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10 Tips for How to Bargain at Flea Markets: The Art of Haggling

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Who loves a good flea market!? In my opinion, there are two reasons to go to a flea market. 1. To find unique pieces that are otherwise hard to come by. 2. To get a good deal! However, often people are either unaware that you can bargain or are uncomfortable with asking for a discount. So today I want to talk about how to bargain at flea markets.

Love a good deal but scared to haggle? Learn the art of haggling along with 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Click here to read more...

This post may contain affiliate links where I earn a small commission on your purchases at no additional cost to you.

If you know me, then you know I loooove a good flea market. In the summers I try to get to a flea market every week if I can. There is just something about them. You meet interesting people. You find unique things. And it is just generally fun for me to scour through stacks of old junk to find that hidden treasure.

But the real thrill is in the haggling. 😉 It’s like a social/economical challenge that I believe I’ve come to be quite skilled at. {You’ve marked that bottle for $1? I’ll give you $.50 and a smile.} And thus, I’m sharing 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Let’s discover the art of haggling.

10 Tips to Learn the Art of Haggling

Let me just start by saying this is a practiced skill, and one that I would encourage you to approach with respect. The first time I asked for a discount I am pretty sure my face flushed and my hands shook because it just felt weird and intimidating to request something like that. But as time went on and I realized that vendors want to get rid of their stuff as much as I want to buy it, it became much easier.

I view it as a reciprocal relationship. Vendor has stuff. I want stuff. I have money. Vendor wants money. Win win. As long as there is give and take. If you are respectful with your offer then most times the vendor will be happy to oblige.

Throughout this post I’ll be sharing some photos of flea market bargains I’ve found over the past few years and they will serve to help illustrate some of my points. Here we go!

Love a good deal but scared to haggle? Learn the art of haggling along with 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Click here to read more...

How to Bargain at Flea Markets

Tip 1: Cash

First, you must know your budget and bring cash. I say this to start off the lesson because it is NOT a deal if you can’t afford what you’re buying. So make sure you’ve established a budget for yourself prior to heading out.

Next, pay with cash. Cash speaks volumes at a flea market. Often, vendors don’t even accept another form of payment. So don’t get stuck running to find an ATM while someone else snags your ironstone!

Love a good deal but scared to haggle? Learn the art of haggling along with 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Click here to read more...

Another reason to bring cash brings us to tip 1 for how to bargain at flea markets.

Use the phrase, “I only have _______” and show your bill.”

Now, let me just clarify that this is not me giving you permission to lie. If you have $10 and say you only have $5, that’s a no-no. But if you are at the end of your budget and you really do only have $5 then by all means, let the vendor know!

Many times a vendor will part ways with an item if he knows it is either your stated price or nothing.

Tip 2: Be Knowledgable

A big mistake buyers make is not being knowledgable about vintage items or antiques prior to purchasing. For the most part, if I am going to a flea market then I am not looking for the booths full of cheap products made in China last year. I want the good stuff! And to get the good stuff I need to know what it’s worth.

Love a good deal but scared to haggle? Learn the art of haggling along with 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Click here to read more...

Let’s take these vintage crocks, for example. My large vintage crock was marked at $10. Folks. THAT. IS. A. STEAL. 10 gallon vintage crocks go for $75-$125 in most antique stores or via private sellers. You better believe I snagged that baby up. (But I did so for $7, because I haggled! I’ll tell you the reason in Tip 3.)

However, had I not known the value of these crocks prior I might have thought $10 was too high and passed up a bargain.

Conversely, you obviously don’t want to overpay. So make sure you do some research ahead of time on whatever specific items you are looking for. An easy way to do this is to see what price items are selling for online or in stores. Ebay has a filter where you can search for an item and narrow it down by Sold items. From there, you can see what your items are selling for other places around the country and even the world. Be educated!

Tip 3: Look for Defects

Do you know what I really don’t mind? Defects. Cracked wooden bowls, chipped crocks, stained ironstone. All it “speaks” to me is character. But it also “speaks”, discount. Remember that 10 gallon crock for $10? Yep- it has defects. So I offered $7 and he didn’t even blink an eye before accepting. I probably could have gotten it for $5, darn it.

Love a good deal but scared to haggle? Learn the art of haggling along with 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Click here to read more...

Inspect your item and point out the flaws prior to asking for a discount. Works like a charm.

Tip 4: Just Ask

Ok, you’ve got cash in your pocket, you know what you should pay, and you’re on the verge of asking. But then you chicken out. Friends. Just ask.

Love a good deal but scared to haggle? Learn the art of haggling along with 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Click here to read more...

This summer I’ve taken several non-flea market goers to the flea market with me. It is quite hilarious to see their reactions when I get a deal. I always get requests to teach them how to bargain at flea markets. But why make something more complicated than it needs to be?

Just ask!”

Remember to ask respectfully. If your item is priced at $20 then don’t be stingy and offer $1. The vendor needs to make money too! But make your offer a little lower than you are willing to pay so there is room for negotiation.

The worst that can happen is the vendor says no. In which case, let’s move on to tip 5.

Tip 5: Practice the Pause

So the vendor said no. Maybe he was mean. That happens, honestly. But most of the time there is a slight hesitation in the No response. That is your window of opportunity. If he pauses before saying no, pause right back at him. Let’s walk through this.

Me: You’ve got $5 on this platter. It has a chip in it so would you take $2?

Vendor: …..No I don’t think I’ll do that today. It’s a good deal already!

Me: …….Inspects the platter, squinty eye contemplation facial expressions, sets platter back down.

Vendor: How about $3?

Me: Yeah I’ll do that.

BOOM. Just saved $2.

