Car boot sales: everything you need to know

Christmas may be on the horizon but you can still get rid of your unwanted stuff and make money at a car boot sale as they are great for when you have had a major declutter and have a large volume of sellable stuff. Last year, I had my children’s old bikes and scooters plus clothes, books, CDs and DVDs. This year, I didn’t have any higher value items but I did have 2 black bags full of clothes from all the family, costume jewellery and books and DVDs. So as a veteran of 3 car boot sales, here is what I have learnt:-


  1. Finding a Car Boot Sale in your area

Good old Google works well. You can also check your local paper (I found our most recent one in there). Car Boot Junction has an area search you can use. I’ve found it works better with a town name than with a partial postcode.


  1. Go it alone or take a friend?

It is great to have company at a sale as you are standing around a lot. And it really helps having someone else to keep an eye on the stall while you are busy with a buyer and you can take a loo break! My sister has come with me to all the boot sales but she has always had stuff of her own to sell as well.   I wouldn’t ask a friend to help unless they were also selling as it is quite a chunk of a Sunday morning and can be an early start. If you go on your own, you won’t be able to take a loo break or go round the other stalls. That having been said, there have been plenty of solo stall holders at every Boot Sale so it is doable! Just make sure your cash is not easily accessible and watch that no-one steals smaller items.


Car boot sales - all you need to know

Car boot sale pitch

3             Timings

Admission times for sellers and buyers varies from Sale to Sale. For some reason, most of them prefer an early start and gates open at 6am. At least, that’s what they say. Usually you can get it earlier. We turned up at 5:40am at the Boot Sale last year, expecting (naively) to be waiting in a traffic queue until 6, only to drive straight in and we were nowhere near the first. Be warned, dealers and other stall holders start coming round almost as soon as you’ve parked! And some places allow buyers in at the same time as sellers so you have to unpack quickly so ensure you have allowed for this when packing the car. Ie make sure your table or ground cover is easily accessible and have your float ready to use. The sale we went to this year started at 9am and sellers weren’t allowed in until 10am. Even so, stall holders were shopping before 10 but overall it was less stressful.

  1. Pricing

Seasoned car boot buyers will usually haggle a bit so be warned. And pricing can depend on the location of the Sale. At the one we went to last year, people were just not prepared to pay very much. I even had someone turn down a perfectly nice mug at 20p! On the other hand, at the sale we went to last week, people obviously expected to pay a bit more. We didn’t realise this initially so were asking lower prices than we could have. The upside of that was that we did manage to shift a lot of stuff! It’s good to have in mind what you are going to ask for items but I have never really bothered with labels. I did buy some for last year but found people asked the price anyway. And prices can put off some buyers.

Be warned though, if you want top whack for an item, don’t sell at a car boot sale. Buyers are looking for bargains. For example, at a Sale last year, I was selling my son’s bike which we paid over £300 for new and it was still in good condition.. At 6am I was asking £50 and one guy offered me £40 to which I countered £45 which he refused. In the end I sold it a few hours later for £30. The Microscooter (worth over £100 new) sold early on for my asking price of £20 amazingly. My son’s old scooter I was asking £5 for and the couple of people interested just walked away. Eventually at about 10am a Mum asked the price and I asked for £2 which she paid. Other items we asked for between 50p and £1 and mostly got it although we did go as low as 20p for some stuff. Even some brand new still-in-their-packaging pillow cases only sold for 50p each. Overall at that Sale, I sold nearly £80 worth of stuff and minus the £12 entrance fee and petrol and labels I cleared over £60 which was brilliant. At the most recent Sale I took about £30 which gave me a small profit of £20 once I took off the shared cost of the entrance fee and hanging rail. There were much less people at the most recent sale and we felt we would have sold more if we had gone back to the one we did last year. People were probably put off by the thought that the field would be muddy after torrential rain the day before. In fact it wasn’t but you do have to take weather into account.

  1. Float

You will need to take some change with you. We usually take £25-£30 in float but I am sure I could cut it down as most buyers seem to have stocked up with coins which is handy. I usually take about £20 in pound coins, about £3 in 50ps and £2 each in 20ps and 10ps. I don’t bother with anything smaller. It might be handy to take a couple of £5 notes as well in case of larger notes. WRITE DOWN the amount of your float somewhere safe where you won’t lose it. You need to take away the float amount from the total takings to work out how much you have made. Sounds obvious but don’t rely on just remembering. (Well, I can’t anyway!). And take a bum bag or similar to keep the money in. Unfortunately, not everyone at a Boot sale is honest and you don’t want your takings stolen.

