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

[Updated 12th April 2021]
After the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that outdoor markets could open from 1 June 2020 following 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.

Of course, England went back into lockdown on 26th December 2020 with only essential retailers allowed to remain open, which meant that car boot sales had to close again. It was hoped that providing all things went to plan, car boot sales would be allowed to open again from 12th April 2021, with the rest of the non-essential shops in England.

This was confirmed in the Prime Minister’s announcement on 5th April. As most car boot sales happen on a Saturday or Sunday, many organisers announced that their events would be starting again on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th April 2021. 

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

You will 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 usually operate all year round, whilst others might start from March and run until October. Those that run all year were forced to shut in  initially in March 2020 and again in the winter due to Covid-19.

After the first national lockdown, outdoor car boot sales were then allowed to open from 1 June 2020 as they are in the same trading category as outdoor markets.

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.

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.

Car boot sales and indoor markets were then closed again until further notice with news being released for the phased easing of lockdown. Thankfully that has now happened and we can hopefully look forward to a full season of car boot sales this spring and summer.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Island set their own rules and may not be allowed to open due to the country restriction.

Buyers and sellers will be required to wear a face covering in indoor settings, and should ensure that they  follow the government’s advice to stay safe outside.

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

How Will Car Boot Sales Operate Safely

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. Presumably these will remain in place for 2021.

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 will be parked at a 10m distance to allow sellers plenty of room to maintain a 2m social distance between each other.

Several car boot sales have 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 be later for buyers to allow sellers to get their stalls set up first.

Car boot sale operators recommend that customers wear masks, face shields, and or gloves. Some will have those PPE items for sale on the gate.

Customers must maintain social distancing when queuing and browsing. Marshalls will be on most sites ensuring that safety measures are adhered to, with a zero-tolerance policy.

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

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

Advance Booking

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

If you have visited my blog, Tea and Cake for the Soul before you may have already seen my popular posts with tips for buyers and sellers. Due to the additional safety measures needed for car boot sales to operate, I would like to suggest a few more tips due to the current climate.


* 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.

I’m sure there will be many teething problems to start with. Just like supermarkets, some car boot sales will work out how to operate safely before others. I’ve seen in car boot sale groups that some will open as soon as they are able to, whilst others may wait and see for a while yet. We all need to learn to work to a new normal.

What are your thoughts?
Will you be buying or selling at a car boot sale this season?
Will you feel safe or are you just desperate to get back to normal?

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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