Key takeaways:

  • Denver is the best city for thrifting, based on a combination of metrics including thrift establishment availability, thrifting sales volumes, thrifting-related Google searches and more
  • Louisville has the most thrift stores related to population and Phoenix has the largest share of large thrift stores
  • NYC is king by the sheer number of resale shops

The thrill of finding your next retro, vintage or modern treasure has lost none of its sheen lately. People are still interested in hunting for rare bargains at thrift shops, flea markets, vintage furniture stores and other places selling used items, but the trend isn’t out of mere frugality. Of course, saving money is a major perk, but thrift shopping is now riding the larger wave of eco-conscious lifestyles as it encourages people to reuse, upcycle and recycle clothing, furniture and more while rummaging for unique items. Resale items also pay homage to the DIY movement, which has also gained a strong foothold, whether we’re talking home improvement, gift-making or crafting.

In fact, driven by a mix of eco-consciousness, bargain prices and the love of the unique, interest in thrift shopping is only gaining ground across the U.S. Thrifting-related Google searches averaged 4 million for the July 2021-June 2022 period, double the search volume for the previous time span. Moreover, April 2022 registered a new peak, with 7 million searches for thrifting-related terms.

When you’re into pre-loved items, the quest for rare finds is half the fun. As location can make it or break it, we took it upon ourselves to find out where vintage lovers can have the best thrifting experience. We analyzed the 50 most populous metropolitan areas and compared them against a series of metrics including the number of resale venues (thrift shops, flea markets, antique shops and more), resale sales per capita, thrifting-related Google searches and self storage, as the service is very helpful in managing vintage finds as well as home space.

According to our research, if you want a place to kick off your next thrifting adventure, you’ll get the best experience in the West. Denver, Seattle and Portland take up the first three spots on the podium with an ideal mix of thrift shops and like-minded people. The South also provides some great chances at rare finds, as Southern metropolises dominate the top 15 best metro areas for thrifting.

Denver, Seattle and Portland stand out as best metro areas for thrifting

When it comes to hunting for secondhand treasures, the Denver metro area tops our list of best places for thrifting. You can count on Denver’s thrifting scene to deliver on finding used clothes, furniture, housewares and a plethora of unique items scattered at stores throughout the metro area. There are more than 190 resale stores in Denver, a figure that translates into 6.6 thrifting venues/100K locals, well above the national average of 4.8 resale stores/100K people. Moreover, approximately a third of resale venues are large stores with plenty of options, giving Denverites an excellent chance at finding pre-loved items. With an average of $190 in secondhand sales/household annually, Denver also soars above most cities on our list for secondhand-related expenditures. Among the amazing local venues, Thrift Cult is one of those places you’ll want to visit every time you find a blank spot on your calendar. It’s chock-full of swanky finds, from clothing to furniture and artwork, and definitely worth a trip. Also, Goodwill has a strong presence across the Denver area, so if you like chain store shopping, that’s always a great option.

Following close behind in second place is the Seattle metro area, where buying secondhand is also popular. There are about 7 resale venues/100K locals, and about a fifth of them are large stores. But where Seattle truly shines is when it comes to its resale shopping power, with $220/household on average in secondhand sales annually, the fourth-highest annual sales figure in this sector.

Moving a little further north but still staying out West, you can get (new) and used books by the bushel in Portland — think the iconic Powell’s Books — but you can also shop for used goods to your heart’s content as Portland takes the bronze for thrifting. Almost a quarter of its resale locations are large, a testimony to the metro area’s love for pre-owned things. This confirms the area’s penchant for green living, as Portland also stands out as an electric car hub.

Leaving behind the two Western cities, we’re taking things to the South, where Austin, Texas, nabs fourth place for thrifting opportunities. Chances are you’re likely to easily find a vintage treasure with about 6.5 thrifting locations/100K people in Austin and a third of resale stores qualifying as large based on the number of employees. Austin’s best-kept secret is its vintage gems, hidden away but worth finding. Uncommon objects, for one, gives thrifting fans access to antiques, raw materials and other unique items. If it’s clothing you’re after, Bloomers and Frocks has you covered with styles from the 1970s onwards. Austin’s position as a thrifting hub is also strengthened by sales that translate to $230/household on average annually.

Richmond, Virginia, is the second Southern metro area to crop up among the best places for buying secondhand. Richmond is the second-best metro area for the number of thrifting establishments related to population (7.4 stores/100K people). About 18% of them are large stores — which means Richmond locals have plenty of opportunities to explore their local thrifting wonderland.

