Garage Sales, Yard Sales, Tag Sales: What's the Difference?

A true garage sale takes place inside the garage.
Hero Images/Hero Images/Getty Images

Secondhand sales go by many names: yard sale, garage sale, tag sale, moving sale, estate sale, attic sale, and more. Group events may be called white elephant sales, block sales, church bazaars, boot sales, or yard sale trails. Ever wonder about the differences between the different types of sales? Or even whether there's a difference at all? Here's what each term means and how to tell the events apart.

Block Sale

A block sale happens when multiple households on the same block of the same street agree to have yard sales on the same weekend. Then, they advertise the event (in classified ads and on signage) as a block sale instead of as individual sales. 

Community Yard or Garage Sale

A community garage or yard sale is the same as a block sale, but it includes an entire neighborhood or subdivision instead of just a single block. With community sales, neighborhood and homeowners associations frequently set the dates, take care of advertising, and bring in food vendors and portable toilets for the events. Many organize the sales as annual events.

Citywide Yard or Garage Sale

Citywide garage and yard sales are similar to community sales, but the entire city or town is invited to participate. Citywide sales are frequently organized by local government offices, tourism boards, or chambers of commerce.

Church Sale

Church sales are held when members donate their discards to be sold at a sale where the proceeds benefit the church or some program it sponsors. The sale may be held inside the church or outside on the grounds. The former is more common. Shoppers like church sales because multiple merchandise donors mean more sale merchandise in a single location. 

Church Bazaar

A church bazaar is the same as a church sale, though sometimes edibles and handmade merchandise may be sold in addition to donated secondhand goods. Fundraising bazaars aren't limited to churches, but it's one of the most common usages.

White Elephant Sale

The term "white elephant" refers to a burdensome, unwanted possession. At a white elephant sale, multiple people donate their white elephants (and other discards) to a sale where the proceeds benefit a charity, cause, or organization.

Boot Sale

The term boot sale originated in the United Kingdom, where the trunk of a car is called the boot. Sellers gather in a field, parking lot, or other predetermined location and sell their goods out of their boots.

Junk-in-the-Trunk Sale

A junk-in-the-trunk sale is the United States version of a boot sale, where merchandise is sold out of the sellers' vehicles. It's occasionally shortened just to trunk sale, but don't mistake it for the type of trunk sales offered by the fashion industry.

Highway Yard Sale

highway yard sale is an annual sale event with a predetermined route along one or more highways, sometimes with detours through participating towns on the route. Sellers set up yard sales at private residences and in fields and parking lots on the route. Sometimes professional antique and vintage dealers set up tables and tents along the route as well. Many highway yard sales span multiple states and hundreds of miles.

Yard Sale Trail

Yard sale trail is another term for a highway yard sale. 

Yard Sale

A yard sale is a secondhand sale where you set out your goods on the lawn. The term applies whether you use the front or backyard, but the former is more common.

Garage Sale

At a true garage sale, the merchandise is displayed inside the garage, though it sometimes spills out onto the driveway.

Garage sales are ideal for sellers who don't want early bird shoppers; the sellers can keep the garage door closed until they're ready to start the sale. Holding your sale in the garage also makes it possible to set up the goods the day or night before. Unlike merchandise that's displayed in the yard or carport, the closed garage keeps it safe from rain, thieves, and early birds.

Carport Sale

A carport sale is similar to a garage sale in that the goods are set up in the parking area and frequently extend onto the driveway. The difference is merely that the seller has an open-air carport instead of an enclosed garage.

Though carport, yard, and garage sales are technically different, the terms are frequently used interchangeably to describe any outdoor or open-air sale held at a private residence. In many cases, sellers go with the most common term used regionally. In the area of the American south where I live, for example, most people list their sales as garage sales, even when they're held in the carport or the yard.

Rummage Sale

The word "rummage" means digging through stuff, frequently stuff that's messy or disorganized. Thus, a rummage sale officially refers to a secondhand sale where shoppers have to dig through the goods. However, considering the way the different sale terms are used interchangeably, a rummage sale may be just as tidy and well displayed (or not) as any of the aforementioned sale types.

The term "rummage sale" is frequently, though not necessarily, used when the sale is a fundraising sale for the benefit of an organization or group. In those cases, the events may be held at the organization's location, if it has one, or at the home of a volunteer. When a rummage sale takes place at a private residence, it may be held in the garage, yard, or carport -- or even inside the house.

Jumble Sale

A jumble sale is the same as a rummage sale, particularly the fundraising type, but the term is mostly used in the United Kingdom.

Attic Sale

Unlike other secondhand sales with names that refer to a specific location at the residence, an attic sale isn't held in the seller's attic. An attic sale is typically held in the carport, yard, or garage of a residence, and it features objects the sellers cleared out of their attics. In reality, you'll find discarded goods from other areas of the home too.

Moving Sale

Sellers refer to their events as moving sales when they're getting rid of their unwanted objects before moving to another residence.

Since moving is so exhausting, shoppers assume moving sales will have more merchandise than other types of sales. The theory is that moving requires sellers to finally clear unused possessions out of attics, basements, and closets and that they'd rather sell the stuff than move it. Those assumptions are frequently correct.

Tag Sale

Technically, the term "tag sale" can refer to any sale where you put price tags on your secondhand stuff and offer it for sale. A tag sale may be held anywhere on the exterior of the property or inside the home. 

The term "tag sale" is used more in the northeast than in other parts of the United States. In some areas, a tag sale is considered the same as an estate sale, and the owners of the merchandise may hire professional sale organizers to run the event.

Estate Sale

Estate sales typically occur when all or most of a home's contents are being sold. Traditionally, estate sales were held after a death. Today, estate sales may also occur due to downsizing or long-distance moves.

Estate sales are typically held inside the household being liquidated, though you may also find sale merchandise in the backyard, garage, and outbuildings. Most estate sales are organized by professional estate sale companies, who do the job for a percentage of the proceeds, but some sellers and heirs opt to hold estate sales on their own too.