One of the best ways to start making money on the side is flipping used items that you find at garage sales, thrift stores, auctions, or online marketplaces.
There is no barrier to entry other than being willing to spend your own time and you can make a lot of money once you get good at finding deals.
It’s also incredibly fun.
Going to yard sales and auctions looking for potential flips can feel a lot like a treasure hunt, and it’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning.
This post is going to be an introduction to used item flipping for beginners in the form of a list of FAQs.
If you are interested in trying this, you should check out the $1 Challenge as a way to make sure you actually start.
How much money can you make from flipping?
This depends on a lot of factors, but I know people who make a full-time living (and then some) doing nothing but flipping used items.
It’s not impossible to make $100,000 or more, especially if you are doing it full time (and combine it with retail arbitrage, which is mainly flipping new stuff on Amazon).
When you first get started, you will obviously not be making anywhere close to that amount. How quickly you make money depends on things like the amount of time you have, the amount of money you can spend, and luck.
I know people who made a couple hundred bucks on their first weekend flipping, and I know others who broke even or even lost money by buying something that they couldn’t sell because they thought it looked cool.
If you decide to try flipping or have already done it a few times, comment on this post with the results of your first week or month.
How much money do I need to get started?
Any amount is enough, that’s what makes flipping such a great way to get started making money.
Here are some examples of things I’ve either personally flipped or seen someone else flip that cost $5 or less to buy and sold for $20 or more:
- Mario Kart N64 ($25)
- An old single speed bicycle ($80)
- A baby carrier ($35)
- Tires ($40)
- A window A/C ($30)
- Cast iron dutch oven ($40)
- Old Coke cans ($20)
- First edition of The Little Prince ($100)
The only caveat is that if you have more to spend, you can make more money faster because you can also buy more.
Just don’t let money be a reason to stop you. If you take $5 and spend the next week looking at garage sales, auctions, and thrift stores for a great flip, you could easily turn it into $20+.
What if I don’t have any money? Can I get started flipping for free?
Yes, you can get started flipping for free. You’ll want to pay very close attention to the Craigslist Free section and move quickly as soon as you see something valuable.
Furniture is a great thing to look for if you have a truck. Many people put their old furniture up simply because they want it gone quickly and don’t want to deal with the hassle of moving it.
If you don’t have a truck, look for smaller items.
“Curb alerts” can be especially lucrative. These are when people decide to clean out a house or garage and just drag everything to their curb for people to take on a first come basis. If you get to a curb alert first, you can leave with a very profitable haul.
In my experience, children’s toys are a regular find in curb alerts, and they are relatively easy to resell as well, especially if you clean them up a bit.
What are the best places to find used items to flip?
The best places to look for used items to flip are:
- Garage sales
- Estate sales
- Thrift stores
- Flea markets
- Facebook Marketplace
- Other apps if people use them in your area
What are the best places to sell used items?
In my experience, the best places to sell used items are:
- Facebook Marketplace
What are the best items to flip?
I wouldn’t get too caught up looking for a specific list of items when you get started. You can find profitable flips in just about any product category imaginable.
Some of the more popular categories you’ll hear people talk about are books, video games, electronics, tools, antiques, toys, and name brand fashion. Books and video games can often be found in big bins or piles for cheap because the sellers don’t know the value and don’t feel like going through it all.
Products related to your own hobbies are worth paying attention to as well because you will be more in tune with what things are worth.
How can I figure out what something is worth?
There’s no one best way to do this. You just have to look the item up online and try to find what it sells for.
This is an area where inexperienced flippers often run into trouble because they’ll convince themselves they have found a great deal because “it sells for $1000 new” or “it’s listed on eBay for $150 more than what these guys are asking”.
A high price when new doesn’t automatically correlate to a high used price as well. Some items depreciate very quickly because people greatly prefer to buy new for some reason.
High asking prices also don’t mean much if the item isn’t actually selling. One thing you can do to get a more accurate picture is view completed listings on eBay rather than current ones.
What if someone lowballs me?
Getting offers significantly below your asking price is just part of selling used items online. You will run into this on the majority of your listings on sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
Often times these are other flippers trying to get a great deal.
If the offer is extremely low and not profitable, you should probably just tell them no. If they are near a price that you would like to get, you can negotiate a more favorable price.
If an item has been up for a very long time (several weeks or more) and all you are getting are what you think are lowball offers, it may be time to consider that you had overvalued the product to begin with.
How do I negotiate when buying?
The most basic way to negotiate is to simply offer a lower price. You can do this on almost all purchases. The only exceptions are when someone claims they are firm on price, but even then there is often a little bit of wiggle room.
A better negotiation tactic is bundling.
Instead of just saying “Will you take $20 for the bike?” when they were asking $35, you can say something like this…
“I like this bike over here, but I don’t think it’s worth quite that much. What do you think of $45 for both of the bikes and that box of video games?”
Bundling is great because it is a win-win scenario. You get more items for cheaper, and they get more money overall.
One thing to avoid is lying about having other options. This is a very transparent bargaining tactic that will make sellers not want to deal with you.
How do I negotiate when selling?
When selling, you will get a lot of offers below asking price.
Most of these offers are below what the potential buyers are willing to pay, so asking a higher price in return is a smart move.
On lower priced items, there usually isn’t enough room to do multiple rounds of offers. On items that are worth $100+, you can often go back and forth multiple times, so keep that in mind when making your first counter offer. You don’t want to start off too low and leave money on the table.
The longer an item sits, the more you should be willing to negotiate.
I’ll be updating this guide over time as I think of more questions or information to add. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments.
If you want to make more money and an online selling business is something that intrigues you, flipping is a fantastic way to get started. Like I said in the intro, there’s no barrier to entry and it’s actually a lot of fun too.
There’s really no excuse to not get started this week (or today even).
The entire arbitrage market (buying low and selling high) is a tremendous opportunity right now thanks to the internet, and I expect it to stay that way for the foreseeable future.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how used item flipping is a great gateway to selling online, so I’ve also been thinking about ways to get more people doing it. One idea I really like is setting up some sort of ‘flipping challenge’ similar to what Gary V did last year, but also offering some prizes.
It would be free to enter, and the idea would be starting with some small amount like $20 and seeing who could turn that into the most money within a specific period of time.
There is obviously a lot I still need to figure out about this, but if it is something you are interested in, comment below with any ideas you have.
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