When Can Car Boot Sales Open & How Will They Operate Safely?

[Updated 20 June 2022]

This post was originally written to detail when car boot sales, indoor and outdoor markets could open during the pandemic of 2020 and 2021. It also detailed some of the steps that car boot sale organisers were taking to ensure that car boot sales were safe for both buyers and sellers after lockdown.

Most outdoor car boot sales and markets have been back open for business since April 2021 but there were still some restrictions and safety protocols in place for the first year.

The UK government dropped most Covid restrictions in 2022, and on 21.2.22 they announced that from 1st April 2022 businesses no longer needed to mention Covid in a workplace risk assessment.

However, I have kept details of when car boot sales could open and what safety protocols were put in place during and after the pandemic at the end of this post. I will update it should there be any further restrictions or requirements, though I sincerely hope that will not happen

In this post, you will also find the current opening times for some of the car boot sales around the UK. If you would like your car boot sale added, please feel free to list the details below.

You can also find links to my best car boot sale tips for buyers and sellers.

When Can Outdoor and Indoor Car Boot Sales Open?

Some car boot sales operate all year round, whilst others might start from March and run until October. At the start and end of the season, many car boot sales can be weather dependant so always check they are open before setting off.

Here are details of when some car boot sales are open along with links to their websites:

Barleylands Car Boot Sale open from January 2022 on Sundays and bank holidays.

Bordon Country Market Car Boot Sale runs from February until the first weekend in December.

Farnborough Car Boot Sale is a council run car boot and is open most of the year with some undercover selling available.

Leigh-on-sea Car Boot Sale is open all year opening on Sundays and bank holidays.

Nut Hill Fruit Farm Car Boot Sale on the A3 near Guildford aims to run from Easter until the end of October.

Reading’s Biggest Boot Sale on the A33 Swallowfield bypass near Reading is weather dependent but runs from spring to October.

Sadlers Farm, Essex Boot Sale opens on Saturdays, Sundays, and Bank Holidays from April

Southsea & Portsmouth Car Boot Sale opens from March until the end of September.

a car boot sale with people walking away in one direction at a car boot sale maintaining social distancing to follow covid-secure guidelines for outdoor markets

Do you have to book in advance to sell at a car boot sale?

After lockdown, some car boot sales continued with specific safety measures, such as advance booking and one-way systems.

Farnborough Car Boot Sale have decided that all cars selling must book up and pay for their pitch in advance. I think this is a very good idea as it will speed things up and mean that sellers don’t have to queue up for hours to ensure a pitch.

They have also said that buyers who go in before the opening time must pay £5 payable by card payment only. All buyers going in during opening hours must have the correct money as no change will be given.

man sitting in a car wearing a face mask with a man wearing PPE overall taking his temperature with a forehead thermometer
Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

Additional car boot sale tips for buyers and sellers

You may have already seen my popular car boot sale posts with tips for buyers and sellers (links below). Even though there are no legal Covid restrictions in place, it is still highly transmissible so I would like to suggest a few more tips to help prevent contamination.


* Wear your own PPE.
* Take a hand sanitizer or pack of antiseptic wipes with you and use frequently.
* Take plenty of loose change so you can give the correct money.
* Carry your money in a bumbag or pocket to avoid having to access wallets and purses from a handbag or rucksack.
* Take an open shopping bag with you to avoid unnecessary handling of zips and ties on other types of bags.
* If you are wearing gloves dispose of them in a bin on your way out or take home with you. Use a hand sanitizer before you open your car.


* Wear your own PPE.
* Take a hand sanitizer or pack of antiseptic wipes with you and use frequently.
* Take plenty of loose change in an open container in case you need to give people change (store this safely in sight to avoid theft).
* Consider having a sign on your tables politely asking people not to handle goods unless they are intending to buy.
* If you are taking food and drink with you, prepare and store in a way that will involve minimal handling.

We all need to learn to work to a new normal whilst keeping ourselves and those around us as safe as possible.

Read on to find out what happened to ensure everyone’s safety at car boot sales, and how the boot sale opening times were impacted due to national and regional lockdowns during the Coronavirus pandemic.

How the UK Lockdowns affected the opening of car boot sales in England

Car boot sales forced to close in first national lockdown

Car boot sales and outdoor markets that run all year round were initially forced to close during the first national lockdown in March 2020, and were allowed to reopen from 1 June 2020.

Indoor car boot sales, markets, and shops were allowed to open from 15 June 2020, giving them time to make adjustments.  This was later than outdoor markets and car boots, as the risk of contracting the virus outside is thought to be lower than indoors.

When the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that outdoor markets could open from 1 June 2020 after the first lockdown, there was a hive of activity on car boot sale Facebook groups.

Operators of car boot sales up and down the UK had to research the criteria to see whether or not it was feasible for them to open safely during that season.  They had to be able to follow the Covid-19 secure guidelines set out by the government, and evaluate exactly how they could operate before opening again.

Car boot sales closed again in second and third national lockdowns

Car boot sales and some indoor markets had to close again from 00.01 on Thursday 5th November 2020 for the second lockdown in England, as they were not deemed essential shopping.

