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13 of the Best Thrift Stores & Vintage Shops in San Diego

How and where to find sweet secondhand scores for every style and budget
Quartyward Wotown San Diego thrift store vendor
Courtesy of Quartyard

As a longtime vintage lover, deal hunter, and fast-fashion hater, I’ve developed a system for finding top-notch clothes at the best prices. And when I moved to San Diego a few years ago, I made it my mission to find exactly where to shop in order to live out my millionaire shopping addiction on a college-student budget. 

To help other would-be ballers on a budget, I put together a list of the best thrift and vintage stores up and down the coast, from Oceanside to Chula Vista. But first, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when venturing out into the world of thrifting

San Diego thrift store market for Wotown Vintage outside at the Quartyard in East Village
Courtesy of Quartyard

Tips for Finding Great Clothes While Thrifting

Have a vision

Before you even leave your house, curate an idea in your head of what you are looking for. Go on Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, or any other social media site and take screenshots of some style inspiration so you can browse with a purpose.

Start small

Beginning at huge stores with thousands of items, such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, can be intimidating. Start at small, hand-curated vintage shops where you won’t get overwhelmed. Start to flex your “search” muscles here.

Go through every single item and every single rack

And, yes, I mean every goddamn one. I have discovered some of my best finds among the menswear and kids’ clothes and in sections where items were completely misplaced. You may be missing out on the item of your dreams if you only stick to certain racks.

Know your size

Vintage sizing can be tricky, so keeping in mind a general size for all possible items is key. I always grab items that are between one size too small and one size too big. Pants, especially, are a pain in the butt, but a trick that seems to work is to take the waistband and wrap it around your neck. If one side of the waistband perfectly touches the other, then the pants should fit your waist.

Try on everything

And I mean everything. By the time you reach the dressing room, your arms should be so full of clothes that you have sweat pouring down your face because of the sheer weight of the items. Get a workout and a shopping spree in at the same time.

Be picky 

If you could buy a brand-new article of clothing for the same price as the vintage one (unless it is designer, of course), then it is probably overpriced. If you do not foresee yourself wearing this piece at least six times a year, it is likely not worth it. 

Vintage clothes in the window at San Diego thrift store Captain's Helm in Oceanside
Courtesy of Captain’s Helm

Where To Go Thrift Shopping in San Diego

Captain’s Helm

O captain! My captain! You are everything I have ever wanted and needed. Not only does this vintage shop fall at the top of my list, but the java from the store’s in-house coffee shop is some of the best in San Diego County, and that is saying a lot coming from a coffee snob. The prices are in the mid-range, but so worth it for the vast collection of good-quality clothes, accessories, and shoes. There’s even a children’s section. 

Go for: Enhancing any wardrobe, including your tots’

1832 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

Sea Hive Station

As Usher once said at the Super Bowl: OMG. Do not be scared by the racks bearing what looks like department store clothes, because, if you venture just a bit farther, you will find the vintage duds of your dreams. A hub for many local vendors, this large store has clothes and accessories for people of any age, gender, or style. 

Go for: Endless options

La Jolla and Liberty Station locations

San Diego Vintage Flea Market

I cannot even begin to describe the inhumane things I would do to have this flea market open more than once a month. Twelve Saturdays a year, a diverse lineup of vendors gathers in a small parking lot on Adams Avenue to bring shoppers some of the best vintage clothes in San Diego. 

Go for: Clothes, shoes, accessories, home décor, everything

3366 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights


The Hillcrest location of this local secondhand store chain is by far my favorite, as it has dozens of racks spanning a large open room filled with vintage and newer clothes for all genders. Because these items are pretty curated, prices are slightly higher than at most thrift spots, but nothing too crazy.

Go for: Vintage jackets and fun accessories

Carlsbad, Encinitas, and Hillcrest locations

Interior of San Diego thrift store, Frustrated Cowboy featuring Western attire in Del Mar
Courtesy of Frustrated Cowboy

Frustrated Cowboy

Forget saving a horse and riding a cowboy. Giddy-up and go to Frustrated Cowboy, where you can find some Western clothes that are sure to impress rather than a Western boy who will probably break your heart. The Western style trend won’t be going away anytime soon, so gear up at this shop for jewelry, cowboy hats, boots, and leather goods. Be warned though, items can run pretty pricey.