Love a good deal but scared to haggle? Learn the art of haggling along with 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Click here to read more...

Guys, I’m telling you, practice the pause. Don’t rush it. If they see you waffling then they will most likely come down closer to your negotiated price without you uttering another word.

However, if that doesn’t work, let’s consider tip 6.

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Tip 6: Two for One Combo

I was recently at a vendor’s booth who had two items that I wanted, however I thought they were both overpriced. I asked individually about a discount on each item, to which he said no. So I paused. I squinted. I set the items down. And then he got distracted by another customer. Bad luck.

But when life gives you lemons, you do a two for one combo. (Isn’t that the saying?)

Love a good deal but scared to haggle? Learn the art of haggling along with 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Click here to read more...

Love a good deal but scared to haggle? Learn the art of haggling along with 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Click here to read more...

The above two photos showcase the two items I’m talking about! A vintage wine bottle and a hand made African vessel. When I asked individually for discounts I was asking for about a $5 discount total. (To which he said no…remember?)

So after he got distracted I decided to try another tactic. Enter the two for one. I asked him if he’d do both items for a certain dollar amount, which happened to be a $4 discount from his original price. And he said yes immediately! Only a $1 difference from my original ask but now he was getting rid of two pieces!

Double BOOM.

Tip 7: Walk Away

Here comes the risky one! If all the other tactics have failed and the vendor still won’t meet you within your budget, then walk away. Don’t look back. I’ve done this many times and then heard the sweet sounds of the vendor calling, “Ma’am” (Don’t call me ma’am…) “I’ll do your price. But just this one time. (With a wink)”

Love a good deal but scared to haggle? Learn the art of haggling along with 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Click here to read more...

It’s hard to pass up a willing buyer! So give them a reason to want to make the sale. However, it is a risk! If you really love the item and are willing to pay more than you’re stated price then only use this tactic if you really can’t reach an agreement. It’s possible someone else is waiting in the wings ready to snatch up your treasure once you walk away.

Tip 8: Return Later

So you’ve walked away. And you regret it. Go back at the end of the day! Perhaps the vendor will be more willing to bargain if he doesn’t have to pack it back up without a sale. Restate your price and see if he’ll be more flexible.

Love a good deal but scared to haggle? Learn the art of haggling along with 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Click here to read more...

Most of the time, if you’ve given a respectable offer then a vendor will be willing to work with you at this point. But remember, it might not be there at the end of the day if it was a decent price to begin with!

Tip 9: Know When You’re Already Getting a Good Deal

Here’s the thing: I didn’t originally set out to figure out how to bargain at flea markets so I could strip the vendors of all profits. These people need to make a living too! So know when you’re already getting a good deal and make your offer accordingly. Don’t get greedy and vendors will be more willing to work with you for a few bucks savings.

Love a good deal but scared to haggle? Learn the art of haggling along with 10 tips for how to bargain at flea markets. Click here to read more...

This wooden grid behind my picture frame was found at a junk sale as a set of 2. The vendor had them marked at $6, which is a decent price already. So I asked to get them for $5 and he accepted. Easy transaction. I saved a buck and also got a great bargain.

You don’t need to talk someone down by $10 on every deal! A dollar saved here and then will still add up in the long run.

Bonus Tip: Look for unusual ways to use flea market finds! I had no idea what I was going to do with these grids when I bought them but I liked that they were unusual and the wood tone was beautiful. So think outside the box when you’re on the hunt!

Tip 10: Be Ready to Let It Go

So you’ve tried every strategy and you still can’t come to a price agreement. It’s time to let it go. Just like in a department store where you can’t bargain for prices, you have to make the decision to walk away from something that you love but can’t afford (or aren’t willing to pay more than it’s worth, in some cases). And that’s ok! There will be another treasure at another flea market on another day. 🙂

How to Bargain at Flea Markets: Bonus Material

Ready for a little bonus tip? Tip 11:

Be Human”

Be kind. Say hello to vendors and other customers. Build rapport with vendors you see each week. Share a story about a favorite find. Help brainstorm what someone could do with something they’ve got on a table.

Believe me it isn’t only about the bargains. Be kind to them and they will be more willing to be kind to you. As in all areas of life, kindness matters at the flea market too.

So what do you think? Has this been helpful in learning how to bargain at flea markets?

Are you ready to give it a try?! Leave me any questions below. And I’d love to hear about a good deal you’ve haggled! There is camaraderie in scoring a sweet deal! 😉 Tell me below!

Sarah Signature

 

 

 

{Tell a story with your home.- Sarah Symonds}

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Looking for decor sources for some of the non-flea market finds in this post? Click the affiliate images below.

11 Comments

  1. This is so amazing Sarah!! I needed to be reminded of some of these and learned new ones too! Love the pause technique!! What a great, informative and empowering post.

  2. Ok this article was SO helpful! I go to flea markets all the time and I haggle but you had so many new tips! I will be trying the pause tip from now on!!! Loved this, thank you!

  3. I really like all the tips you gave! I wish we had a lot of flea markets close to go to. I love antiques to mix with regular decor! Always enjoy your posts.

  4. Love all this advice! Especially about being kind, and thinking of what is a good price for both you and the seller.
    I wish we had a decent flea near us.

  5. Those are great tips and I like how it keeps it respectful of their items!

    I’ve done similar during Yard/Garage sales. One thing I’ve done is to ask “What is the lowest you can go on this?” Once they tell me, I can either agree with what I had in mind or come back with the lowest I feel is worth. It usually works and works also when I am selling my items. Knowing their lowest, I can get to where I am willing to let something go. 🙂

  6. I would love to know how you find out about flea markets around you. I love going to these type of things, but I can never seem to find any near me.

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