Did you ever visit a car boot sale as a kid? I remember the excitement of trawling along the seemingly endless stalls with my parents, and it was a great day if I came across a Barbie with neat hair. The best bit was always the burger stall, or the inevitable sweet shop that sold blocks of tablet in little bags.
Recently I headed back to my parents house to properly get rid of all my clutter that I’d left behind. We decided to sell at a car boot sale – my toys, books and trinkets; my Dad’s records, car magazines and DIY bits and bobs; and my Mum’s shoes, picnic basket and telescope. It was the most random assortment of things imaginable, but a very colourful display of long lost treasures.
Having sold at a few car boot sales growing up (including a farm and a football stadium car boot), I can share a few words of boot sale wisdom with you – they’re more fun than you might expect!
A heads up about car boot sales
- You need to pay a fee to sell at a car boot sale, typically around £10
- An early rise is essential
- Don’t expect to make lots of money. You’ll make a decent amount, but if cash is more important to you than getting rid of clutter, sell online instead
- Some are sheltered, some are not
What to take with you
- A table – we use a paste table as they’re lightweight, foldable, and long enough to display most things
- Stacking shelves – If you’ve got lots of little things to sell, use empty shoe boxes, covered books or kitchen cupboard stacking shelves to make the most of your table space and lift items up
- A clothes rail – make it easy for people to browse your clothes
- A waterproof sheet – a transparent cover is best so that people can still see what you’re selling in the rain
- Loose change – always make sure you have lots of loose change in a locked tin or a bum bag
- Spare bags – re-use old carrier bags and offer them to people who need them
- Snacks – it’s a long day…
- Price stickers and a pen – give people a starting point for haggling!
- A fold-up chair – if you can’t sit on the edge of your boot, pack a fold-up chair
- A friend – if you need a toilet break you’re going to want somebody to guard your stall!
My car boot sale tips!
Prep the night before
Pack your car the evening before the boot sale. You’re going to have to get up before sunrise, so don’t leave the heavy lifting til the last minute! This is also a good time to consider the worth of your items. Don’t expect to make lots of money – think £1 for CDs, DVDs etc, 50p for books, £3-5 for electrical items. Use labeled stickers or make creative, eye-catching signs for buckets of items that are all priced the same. If you think something is worth a little more, leave it unpriced to begin with and do a bit of negotiating when interest is piqued.
Get up really early
Arrive at the car boot sale at least an hour before it’s advertised to start. If you’re too late, the pitches may all be full and you could get turned away. You’ll need this extra time to set up your stall before the ‘dealers’ arrive first thing to swarm you.
Swat off the dealers
Car booters are used to the early dealers that descend upon stalls before the sale has properly begun. This is often why car boot sale organisers will not allow any seller to display items until a set time – they want to deter dealers who try to buy your items for a scandalously low price (even by car boot sale standards). ‘Dealers’ will swoop in when you’re most flustered – setting up your stall – and try to scoop up as many of your items as possible. They can spot a car boot sale newbie a mile off. My tip? Don’t be afraid to turn them down and ask them to come back once the stall is set up. If you don’t like their price, say so. If they really want your stuff, they’ll be back.
It happened to us! One guy came along and snapped up a bunch of my Dad’s records. Two hours later we saw him selling them at a higher price at a stall a few cars down.
Make your stall look good, then switch it up
Arrange your stall so that your items can be easily spotted by passers by. Make it easy for them to browse things without feeling like you’re eyeballing their every move. It’s hard…I know! My tips would be to use boxes below your stall for things like books (spines facing up), CDs, and records; use stacking blocks (books, standing shelves etc.) to raise the height of items at the back of your stall; and put any kids toys at their eye level…
As things begin to sell, switch up your arrangement to bring hidden objects into full view. People often do several rounds of car boot sales and may have missed something on their first browse.
How to deal with rain
If you’re at an uncovered boot sale (especially in Scotland) rain is a real possibility. I was bad and hid in the boot of my Dad’s car, but what you need to do is have a shelter system in place. The best ideas I’ve seen are transparent covers to lay over your stuff. But the truth is, lots of people leave when the rain starts. Car boot sales can be really hit or miss because of this.
Be ready for a long day
Once you’re parked up, you’re committed. Car boot sales can be long, dull affairs (so take a book and a chatty friend), especially if sales are slow. If you’ve got a pitch in the middle of dozens of other cars, you won’t be driving off until the very end. That can be a 5-6 hour day or more!
Car boot sales had their heyday, but there is still a huge buzz around them today. Selling online is often the more appealing option, but car boots are a brilliant way to recycle your unwanted items while making a little cash on the side. I made £100 to put towards my holiday, and my parents made a little more than that too. The best-selling things were not necessarily what we expected; yes my Dad’s records made us the most cash, but I couldn’t believe someone bought all one-hundred of his old Landrover magazines!
Give it a go with friends – and find yourself some tablet to pass the time!