They were then allowed to open again on Wednesday 2nd December 2020 in England, when areas went into tiered lockdowns. This reprieve was short lived as England went into its third lockdown on 26th December 2020, with only essential retailers allowed to remain open, which meant that car boot sales had to close again.

Car boot sales and indoor markets were then closed again for some time with news being released for the phased easing of lockdown.

This was confirmed by the Prime Minister announcing on 5th April that non-essential shops, car boot sales, and markets in England could open from the 12th April 2021. As most car boot sales happen on a Saturday or Sunday, many organisers stated that their events would be starting again on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th April 2021. 

Wales, Scotland and Northern Island set their own rules and car boot opening times were dependent on the country’s own restrictions. Thankfully, in England at least, we were able to enjoy a full season of car boot sales during the spring and summer of 2021.

How did car boot sales operate safely after lockdown?

After the first lockdown, many organisers said it just would not be possible to open in 2020; some started working with their local councils to ensure that all guidance is followed; whilst others announced opening dates from 1 June 2020 onwards.

After studying the Facebook pages of several operators, there were a variety of different measures put in place to allow the car boot sales to operate safely. Some of those may remain in place for the foreseeable future.

One Way Systems

Most operators changed the layout to one way systems. Buyers and sellers can only enter and exit the car boot sale one way.

Lanes are organised so that shoppers can only browse the stalls in one direction – some have wider pedestrian lanes to allow room for overtaking, whilst others are single file only.

Social Distancing

Sellers’ cars at Holcot Car Boot Sale were parked at a 10m distance to allow sellers plenty of room to maintain a 2m social distance between each other.

Several car boot sales had 2m floor markings and lots of signage to remind people of the direction of travel.

Customer and Staff Safety

Many car boot sales previously let buyers and sellers in at the same time which would often result in a free-for-all from traders trying to get in the back of people’s boots before they’d even had the chance to unpack. Now opening times may still be later for buyers to allow sellers to get their stalls set up first.

During the pandemic car boot sale operators recommended that customers wear masks, face shields, and or gloves. Some had those PPE items for sale on the gate.

Customers had to maintain social distancing when queuing and browsing. Marshalls were at most sites ensuring that safety measures were adhered to, with a zero-tolerance policy.

Gloucester Car Boot Sale  put additional measures in place by taking everyone’s temperature on arrival. They took it very seriously and set out a full list of guidance for their buyers, sellers and staff.

Toilets had to be equipped with hot water and soap or hand sanitizer with the facilities cleaned thoroughly and regularly.

How did you find the car boot sales after lockdown?
Did you feel safe buying and selling?
Or did you stop going?

11 thoughts on “When Can Car Boot Sales Open & How Will They Operate Safely?

  1. car boots are great fun and I do them almost every wk and love them last yr my sister an I put a couple of canes infront of our stall and ask people to stay behind it an ask us to show whatever they were interested in looking at we has plenty of hand gel and the money we took was all put into a separate tin we took £150 each in change and didn’t sell anything for less than 50p and if they offered us a £20 or £10 for something for a £1 we told them we would save whatever it was for them when they had change and it worked really well id advise people not to forget to take their own bags and ask the seller to put it in for them as 1 comment has suggested that already and if you are selling id suggest you don’t offer bags eighther the money was all soaked for a couple of hrs in antibac and dried then counted

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s very hard I agree, Falkirk Football Stadium operates a one way system, all the sellers wear masks, and have hand sanitizer on their table. There are also stewards on each lane urging customers to walk in one direction, so I feel pretty safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! My husband is desperate for them to reopen! That was his staple Sunday morning activity prior to Covid.. and he has come back with some amazing (and some not so amazing) stuff in the past!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The major problem I see is controlling the people. You do get some real undesirables at car boot sales and they will just not obey the rules and unless the boot sale organizers employ proper security staff instead of 16 year kids who usually just direct parking they will not be able to enforce the rules. The only way to do it safely is to have someone at practically every single stall to either stop them getting rammed or to move people on if they are blocking anyone else and causing a massive tailback

    Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think I’ll go. My local boot sale has a lot of space so they could spread the isles apart but it gets crazy over there, I usually pay £5 to get in early to avoid the crowds but even then it can be busy. There is a saturday boot sale about 25 miles away from me, this bootsale is in a large field and has a much more laid back atmosphere so I might risk it at some stage. The biggest issue is that with the government lifting certain restrictions, people are thinking this virus is all over now and it’s perfectly safe to go outside and carry on as normal. I hope I’m wrong but I can see a massive second wave coming with another lockdown all over the summer


  5. As you said there are going to be many teething problems with this especially as there is no universal rule. This could possibly lead to confusion if people visit many different sites. It’s definitely right to reinforce those additional precautions and reminding people to take hand sanitiser and so on. It would be a shame for boot sales not to operate, especially now as I imagine people have had the time to have a good sort through. Better than ending up in landfill!

    Liked by 1 person

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