How To Make Garage Sale Signs That Work Like Magnets

Confusing garage sale sign

Garage sale signs can make the difference between nobody showing up at your sale, and having cars lined up and down your street with people clamoring to get a look at your treasures.

There are 3 things you need your garage sale signs to do:

  1. Announce you’re having a sale, and when
  2. Direct people to your sale
  3. Tell people how your sale will benefit  them

Having been to garage sales around the country, I can attest to the biggest mistake people make with their signs – not being able to read them!!  Here are the types of signs that can make even a die-hard bargain hunter turn around and go home:

Lazy – Signs written on brown cardboard in pencil can’t be read more than a foot away

Bashful – so small you can’t see them

Fancy – written in calligraphy, or with cutesy drawings so letters can’t be distinguished

Floppies – they aren’t secured well enough to stop flopping in the wind

Manuscripts – they’re too long to read while going 30 mph

Teasers – The arrow points in one direction, you follow it, but it doesn’t lead anywhere

I’m done complaining now.  Here’s how to make WINNING signs:


Before making your signs, have you checked with your local government to ask if you need a permit, and what the restrictions are for signage?  I’ve just read regulations for 10 different cities and found 10 different restrictions.  If you have a homeowner’s association, they may have regulations, too.

Some places don’t care what you do with your signs, whiles others are so particular you might as well have no signs at all.  Read on if signs are permitted in your area.


The bigger the signs the better, as long as they’re allowed, and safe.  If you happen to own a billboard, go for it.

The maximum size is usually dictated by your local codes.  Always use the largest size allowed. Making a large sign and putting it on the side of an SUV parked legally in a prime location is great and may not count as a posted sign.


Think sturdy and strong, and unless your weather forecast guarantees no precipitation, water-repellent.

Corrugated plastic sheets are the best material, but that requires an investment before making your first dime.  The next best material is drywall.  Poster boards ar okay, but NOT  flimsy paper.

You can secure signs on wooden stakes or metal stakes, but no stakes are often a better option.  Instead, use a  white box.  If you don’t have white, paint it, or cover it one of the colors below.

box for garage sale signs

Place the box in position, and weigh it down with something heavy like rocks or bricks.  The beauty of this method is you can put lettering on more than one side where motorists can see them from different directions.

If rain is in the forecast, you can cover any surface with clear plastic.  Dry cleaning bags are ideal.  Another idea is writing your sign on contact paper, if you have any around, and stick it on your base material.

Making your signs identical will help customers get to you.  If you switch from a trail of breadcrumbs to popcorn balls without warning, it gets confusing.

Don’t be afraid to add sign attachments if you’re permitted. Colored balloons, pinwheels, or anything else that moves in the wind is a big attention grabber, as long as it doesn’t cover your writing.

You want your signs seen from far away, with the lettering clearly visible. These combinations have been proven best because they project the farthest:

markers for garage sale signs

Yellow Background—— Black Lettering

Red Background ———White Lettering

White Background ——-Red Lettering


Don’t even think of picking up a pen or pencil. Think wide-tipped indelible marker: big, bold, and water-proof. Printed block letters are the easiest to read at any distance.  Direct those creative juices of yours into your wording, not lettering.


Put up as many signs as necessary for cars coming in any direction to easily find you.  The best tried-and-true method of pinpointing locations is to start from your house.  Drive in every possible direction you can, within a mile radius, that takes you to an intersection, ending with a major intersection.  Remember you’ll need signs for drivers going in both directions.

Each ending point will need a sign.  From there, start back home, and get to the farthest intersection you can go without losing sight of that first sign.  That will be where your next sign goes, and keep up the pattern until you get home.  Make sure to place a sign at every corner with a directional arrow included.

It’s very easy to forget where you put your signs at the end of the day. Make a note of the locations to verify they’re still there during the sale, and for when it’s time to take them down.

You may have a lot of signs to put up, depending on where you live, but you won’t miss a single potential customer.

What To Include  

               checklist for garage sale signsWhat is it?

Of course, you need the word “sale” to distinguish your garage sale signs from those for open houses, store closings, and picnics.

You have to say what type of sale it is, whether you want to call it a yard sale, garage sale, or any other synonym.  If you’re having the sale because you’re moving, say so.  That says, “I have a whole houseful of stuff I think is cool, but it all has to go”.

Where is it?

There are two schools of thought about this.  One is to put in your house number and street.  It’s the easiest way to find your place, and for customers using a GPS.  Others believe you should leave the number out, so early birds can’t arrive before you’re ready.  It’s your call.

We’re all trained to follow arrows when direction hunting.  Make sure when securing your sign that the arrow can’t possibly be misunderstood or the sign turned around.  Customers could wind up at someone else’s sale, and you lose.

When is it?

Don’t leave the day out.  If it’s one day only, it’s incentive for people to stop by right away.  Anyone interested who doesn’t have time to stop will think of coming back if the sale covers two or more days.

Include a starting time, and end time.  Putting “ 9 – ?” can work against you.  You could get someone ringing your bell long after you’ve packed it in.  Other potential customers might pass your sale up later in the day thinking you’re probably closed, even if you’re still open for business.

The Hookgarage sale signs magnet

Just because you’re having a sale isn’t a good enough reason for people to go out of their way to get there. People want to know what’s in it for them.

It’s not unusual at a busy intersection to find as many as 5 garage sale signs.  Which one do you go to with only 5 seconds to choose?

You eliminate the three you can’t read and are left with two pointing in opposite directions.  One simply says “yard sale”.  The other says “Yard Sale & Refreshments”.  I know where I’m going!

The One Word Hook – the bigger the sale, the bigger the attraction, but leave out the word “Huge”.  Everybody sticks that in their garage sale signs when they can’t come up with anything else.  You’re more creative than that!

If signs need to be small because of regulations, and there’s only room for one or two descriptive words, you can still stand out in a crowd.

What’s your selling point?  If it’s huge, (okay, I’m kidding), be more original.  These are samples to give you the idea:

  • Gargantuan
  • Jumbo
  • Oversized
  • 5-Family

If items are mostly clothes:

  • Fashion
  • High-end
  • Boutique
  • GQ

Drum roll…and the biggest magnet is…”FREE “

free garage sale signs

Anything works:

  • Cold drinks
  • Hot drinks
  • Doggie treats
  • Garage sale maps
  • Raffle tickets
  • Free dandelions with every purchase

The credit for the last one goes to a suburban couple, whose garage sale signs made me laugh, and pulled me in.  True to their word, yellow weeds were taking over the yard, and the place was packed with people.  Adults were buying, and kids were having a ball weeding.  Brilliant!

If you have more room on your signs, you can choose to add more information, (without writing a whole article):

  • Teenagers finally cleaned closets
  • My mother-in-law was a hoarder
  • Three complete rooms of furniture
  • Enough toys to keep a kindergarten quiet

My last words about garage sale signs: Take them down after the sale.  Forgetting this last step could earn you a hefty fine, and unhappy neighbors.  You won’t forget, though, because your signs will work so well, you’ll want them for next year!

Extra garage sale tips

Happy Selling!

Have you seen garage sale signs that drive you crazy or make you laugh? Send me your photos to share!