After you’ve sorted through a basement full of second-hand workshop equipment and decided what to keep, it’s time to move out what’s left. We walk you through how to sell large and small tools, and why you may want to consider donating some items, even if they have value.  

How to Sell

When it comes to selling tools, remember that your time is worth money, and it takes significant time to list individual items and then get them to buyers. Aim for group sales and consider whether donation may be a better use of your time for batches of lower-value items.

Wait for an offer

In cases where the deceased was a pro, or an avid hobbyist, a friend or colleague with similar interests will likely make an offer on a collection of second-hand workshop equipment. These offers tend to come within a few weeks of the death, by means of an in-person visit or a phone call, so be prepared. If more than one person is interested, great! Sell to the highest bidder. However, if someone feeds you a line like, “This stuff isn’t worth much, but I’ll help you get rid of it,” beware.  The opposite is probably closer to the truth.

Contact a local club or association 

Whatever specialty activity the deceased was into—building hot rods, carving decoys, crafting furniture or building guitars—reach out to the nearest organization of enthusiasts. Check for websites and Facebook pages of local clubs or associations. Tell them what you have and ask if they know anyone interested in making an offer on the collection. Trust us, they will.

Use an independent auction house 

If the collection has sufficient value, an auction house will come catalogue, package, and transport second-hand workshop equipment, then sell it all for you. Fast and efficient, this route saves time and labor. And while you will pay some fees, you gain the ability to reach a broader range of buyers, and sell faster (and probably at a higher price) than you could have on your own.

Avoid Craigslist 

We don’t recommend using Craigslist to sell second-hand workshop equipment, even if it has significant value. Not only is it time-consuming—you’re selling one item to one potential buyer at a time—you’re inviting strangers into the estate. That is a liability, in terms of potential injury and lawsuit, as well as theft.

Online auction sites 

Listing on a site like eBay gains access to millions of potential buyers from around the world, as well as a competitive marketplace, which can drive up prices. However, be aware: Going this route will require cataloging and uploading photos of each item; writing descriptions of said items; monitoring the auction (i.e. answering potentially dozens of questions about each); collecting payments from buyers; and, finally, packaging/shipping what you sell.

Get the Auction Checklist: Know What Will Sell

When to Donate

Sometimes, it makes more sense to donate than sell. Perhaps the tools have sentimental value, and you want them to go to a specific person or organization. Or maybe they’re worth so little you can’t sell them, or you just don’t want to bother with the hassle. Regardless, here’s how to decide what and how to give away.

Legacy

Many of the families we work with find it meaningful to donate instead of sell Dad’s second-hand workshop equipment. They are happiest seeing those workshop tools continue to be used and cared for. If this is the case for your family, here’s what to do.

  • If the deceased was a skilled craftsman who took a mentee under his wing, you may find it valuable to pass on his tools. You could potentially put the apprentice into business. And due to the special nature of a mentor relationship, the gift carries added significance: In his use of the tools, the apprentice honors the old master, and keeps his memory alive. And one day, the tools may be handed down again.
  • Consider donating tools to a program like a high school, community center, artisans’ collective or tool lending library. While the emotional payoff may not be as direct, knowing that kids and aspiring young craftsmen are using the tools to learn a skilled trade can bring deep satisfaction.
  • Spreading beloved tools around to friends, neighbors, and family members who knew the deceased can comfort you. Seeing those tools used again, and knowing they are appreciated, can keep happy memories alive. However, just know that for tools that have value, you are essentially giving away cash.

Practicality

  • If the estate has an old push mower and an electric weed eater that a neighbor can use, donate those. Such items don’t sell for much, and, being bulky, are a hassle to haul away to the dump.
  • Low-quality, mass-produced electric tools may still be usable, but have very little resale value. We’re talking bargain-bin table saw, air compressor, and drills from the big-box discount store. If an independent auction house won’t take these items, it’s better to give them away than go through the hassle of attempting to sell them yourself.
  • Similarly, low-grade hand tools like screwdrivers, pliers, wrench and socket sets and hammers are handy enough around the house, but it’s a pain to sell each one. Invite friends and family members to select from these for their own toolboxes.
  • Once friends and family have had their pick, try Freecycle. The site allows you to donate second-hand workshop equipment to locals who will come and pick them up. TIP: If you’re going this route, conduct the exchanges outside the house. This nullifies injury potential and liability, and keeps nosey visitors from snooping around.

Even if you don’t personally want to keep that second-hand workshop equipment, you do want to know it’s going to good use. Strengthen your family’s legacy by either turning those tools into cash, or sending them where the donations will do the most good.


At Wayforth we work with families in transition. We can empty an entire house within days, sorting what items to keep, sell, donate, and discard. Our employees pack and move everything, then prepare the house for sale. Call us for a free consultation.

Our advice is based on our experience cleaning out and settling estates for our clients. Each project is different, and each state's laws are different. We always recommend that you consult personally with experts about your particular situation before making any important decisions.