Vintage store sign

Going a little inland but still staying in the South, the Oklahoma City metro area also makes an appearance in our ranking for its overall positive thrifting landscape. In fact, it ranks 10th for thrifting friendliness. Whether you’re looking for a consignment store, a thrift shop or an antique shop, the metro area delivers: There are about seven 7 secondhand stores/100K locals, where you can peruse collectibles in Oklahoma City and unique items for less, one of the highest concentrations of thrifting venues in the country. Over 20% of secondhand stores are large, a testament to the metro area’s appreciation for treasures from every era.

As self storage is a service often used for storing antiques and collectibles — or making room for them in your home — it appears that locals are in luck: The Oklahoma City metro area comes out on top for its self storage offerings, based on a combination of self storage availability and price. Renting a self storage unit in Oklahoma costs $80/month, the lowest price on our list for this service.

Friendly Louisville, Kentucky, with its perfect mix of charming streets and vibrant cultural communities, might be well known as the host of the Kentucky Derby, but it also boasts an outstanding thrifting scene. The metro area’s thriftability is confirmed by the presence of 7.6 secondhand venues/100K residents, making Louisville first for its number of thrifting places related to population. Moreover, over 20% of secondhand stores are large. After perusing the impressive collection of shops selling pre-loved items, Louisville residents can rest easy knowing they can make room in their homes with self storage — with a Louisville unit costing $95/month, they can easily put some of their thrift store finds or other household items in storage until they can use them again.

The bustling metropolis of Nashville is a great place for thrifting, where not only can the droves of resident artists find their unique garb, but also eco-conscious residents can buy pre-loved items. The metro area sports close to 6 thrifting locations/100K residents, with more than a quarter of them being large establishments. Cool Stuff Weird Things is the place to be for antiques and vintage home décor, while Black Shag Vintage specializes in vintage T-shirts and music apparel — two examples that confirm that the Athens of the South loves a great find.

Besides being the most neighborly city in the country, Indianapolis is also shaping up to be a metro area that is great for diving into the world of thrift shopping. The metro area provides plenty of opportunities to find unique items, with 7.3 thrift venues/100K people, the third-largest distribution of resale establishments per population in our ranking. More than a third of these establishments (35%) include large stores — an indication that the thrifting business is thriving in Indianapolis.

Minneapolis, a metropolis that took the crown for its artist-friendliness, is the second Midwestern thrifting hot spot on our list. Sure, Minneapolis might be home to the nation’s biggest shopping mall — covering almost 5M sq. ft. — but it's also home to countless charming boutiques that mix creativity with artsy vibes and bargain hunting. If you visit The Golden Pearl Vintage, you’re sure to be greeted by unique finds from the 1920s to the 1990s. Similarly, at the Corner Store Vintage, where vintage items abound, a mural of Jimi Hendrix catches the eye. Overall, the metro area boasts 6 resale establishments/100K residents, with almost a third of them being large.

Whether you’re planning a Midwest trip soon or you live in Columbus, this Ohio metro area also emerges as a secondhand shopping hot spot. You can snatch vintage items, antiques galore or interesting secondhand treasures at resale venues in Columbus, which claims about 6 thrifting venues/100K people. More than a quarter of them are large stores. Secondhand sales in Columbus reach close to $270 per household annually, the second-largest sales volume on our list, indicating that there’s strong thrifting activity here.

Experiencing a renaissance of sorts, Phoenix is known far and wide for its pool availability and construction of luxury apartments, but it’s also an intriguing thrifting mecca. Whether you’re looking for clothes, furniture or décor from another era, the Phoenix metro area has you covered: There are about 5.5 thrifting establishments/100K residents here. Moreover, 40% of them are large ones, making Phoenix come in first for the highest share of big thrifting venues.

woman going through thrift store clothes

The only Northeastern metro area to make it into the top 15 best places for thrifting, Virginia Beach has a lot in store for vintage lovers. There are about 7 thrifting establishments/100K residents, with about 20% of them being large ones. Such a large collection of shops specializing in secondhand items is indicative of a strong local penchant for items that come with a unique story.

A third Western hub, San Francisco, made it to the top 15 thrifting destinations, as it offers some of the best thrifting venues. Nothing compares to the excitement of finding a coveted treasure lying on a thrift store shelf, and San Francisco isn’t short of these kinds of opportunities. You can hunt for bargains, with over five resale establishments per 100,000 locals available here. Annual secondhand sales show the city’s popularity among thrifting fans, with a little over $180/household on average, annually.

