The Do’s and Don’ts of Flea Market Shopping

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Have you ever wondered if there is anything besides cheap clutter at the flea market? You might be surprised at the treasures you'll find! Make sure to read these Do's and Don'ts before you go, to give yourself the best flea market shopping experience possible.

It’s not often that I go to flea markets. I guess I always thought they had a bad rap, selling cheaply made items and all.

But when Joseph approached me about getting a city bike to ride to work, I knew we would be looking at a brand new price tag of at least $200 or more. Thankfully, there were a few bike shops that sold used bikes at a local flea market, so we took off on a Saturday morning to see what exactly we could find.

There were all sorts of vendors selling produce and handmade wares, though some looked like they had just ordered out of the Oriental Trading catalog and set up shop. We even found a place that sold used kitchen mats and area rugs, and they really looked used. Ick!

However, it wasn’t all bad. In fact, we came home with quite a few things. I also learned how to better approach the market next time, for an even more successful flea market shopping experience.

1. DON’T be afraid to barter

I used to be really scared of asking for a lower price, but the flea market is the perfect place to get over this fear! Some prices are just way too high, so offer what you would feel comfortable paying. If the vendor says no, they say no. But sometimes they will come back with another offer, or even say YES.

In the case of Joseph’s bike, he found exactly the one he wanted. It was an older version, but had practically brand new tires to it’s name. The bike was listed at $100, and we had talked about a budget of $75 for a new {used} bike the night before.

Flea Market Bike

Joseph was willing to pay out the difference from his own account {we give each other allowances}, but I wanted to see if the vendor would take $90 first — and they did! I think Joseph owes me a $10 Hobby Lobby run, don’t you think?

2. DO shop different vendors before you buy

Flea markets are notorious for selling the same exact things in different shops, for different prices. Most of the time, the higher priced items are located closer to the door. I didn’t know this going in, but certainly wish I had!

For instance, we decided to pick up a new belt at one of the many leather shops we passed by, and finally found one for $8. We thought it was a pretty good deal, and definitely better than a $20 one in Target.

Flea Market Belt

But a couple aisles later, and we found the same exact belt listed for $3 — ugh! For real?

If only we had waited to scout out the market before we handed over our money, we could have saved at least $5.00 for that purchase. Lesson learned: Scout multiple venders before buying anything!

3. DO know your prices

Not everything will be listed as a better price than a regular store, so it pays to do some market research before you go. Many vendors who “looked” like they were selling closeout items of brand name shampoo, shaving cream, and other bath and body items, were actually pricing them higher than the same product at CVS or Walmart!

I knew that with a coupon/sale match-up, I could buy some of these exact same items for a lot less.

shaving cream

We did however, find a good price on the particular shaving cream Joseph likes, and knew I couldn’t beat what the vendor was offering, even with a coupon. It pays to know your prices.

4. DON’T let vendors push you around

Ever feel like you’re being obnoxiously breathed upon while you’re trying to look at a certain product?

This happened when Joseph and I stopped by a flea market luggage shop. The vendors were literally on top of us trying to sell us every bag in site. They needn’t have worried…we had already been talking about getting new luggage since our previous set was falling apart, but at least let me look at the colors and open the bags….sheesh!

I am not one to speak up, but it got to the point where I could not stay silent. I may or may not have said something I regretted, but he did finally back off.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s shopping under pressure!

Flea Market Luggage

5.  DO take cash

I rarely have cash on me, but could have kicked myself for not bringing much along. I didn’t even think about it, which was just plain silly — especially when we were going to specifically look at bikes!

Most vendors do have credit card machines, but the ones located in the middle aisles without an electrical outlet are forced to take cash. This is exactly what happened at the bike shop we stopped at and we were stuck using an ATM.

With a $3.00 charge per transaction, plus the $2.00 fee from our bank, we were already out $5.00 that could have been saved by planning ahead and taking enough cash with us. Another lesson learned in the art of avoiding ATM fees!

Now that I know what the flea markets around here have to offer, I’d definitely go again, but only if I had something specific in mind. You can definitely get caught buying things you don’t need, and I try to avoid cheap clutter as much as possible. Ain’t nobody have room for that!

Be sure to check out Flea Markets America to find a flea market location near you, and see what treasures you can find for less. I can’t wait to hear all about your flea market finds and/or tips in the comments!

How often do you shop at a flea market?



Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *