How to Survive a Car Boot Sale – Top Tips for Sellers

Updated May 2019 – For years I have loved mooching around a car boot sale on a Sunday morning and have picked up some great bargains. When it comes to selling at car boot sales, it can be quite stressful if you’re not prepared. I usually sell at one or two a year after a decluttering. Here are a few of my top tips for surviving the car boot sale experience as a buyer, as well as some car boot sale alternatives.

In this feature you will find:

* Where to sell your used goods  and unwanted items –  car boot sales, swap meets, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, etc

* Top tips for car boot sale sellers

giant-car-boot-sale

WHERE TO BUY AND SELL SECOND HAND GOODS & UNWANTED GIFTS

I’m sure most people in the UK have heard of car boot sales but I do have a lot of readers in the USA too. First let’s look at the difference between car boot sales, swap meets, jumble sales and farmers markets:

WHAT IS A CAR BOOT SALE?

A car boot sale is usually held in a field or car park. People load up their cars with all their unwanted items, pay a set fee to go in, then set up a stall to sell their goods. Goods are mostly second hand or new unwanted gifts and clothes. You also get traders selling new items that would typically be sold in a shop or on a market stall.  At the bigger car boot sales you will often get companies arriving in lorries after doing a house clearance. Payment exchanges are always in cash.

Sellers can pay anything from £6 for a car to £40 for a lorry for their pitch. Buyers usually pay from 20p per person to £1.50 to browse, increasing to as much as £10 if you want to go in before it officially opens! This normally applies to dealers who are hoping to find that illusive ming vase for 50p.

Most car boot sales are held on a Sunday morning but do occur on Saturdays, bank holidays and some in the week too. The nearest thing in the USA is a swap meet.

WHAT IS A SWAP MEET OR FLEA MARKET?

A swap meet or flea market in the USA is a cross between a car boot sale and a market selling new and used goods. They can often be themed like an auto jumble or record fair, or similar to a flea market selling antiques or vintage clothes and furniture. Again, payments are made in cash although some dealer traders now have card payment readers. Cashpoints are sometimes on site, unlike car boot sales where the location is generally shared with a school, garden centre or council car park.

market site with lots of people browsing
photo by Nicole Law

WHAT IS A YARD OR GARAGE SALE

Yard and garage sales are commonplace in the USA but not so much in the UK. You basically set up your stall in your yard, front garden or garage. Often whole streets will take part in these once a year, attracting more buyers.

WHAT IS A FARMERS’ MARKET?

A farmers’ market was originally exactly what it says, a place for farmers to sell their fruit, vegetables, meat and cheeses to the general public without the need for a permanent shop. As these have become more popular they now also host local people selling their arts and crafts, and are a great way to support the local community. They take place all over the world.

WHAT IS A JUMBLE SALE?

Jumble sales are not quite such commonplace anymore. Back in the 1970s and 1980s community groups, charities and schools would often hold a jumble sale to raise necessary funds. These were usually held on a Saturday morning. (Back then Sunday was well and truly a day of rest, before 24/7 opening was in place.) People would donate their unwanted items, especially clothes, books, games and china to the charity a week or so in advance. It would then all be sold by volunteers in a hall, with buyers often paying a 10p entrance fee to browse.

man's hand holding a mobile phone at office desk

ONLINE SELLING

Of course, many people prefer to sell online when they only have a few items for sale, or maybe something more valuable.

Facebook Marketplace has become popular over the last few years. Originally, you could sell on local “for sale” groups within Facebook. eg you’d join a group called “Buying and Selling in Guildford”. You post a photo, selling price and location and buyers come to your house, pay in cash and collect the item.

More recently, Facebook has launched Marketplace. You can still post to your local selling groups but have the option to add it to Marketplace, which reaches more people, not just those in the group.

This is a free service and reduces the need for postage and associated costs, although you do get a lot of timewasters who fail to collect.

eBay is probably the most well known online selling platform. Sellers list their item with a description, price and photographs. Sometimes you have to pay to list but often you just pay a commission on the final selling price. You can sell by auction or at a fixed price, and allow best price offers.

Similar sites are Schpock and Gumtree which are free to use.

Etsy is often used more by crafters, small businesses, bands and those who are going to have regular items for sale. Like eBay, this is a paid for service.

girl with long auburn hair browsing vintage clothing on rails
photo by Burst

HOW TO SURVIVE A CAR BOOT SALE – TOP TIPS FOR SELLERS

FIRSTLY

  • Ask around locally for recommendations of the best car boot sale to do and find out the time you actually need to arrive rather than the advertised time. Some allow you to set up before buyers come in and at others, it is a bit of a free for all.
  • Check out the car boot sale first to see how much space you get and plan your wares accordingly.
  • Check any selling restrictions. Most will not allow guns, knives, alcohol or tobacco for legal reasons but some will not allow any food and beverage items. Car boot sales held in garden centres tend not to allow any plant sales.
  • If the car boot allows food items, also check with the local council that you do not need a licence from them.
  • Enlist a helper. You will need someone to help you serve and keep an eye on the stall, especially when unpacking or if you have to nip to the loo.
  • Get/borrow a couple of pasting tables, a ground sheet and some clear plastic sheeting in case it rains.
  • A clothes rail, long length mirror and a bit of carpet for buyers to stand on is useful if you are selling clothes.

car-boot-sale

IN PREPARATION FOR A CAR BOOT SALE

  • Get together a cash float with a quantity of £5, £1 and 50p.
  • Take a packed lunch and lots of drinks and snacks in a cool bag.
  • Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, hat if needed or a plastic cover if showers are likely.
  • A pen, pad, post-its, scissors and tape can come in handy.
  • Take a money bag/bum bag to keep your cash on you.
  • When packing your car, leave the tables, clothes rack and plastic sheeting til last so they are the first items out of the car enabling you to set up first.

