13 of the biggest thrift-shopping mistakes you're making when buying clothes & what to do instead

Shopping for clothes at a thrift store can be equally exciting and overwhelming. There's a special thrill that comes with finding a one-of-a-kind or vintage piece at a discounted price — but it's not always easy to know what's worth buying and what should be kept on the rack.

Insider spoke to experienced thrift-shoppers, bloggers, and influencers about common mistakes people make when shopping for secondhand clothes — and what they should be doing instead.

Going thrifting during busy days, like Saturday and Sunday, means there's more competition for the best finds.

Jillian Owens, the founder of the thrifting blog Refashionista, said that thrift-shoppers should always try to beat the crowds.

For example, if you can only thrift on the weekends, Owens suggests going early in the morning. If you have more flexibility, Owens said, Tuesdays are a good time to shop because at many stores, that's the day when most of the items that were donated over the weekend are put on display.

It's best to stay away from buying thrifted pieces from fast-fashion brands.

Caitlin Trantham is a self-taught seamstress who's been shopping at thrift stores for more than 12 years. She shares transformations of her thrifted clothes on TikTok.

Trantham told Insider that she avoids paying more than $10 for every piece of thrifted clothing she buys. Because of that, when she's at a thrift store, she rarely buys garments from fast-fashion brands, such as Forever 21, H&M, Zara, Fashion Nova, and others.

Trantham said that she can't justify spending $10 on something from one of those places when she could get a vintage or one-of-a-kind piece for the same price.

Trantham said that she occasionally breaks her own rule — but when she does, she sticks to paying $4 or less for thrifted fast-fashion clothes.

Don't just look for special garments. Go digging for basics, too.

Buying basics at a thrift store could potentially be what you save on the most. Trantham said it's important to think about buying basics because there are so many options available at thrift stores.

"I often get so caught up looking for fun vintage and unique pieces that I forget about the black shirt I needed for a certain skirt or the tank tops I wanted for the gym," she said.

Trantham said that some thrift stores offer special discounts — such as days where everything in the shop is 50% — and that those are great times to stock up on wardrobe staples.

Skipping an item because it needs a few alterations can be a missed opportunity.

Sometimes it's worth thinking about the new life you can give thrift store clothes. Alli Mayorga, the founder of Thrifted Queen, told Insider that shoppers should tap into their imagination and think about what a garment can look like if they invest a little bit of money into it.

"Don't pass by something great if it is the wrong size for you," she said. "If you love it, spend the money to get it altered. Chances are you already got a great price since you are thrifting."

That being said, some items aren't worth grabbing if they have stains or holes.

Trantham said to double-check the clothes before buying them. When you pick up an item, it's important to look through the entire garment and make sure it's not damaged. She suggested looking for holes on the sleeves, pant legs, and backside. "Holes in seams can be easily repaired, but a hole in the main fabric could be a challenge," she said.

When it comes to stained clothes, Trantham said that shoppers should only buy a piece that's stained if they're confident they could remove it. If an item is going to require heavy-duty stain-removal, though, it's probably worth skipping.

Thrift-shoppers miss out when they only think about shopping in the current season.

When shopping at the thrift store, think about your year-round wardrobe. Trantham suggests thinking outside of the present day and stocking up on off-season items.