estate sale is not always a ‘sale’. My experiences have not been so bad, although I’m not a regular either – so am curious to hear what others think…

      Good idea about waiting until the end for the extra bargains.

  4. Hey Ken,
    This is off topic, but I just read where some retired army Col. is planning a march on D.C. on the 16th. of this month to throw Barry, ect out of office.
    It’s patterned after the Arab Spring and they are calling themselves
    “Operation American Spring” or OAS.

    This could end up being as big as the Bundy Ranch deal, I guess?

  5. Look for estate auctions. The auctioneers have to quickly move through the entire contents, often putting things into cheap minimum bid lots. You have to be on your toes or you might miss the lot you want. I picked an unused 14 gallon flo n go wheeled gas container at a recent garage sale for $40. They sell for well over $100. Gotten many a cheap hurricane lamp as well.

  6. When looking for SHTF preps these sales are a great source of “stuff”. Camping equipment is often overlooked at these sales. Most of the time it is priced right and it has been used very little. Camping out in your house during tough times can be made a lot easier. I have purchased many Coleman pieces sometimes just to have spare parts.

  7. Estate “Tag” Sale vs. Estate Auction Pros & Cons,

    Estate Sales are conducted by either the Relatives or a “professional” person or company. Many times the prices on items are not researched or if researched are E-Bay asking prices and not the actual price a similar item sold for. Thus many items will be priced way above the fair market value and also many items could be way below fair market value. I have witnessed this many times where the widow and her girlfriends would price his “dirty greasy” hand tools for pennies his firearms and ammo if he had any also were way underpriced. At a tag sale you will be competing with the many “dealers” in the area, I have seen men and women run into the house, race around and grab anything they thought had value, and then try to negotiate with the sale operators for a “Bundle price”. Many times they are quite rude. If you are a few minutes late anything you might be interested in may already be sold and you just wasted your time. I have seen “Professional” tag sale operators (the lady owned a thrift store) who would price the very good items high and not negotiate on price until her confidant showed up and then all the items with value would be discounted to this person. The only plus for tag sales is you can target the items you want and buy them without waiting.

    At an Auction you will be able to preview the items being sold at your leisure and now with smart phones find comparable values on the internet. There won’t be people rushing around grabbing items. The auctioneer’s job is to make you pay more for the items but you control the amount you want to pay with your bid. At estate auctions many of the smaller items will be placed into a box and sold “box lot” or if there are many similar items he may offer choice on one or more items or biding on one times the “money” meaning times how many are in the lot. Listen to the auctioneer and if you are not clear on how a lot is being sold ask. The down side of an auction is you must wait for the lot you are interested in to come up so go with friends and make it a day. There usually will be food available especially at farm estate auctions. Farm Estate Auctions are a gold mine of items for a prepper, the wife usually canned from the garden or fruit trees, there will be canning equipment, garden tools, hand tools, butchering equipment, firearms, ammo, hardware, animal husbandry supplies in short almost everything you might need and since it was used and their life or livelihood depended on it the items will be in good condition.

    If I had a choice between a Tag Sale or Estate Auction I will always go to the estate auction.

  8. The difference between an Estate sale and an Estate auction (at least here) is that all the auctions are held at the 2 auction yards and the sales are held at the estate. I think there’s some sort of ordinance against having auctions at private homes. (shrug)

    I’ve been pretty lucky at the estate sales…Portable solar panel new, in box, unopened for $5, I use it for my electric scooter.

    A new 75 gallon water heater for $30, just when my old one rusted through.

    5 used corrugated tin panels that I roofed part of my chicken house with, free for hauling it away.

    50′ of used chain link fencing for $10…going to use that for the new goat pen.

    Heaps and piles of camping gear for next to nothing. I need to go through and sort all that stuff, but it’s a pickup load so will take some time.

    People feel sorry for me and always will negotiate a lower price. ;)

  9. Tammy’s comment “People feel sorry for me and always will negotiate a lower price” brought to mind something which I have noticed, and also try to take advantage of.

    Better prices usually can be negotiated if
    – not driving a fancy vehicle
    – not dressed in Sunday best
    – wear your gardening/house cleaning clothes

    also, if there seems to be some good stuff, try going back on last few hours of last day of sale. They do not really want to haul stuff back to the basement, and you can often make a “package deal”

    1. Um, people feel sorry for me not because of what I’m driving or wearing, but because I can’t walk. They see me hobbling around with a cane or driving my electric scooter and they want to help me.

      1. Tammy, SORRY,

        somehow when I posted above, I must have clicked on your name, and it came in somehow as being posted by Tammy instead of Anon…

        my apologies.

  10. One category of preps that can be found at estate sales, is that of hand tools of the non-electric variety. I have several in very good shape that I have purchased from both estate sales and flea markets. I once scored an older heavy-duty, 6-drawered woodworker’s bench at an estate sale for $75…have had it for over ten years now. It was from a sale conducted by the family, not a contractor. As has been posted, those sales generally provide the better deals.

  11. Estate sales – an update for 2022: This is a message addressed to surviving family members as well as people that cruise for “bargains”.

    I am a resident “gun geek” on this web site for years and after over 40 years of reloading my own ammo and obtaining supplies through 4 separate ammo and component shortages, I obtained a good percentage of my primers, powder, components and tools through estate sales over those 40 years. Ammo shortages come and go but people pass away all the time. (My wife and I both worked hospice and I drove ambulance for years prior to becoming a nurse). For some of those years, I also worked at gun shops so I tracked the price of primers, powder and components. In my unique position, I was the go-between for the grieving family and the gun shop owners that obtained some of the valuables left behind.

    I am also a believer in karma and not cheating the family of things that are rightfully theirs. I tried to ensure that the family was able to gain some profits from the sale of primers, powder weapons and components when the rightful owner passed away. The components were available for sale at prices higher than store-bought for a reason. Proceeds should go to the family. One day, I too will pass on. If I am on hospice or know that day is soon, my family members will have instructions as to who to contact for sale and disposition of my goods.

    What goes around comes around. I look upon estate sales with mixed feelings these days having worked in hospice. I am there to hear the last wishes at times.

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