PRICING TO SELL AT A CAR BOOT SALE

  • Some people don’t price and just allow the public to ask. I personally feel this limits sales as some buyers don’t like to ask and it can put the seller under pressure if they haven’t prepared prices in their head.
  • Price easily – My lowest price is 50p, cheaper items I will do say 4 for £1 to save messing about with small change.
  • Price realistically – it can be tricky getting prices right as people will haggle but you don’t want to price too high that people won’t even bother. Price to sell at an amount you and buyers will be happy with (I have posted some standard selling prices for popular items below).
  • You might be better off selling higher value items on eBay or Facebook For Sale groups.
  • Group items of the same price in a tray or box and write on the box “50p each” but make sure each item is still viewable
  •  Don’t price each item with a sticky label or write on it directly because a) you might want to lower it later and b) it looks horrible and puts buyers off, especially with new items. Instead, use fluorescent star cards or small post-it notes with the price marked on it, then you can easily change if need be.

car-booty

HOW TO DISPLAY YOUR ITEMS AT A CAR BOOT SALE

  • Clothes sell better on a clothes rail. Write the price and size on the coat hanger.
  • Group similar items together.
  • Only display the packaging box of high value gadgets or games. Keep the contents in the car so they are not stolen.
  • Again display one shoe if they are of value to prevent theft.
  • Make sure sizes are clearly visible on bedding, rugs, etc..
  • Some people cover the tables with tablecloths and make it all look nice. This is great but do price everything if you do this or people might think you look like a dealer and that you’ll be expensive.
  • Some sellers put everything into boxes on the floor and let you rummage. Lots of people won’t be bothered to look unless you can clearly see what’s in the boxes.
  • I try to find that balance and put items in shallow boxes on top of the table. That way I can group and price items. It’s also very easy to set up as you can take the boxes straight out of the car and onto the table. Then remove the boxes as more items sell.

giant-car-boot-sale

ON THE DAY OF THE CAR BOOT SALE

  • “Dealers” will be in your boot as soon as you arrive. Be firm and tell them to come back when you are set up.
  • Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t have change for someone who tries to give you a £20 for a 50p item.
  • Lots of people will haggle. It can be fun to negotiate a price but be firm if you don’t want to sell at their price and tell them to put it back if they are not interested.
  • Watch out for thieves and keep your car locked.
  • Bags – now that supermarkets no longer give free bags it’s not expected to give them out at car boots although I do tend to take some small bags for little items, i.e. if someone buys a bundle of toiletries.
  • Pack up when you’re ready. Some sellers leave very early and others stay to the bitter end as you can make quite a few last minute sales.
  • Be sure to take all your rubbish and leftover items home with you too.

car-boot-fayre

PRICE GUIDE 2019

Below are some prices of popular items that people sell at car boot sales. I have given a range between standard selling price and achievable for items that are in very good condition. Bear in mind this is for regular items in the South of England – designer clothing, cult CDs/DVDs/books/vinyl etc will fetch more.

I take the attitude that I don’t need it and don’t want to go back home with it so it’s better to sell for something. But at the same time, I would rather give it away than sell for pennies.

Kid’s books 10p-£1
Adult paperbacks 10p-50p
Adult hardbacks 50p-£1
Jigsaws £1
Games £1-£2
Dvd films 50p-£1
Cds 20p-50p
T-shirts 50p-£1
Dresses £1-£2
Hoodies/Cardis £1-£2
Jeans and trousers £1-£2
Jackets £2-£5
Crockery/glassware 20p-50p
Everyday ornaments 50p-£2
Fashion jewellery £1
Duvet covers £2-3
Cushions £1
Throws £2-3
Rugs £10-£20
Large Mirrors £5-10
Large modern pictures and canvases £3-6
New/almost new toiletries £1

Generally, gold/silver jewellery, watches, perfumes, designer clothing, gadgets, vinyl records and household items all sell quickly at a car boot sale. All new items sell well for between 25%-33% rrp. Remember just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s vintage and will sell for lots of money.

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR LEFTOVER ITEMS

  • Try to sell on local Facebook groups, eBay, Schpock, Gumtree, etc.
  • Do another car boot in a different area or join up with a friend if you don’t have enough stuff for a stall on your own.
  • Offer for free on a local Facebook group. Virtually all items can be gratefully rehomed.
  • Donate to a charity shop, but ask first as most don’t want glasses, china and videos. (Please do not leave on their doorstep when the shop is closed as items often get damaged and this will cost the charity money to dispose of.)
  • Offer to schools and local community groups.
  • Read my post below about other ways of how to reuse and redistribute your rubbish.
  • Putting in a council rubbish tip should always be a last resort.

Most of all enjoy watching your unwanted items turn into cash. Most people are really nice and easy to deal with.

If you just like the idea of things being reused rather than thrown away or money saving you might like to read these posts:

How to Reuse, Redistribute and Recycle your Rubbish
Ecobricks – How to Reuse Waste Plastic 
How to Make Art and Upcycle your Music Memorabilia
Arts, Crafts, Upcycling & Eco Issues
Tips & Money Saving


Do you like to buy or sell at car boot sales or do you use Facebook Marketplace or Ebay instead?

Let me know of your car boot successes and disasters.

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2 thoughts on “How to Survive a Car Boot Sale – Top Tips for Sellers

  1. Although I hate selling at car boots it’s a great way to get rid of unwanted items and make some money for them. These are great tips especially the price guide. As someone who only goes rarely I have no idea of the going rate for things. Thanks for the tips!

    Like

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