Deciding whether to host a garage sale or an estate sale can be a little like choosing between running a 5k and a marathon—each option has its own pace, preparation, and rewards. Whether you want to declutter, pick up some extra cash, or just get rid of stuff that no longer sparks joy, it’s helpful to know the difference between garage sales and estate sales to decide which one will work best for you.

What’s the difference?

What is the difference? And can you have a garage without a garage? Do you need to have an estate to host an estate sale?

A garage sale is usually a do-it-yourself kind of deal where you sell things from your garage, yard, or driveway. (There’s the answer to the question about whether you need a garage. You don’t!) It’s a casual event intended to clear out personal items you no longer need, such as old toys, clothes, books, and household goods. Garage sales usually last a day or two.

An estate sale is more comprehensive and is often used to empty an entire house. (Do you need to be dead to have an estate sale? Contrary to popular belief, no!) They’re usually held after a major life event, like the death of a family member, or a major downsizing before a move. Most estate sales are managed by professionals who specialize in organizing, pricing, and selling everything from every day, small-value items to very valuable things like antiques, art, and jewelry. These sales can last several days and are geared toward selling a lot of items—even a whole house full.

Garage sale or estate sale? What to consider

1. Quantity and type of items

The number of and the types of things you need to sell is a big part of deciding which kind of sale you should have. A garage sale is ideal if you’re looking to get rid of a limited number of everyday household goods. Those are usually things that might be worth a quarter to $50 dollars.

An estate sale, on the other hand, is better for large quantities of things, especially if you have higher-value items. If you have a whole house full of things to sell, or items like artwork, collectibles, or fine furniture, an estate sale might be the better option. The professionals running the sale have the expertise to price everything to ensure you get what it’s worth.

2. Time and effort involved

Hosting a garage sale is a lot of work. You’ve got to organize, price everything, advertise, and sell it all yourself. On the plus side, you have the benefit of total control of the process, and you don’t have to give part of the profits to anyone or pay any fees.

An estate sale is much less hands-on for the seller because a professional company handles the details. They will sort, appraise, price, and sell the items. While this service comes at a cost—typically a percentage of the sales—it can relieve a tremendous burden, particularly during emotionally difficult times such as after a loved one’s death.

3. Cash: how much and how fast?

Garage sales are straightforward with potentially immediate cash for your items. But because garage sales tend to attract bargain hunters, you may get a lot of lowballers offering less than the prices you want.

Estate sales are likely to bring in more money, especially with valuable items. That’s because of the professionals handling pricing and advertising. Estate sale companies have the expertise and resources to attract the right collectors and buyers who may be willing to pay more for certain items.

4. Possible legal considerations

In some cases, there could be legal or financial considerations that affect your decision on whether to have a garage sale or an estate sale. That’s likely to happen when someone has died and the estate settlement requires you to sell items in a certain way to close out the estate.

5. Different vibes

Garage sales can be a fun event to host, because your neighbors will probably stop by to do a little shopping, and you also might enjoy meeting other people from the community. Estate sales can bring in a broader audience, including serious collectors and antiques dealers—which also has its pluses, but might mean less of a community feel and more of a professional sale atmosphere.