June 20, 2024


Interior Of The Road

Finding Value: Guide to Buying Tools at an Estate Sale

Estate sales are great places to find a variety of different types of tools–everything from gardening to power tools to antique hand tools. It is not uncommon to find tools that have barely been put to use and are in pristine condition and are still in the box; or used tools that are usually in not so bad shape that can be repaired to like-new condition on the cheap.

In an estate sale, you will generally find the tools will be laid out in the garage or basement and will be easy pickings if you can get to them first. If you are not terribly familiar with tools (especially those requiring electricity or gas) then it may be hard for you to distinguish between the good and the bad and detect if tools are worth the price on their tags. By all means bring a buddy who is well schooled in tools and can help you make a proper selection.

Antique hunters are often on the prowl for older tools with a cool history. Very old wood working tools, for example, are a hot collectible and have a high resale value. Even if the blades appear rusty or the wood handles a little dusty, many of these coveted instruments still have plenty of worth to tool buffs who are more than happy to give it a bit of elbow grease to get it back into use and add it to their collections.

Here are some quick tips for buying tools at an estate sale:

  1. Whenever possible whip out your iPhone and research the tools before you buy them. If you use eBay for your research then you may find hundreds or thousands of results. If you know exactly what you are going to use the tool for, then power ampage should also be of concern. Will the 18-volt power drill do the job or will you need something a bit more heavy duty such as a 20-volt one? The more you know about what you need the less research you will have to do.
  2. This may sound silly, but when buying a power tool do plug it in to make sure it actually works! You don’t want to get home only to discover you hit the “on” button and the thing is silent. With fuel driven tools such as gas powered items, this might be a trickier endeavor. If you have to put the tool aside and run out for a can of gas, by all means do so. Check the oil as well, because a tool that has had oil or fuel sitting in it for years could be problematic.
  3. If you want to save money, then it is best that you do a quick price comparison. The same used tool you find at an estate sale could be priced at your local home improvement store for the exact same amount, but brand new. Even if the tool is priced cheaper by $10 or less, you will still be better off purchasing the tool brand new. Websites like Craigslist, Amazon and eBay are all great sites to find refurbished tools and many of the sellers offer free shipping.
  4. Before you use the tools you have purchased from the estate sale make sure you know how to operate them properly. This is both a safety worry and a concern for avoiding any possible malfunctions. If you purchased the tool and it’s still in its original box and has the instruction manual, then you are in luck. Don’t be a goofball and go ahead and read the darn thing so you know how to use it correctly. If the instruction manual is not available, don’t hesitate to search for it online or call the manufacturer itself to request one.
  5. Make sure you check for condition to ensure the instrument you are buying isn’t falling apart. Ensure handles are firmly placed and not wobbling about, look for any missing or broken parts, or that there are no cracks. If an electrical cord is frayed, you could easily take it to a repair shop to get it replaced for just a few bucks. You want to check that any wood parts are not split or dry to the point that they are not salvageable. Heavy grime or grease is not going to be easy to clean up, so be sure the tool in question is going to merit a major cleaning.