For the place that concludes our top 15, we turn to Atlanta. With so many other Southern metro areas featured already, it’s no surprise ATL also makes an appearance in our ranking for its secondhand shopping experience. As a major fashion hub, Atlanta is a trendsetter. You can hunt your next secondhand high-end find here, with about 5.3 resale venues/100,000 residents, and over a quarter of them are big stores. Buckhead Thriftique and Labels Resale Boutique are just two of the great venues where you can buy unique items for less.

As a special mention, New York City always seems to have an ace up its sleeve. Although it hasn’t cracked the top 15 thrifting meccas, the New York metro area comes in first for the sheer number of resale venues — clocking in at close to 700 stores. Sure, given the sizeable population, you’ll have some serious competition when you’re hunting for secondhand treasures, but the opportunities abound. Head out to 10 ft Single by Stella Dallas in Williamsburg, which has some interesting items of the vintage variety, or Buffalo Exchange, where you can find designer clothing. House Works is home to unique furniture, jewelry and more. Also, the love for pre-owned items goes far here, as NYC comes in first for thrifting-related Google searches — over 300,000 in the last year alone.

Ultimately, the excitement that accompanies the hunt for a rare find is only enhanced by the vibe of the city you’re exploring. Denver and Portland are a vintage lover’s paradise and so is Austin. This popular pastime perfectly complements the local cultural diversity and friendly atmosphere of these cities. In New York City you have the most thrift shops overall, but keep in mind you’ll have to battle tons of like-minded thrifting fans. Whichever you choose, you’re on the winning side: Enjoying the adventure is the only thing left to do!

See below how each of the 50 most populous metro areas fared in terms of thrifting:

Top 50 Best Metro Areas for Thrifting

RankMetro AreaStateResale
Stores/ 100k
Big Resale
Stores
Thrifting Sales/
Household
Thrifting Google
Searches/ Household
Self Storage
(sq. ft./
capita)
Self
Storage Rent
1Denver - Aurora - LakewoodCO731%$1920.117$135
2 Seattle- Tacoma - BellevueWA722%$2210.077$169
3Portland- Vancouver - HillsboroOR-WA723%$2130.086$147
4Austin - Round Rock - GeorgetownTX630%$2310.069$114
5Indianapolis - Carmel - AndersonIN735%$1880.028$94
6Minneapolis - St. Paul - BloomingtonMN-WI629%$1910.056$113
7ColumbusOH626%$2660.046$99
8Phoenix - Mesa - ScottsdaleAZ540%$2100.048$128
9RichmondVA718%$1550.047$111
10Oklahoma CityOK722%$1470.0411$80
11Louisville/ JeffersonKY-IN821%$1470.027$95
12Virginia Beachs - Norfolk - Newport NewVA-NC721%$1270.069$113
13Nashville - Davidson - Murfreesboro - FranklinTN626%$1530.057$114
14San Francisco - Oakland - HaywardCA612%$1810.085$221
15Atlanta - Sandy Springs - RoswellGA526%$1590.047$117
16Birmingham - HooverAL617%$1690.057$102
17Charlotte - Concord - Gastonia NC-SC623%$1300.038$101
18Tampa - St. Petersburg - ClearwaterFL68%$1030.078$129
19Orlando - Kissimmee - SanfordFL514%$1410.088$118
20Kansas CityMO-KS527%$1310.067$101
21Chicago - Naperville - ElginIL-IN-WI522%$1630.045$122
22St. LouisMO-IL625%$1150.025$100
23Dallas - Fort Worth - ArlingtonTX421%$1750.0510$108
24JacksonvilleFL710%$990.059$123
25Milwaukee - WaukeshaWI537%$1590.047$97
26CincinnatiOH-KY-IN626%$1380.025$99
27PittsburghPA621%$950.035$121
28San Antonio - New BraunfelsTX514%$1580.058$112
29Houston - The Woodlands - Sugar LandTX431%$1410.0410$99
30Miami - Fort Lauderdale - West Palm BeachFL518%$1490.027$174
31San Diego - CarlsbadCA525%$1440.066$183
32New Orleans - MetairieLA510%$2990.048$130
33Sacramento - Roseville - FolsomCA427%$1440.078$147
34Los Angeles - Long Beach - AnaheimCA419%$1640.065$212
35Cleveland - ElyriaOH618%$970.034$114
36MemphisTN-MS-AR514%$1600.028$101
37Washington - Arlington - AlexandriaDC-VA-MD-WV419%$1390.055$157
38Raleigh - CaryNC50%$1030.128$99
39Boston - Cambridge - NewtonMA-NH512%$1440.044$165
40Providence - WarwickRI-MA68%$990.024$148
41Hartford - East Hartford - MiddletownCT526%$1030.034$119
42Baltimore - Columbia - TowsonMD513%$1320.035$141
43Philadelphia - Camden - WilmingtonPA-NJ-DE-MD515%$920.044$147
44Salt Lake CityUT324%$1120.128$115
45New York - Newark - Jersey CityNY-NJ-PA46%$1200.053$200
46San Jose - Sunnyvale - Santa ClaraCA332%$1110.045$188
46Riverside - San Bernardino - OntarioCA318%$990.047$142
48Las Vegas - Henderson - ParadiseNV319%$1280.039$131
49Detroit - Warren - DearbornMI413%$760.035$122
50Buffalo - CheektowagaNY50%$570.024$117
StorageCafe analysis of U.S. Census, Google Ads Keywords and Yardi Matrix data