Go for: Authentic Western clothing 

1444 Camino del Mar, Del Mar


Did I choose the Goodwill that is conveniently located in one of San Diego’s wealthiest neighborhoods? Possibly. But if you are a seasoned thrifter like myself, you know this is the absolute best way to do it. Go with a vision in mind and some time to spare, and you will without a doubt find a hidden gem at an extremely reasonable price. 

Go for: The cheapest price tags 

7631 Girard Ave, La Jolla

Vintage Threads & Grails

This lovely thrift shop sits a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean. While Vintage Threads & Grails stocks feminine pieces here and there, it offers a much larger selection of masculine clothes. Depending on the item, prices are mid-range to high-end, and the style definitely caters to a younger audience, as the store sits right in the center of the college/post-grad town of PB. 

Go for: Skater looks and cool hats

1031 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach

Exterior of Buffalo Exchange thrift store in Hillcrest
Courtesy of Buffalo Exchange

Buffalo Exchange

Although Buffalo Exchange is not my favorite place to shop due to its seemingly endless selection of cheugy fast fashion pieces, there are some great finds sprinkled into the sea of Shein and Zara. More positives: decent prices, all sorts of sizes, good vibes, many options, and two locations. 

Go for: A good treasure hunt

Pacific Beach and Hillcrest locations

The Salvation Army Thrift Store

Warning: There are no dressing rooms at the College Area location of this familiar secondhand outpost, but, from personal experience, it is perfectly fine to strip down to your sports bra and try on the clothes in the back corner while balancing your phone on the children’s rack, turning the camera on to serve as a mirror. Just kidding, I do not condone this behavior, unless you want some great discounts from the young, male cashier. 

Go for: Great deals and judgemental looks

6875 El Cajon Boulevard, College Area

La Loupe Vintage

La Loupe will always have a special place in my heart, as it was the first place I found after moving here that came anywhere close to the vintage shops back home in the Bay Area. The Normal Heights storefront has a large selection of clothes, funky vintage shoes, and a whole cabinet dedicated to vintage denim. 

Go for: Cool kicks and distressed denim

3337 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights

Wotown Vintage

Skater-style clothes and masculine pieces fill the walls at this small downtown San Diego vintage shop. I personally do not frequent this place because of the very limited selection of women’s style clothing, but if you are someone who loves an edgier, oversized look at a mid-range price point, then Wotown Vintage is for you.

Go for: Masculine street style

730 Market Street. East Village

Interior of Day Vintage featuring clothing racks with local vendor Vintage Files
Courtesy of Day to Day Vintage

Day to Day Vintage

If this place were not so overpriced, it would sit much higher on my list. It is quite small, with a limited selection, and I find that the clothes are not always the best quality. However, if you are in the niche group of overall lovers and vintage tee fanatics, Day to Day is for you. The store has tons of racks dedicated solely to tees (with a wide size range), plus a wall of overalls for the trendy-comfy folks who love them (myself included). 

Go for: Overalls and vintage tees

3063 University Avenue, Normal Heights

Upright Citizen

A display outside Upright Citizen declares it the “Best Vintage Store in San Diego.” Despite these credentials, I would call it mid at best. It does have some amazing vintage jeans and used shoes, but the prices can be out of this world. South Bay peeps: If you have no other nearby option, then this place can dress you well, but I highly recommend making the trip to one of the stores above for better options and lower costs. 

Go for: Vintage jeans and a heart attack from the prices

257 Third Avenue, Chula Vista

By Maren Hawkins

Maren Hawkins is an editorial intern at San Diego Magazine. She is in her second to last year at San Diego State University and serves as a staff writer for The Daily Aztec. When she is not writing, she spends her time finding the best workout spots in SD, thrifting for the cutest clothes, and traveling whenever possible.

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