Thrifting Q&A

1. What is thrifting?

Thrifting means shopping at various secondhand venues such as thrift shops, consignment stores, used furniture stores, flea markets and more.

2. What is thrift fashion called?

Thrift fashion, also dubbed “thrift store chic,” refers to buying secondhand clothing for less from stores such as Goodwill, The Salvation Army and others.

3. Where to go thrifting?

Search for national thrifting chains such as The Salvation Army or Goodwill in your city, but also go for the less conspicuous local stores that also could carry your next amazing find.

4. Why is thrifting good for the environment?

Shopping at thrift stores is sustainable because it helps to reduce waste. It prevents clothing and other items from ending up in landfills. It allows clothing to gain new life despite new fashion trends coming and going. Moreover, many thrift shops support local nonprofit organizations, with some of them being environmentally mindful.

5. What to look for when thrifting?

Your thrifting experience ultimately depends on your shopping needs, but there are some things you can keep in mind when shopping secondhand. Nearly anything that’s available new can most likely be found secondhand for much less. You can look for designer clothes, toys, books, and many more items such as valuable antiques.

6. What brands do you look for when thrifting?

With some brands carrying the promise of quality and long-term wear, it’s not a bad idea to consider them when you’re seeking your next piece of apparel while thrifting. Some of the more popular brands when shopping secondhand include Patagonia, Lululemon, J. Crew, L.L. Bean and others. High-quality apparel is also made by lesser-known brands, so make sure to look up a brand and find out more about it before deciding whether their product is right for you.

7. When is the best time to go thrifting?

You’d think that one day is as good as any other for thrifting, but apparently, Mondays and Tuesdays seem to have an edge over other days. Weekends tend to be the time when homeowners drop off their donations to thrift stores. That means new stock is likely to hit the shelves or clothes racks on Mondays. Additionally, as weekends tend to be busier, employees are more likely to replenish merchandise at the beginning of the week.

Methodology

This analysis was done by StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the nation.

To determine the best places for thrifting, we started by selecting the 50 largest metro areas by population, and we created a ranking based on a weighted score that included the following metrics:

  • Thrifting venues/100K people — weight: 45%
  • Percentage of big thrifting venues — weight: 15%
  • Thrifting sales/household — weight: 15%
  • Thrifting-related Google searches/household — weight: 20%
  • Self storage (inventory/capita and self storage rate) — weight: 5%

For the thrifting venues and thrifting-related sales data, we turned to the U.S. Census Bureau. According to their classification, thrifting venues include thrift shops, consignment stores, antique shops, used clothing stores, used furniture stores, flea markets, used bookstores and other establishments.

Online searches for thrifting-related terms were extracted from the Google Ads Keyword plan and reflect the July 2021-June 2022 period.

Self storage data comes from Yardi Matrix, StorageCafe’s sister division and a business-development and asset-management tool for brokers, sponsors, banks and equity sources underwriting investments in the multifamily, office, industrial and self storage sectors.

Fair use and distribution

This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.

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Author

Mirela is a creative writer for StorageCafe. With an academic background in English and translation, Mirela now covers a range of topics including real estate trends, lifestyle and economy. Her previous experience in proofreading academic articles has inspired Mirela to choose a writing career path. In her free time, Mirela enjoys reading, but also hiking and creating art. You can contact Mirela via email.

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