  1. Snacks

There is nothing like getting up early and setting up a stall to make you hungry! We usually take a flask of coffee and either bacon or egg sandwiches. They taste soooo good in the middle of a field at 10am! And it is better than spending your hard-earned takings at the burger van that is at all Boot sales.

7. Equipment

This section should probably come before the Snacks but, hey. I am a bit food obsessed!

a) Table – you can use a tarpaulin or some other kind of ground cover but it is definitely better to have a table so that buyers can see your stuff more easily. Thankfully my pasting table that I bought for a boot sale years ago was still fine. If you need to buy one, go cheap or you will spend all your potential profits before you start. Homebase has one similar to mine here and it’s about £10.—1780-x-560-x-740mm-027611

b) Cloth – you need something to cover the table to help display your stuff. I took an old, rarely used, white tablecloth but a sheet would work as well. The tablecloth looked good on the pasting table and, as it was quite wide, it covered the struts and table legs. White works well as a background for displaying items but any pale colour would probably work as well. When we got home, there were no marks at all on it so I just gave it a wash and iron and it was fine.

c) Ground cover– we could have done with extra room to display stuff at the beginning. Several of the stalls around us had blue tarpaulins. Some people used a waterproof picnic blanket. If you have one at home, great, but I wouldn’t invest in new if you aren’t going to do boot sales regularly. Take boxes (see below) instead or as well.

d) Display boxes – plastic or cardboard boxes to use to display smaller items. Plastic look better but cardboard is fine if you don’t have any plastic ones. Again it is not worth spending your takings before you have any! I took CD sized ones when I was selling off my husband’s CD collection (with his permission of course!) and they worked really well. I think the more you look as if you care about your stuff the more interested the buyers will be.

e) Hanging rail: if you are selling a lot of clothes, try and get hold of a hanging rail. I borrowed one for the first Sale I went to and it worked really well. We didn’t have one last year and ended up piling clothes at the end of our table and then eventually hanging a couple of items on a music stand (also for sale!). I wouldn’t buy one just for one sale but if you are planning to do it regularly, it might be a good investment. We decided to take the plunge this year and bought a clothes rail from Argos for 9.99.. And, of course, don’t forget to take coat hangers. And to bring them back (unless you are happy to give them away!).

f) Plastic sheeting I also brought along a plastic dustsheet in case it rained. In the event, everyone packed away when it rained so we didn’t use it. Again, it may not be worth buying if you haven’t got one as the more you spend on equipment beforehand, the less you will make overall

g) Bags and packaging stuff – we brought along some plastic carrier bags and I also had a load of tissue paper from some mugs I had bought. Most people had their own bags but it was useful for anyone who didn’t and the tissue paper was used a few times for mugs and other delicate items. It all helps sell.

h) Sales log If you are sharing a pitch with someone else, you need to record who has sold what. We didn’t have a way of doing this last time apart from givng the other the money but it can get hard to remember to do this when it gets busy. This time, we took an exercise book ruled into columns, one for each name, and jotted down each sale in the appropriate column as we made them. It worked really well and at the end, when we had counte dup the money and removed the float, we were only 50p adrift.

i) Pens, paper, felt tips, sellotape – useful to have just in case you feel like a quick label or need to attach instructions to an item.

  1. Marketing

This probably sounds obvious but it is a good idea to try and display your items as well as possible. When you have a full stall at the beginning, it can be difficult. However, as you sell stuff, you will have more room. For example, at the Sale last year, the clothes were being ignored in their pile on the end of the stall so we hung a few things on a music stand and they sold quickly. It also gave us room to display t-shirts on the stall more easily and they also sold soon after. A monogrammed cloth bag went on the edge of the music stand and sold almost immediately. Once we had room, we took jewellery out of its boxes and arranged them artistically on a jewellery box. Once the jewellery box was sold we put the necklaces etc directly on the table and they looked good against the white cloth. We found that each time we changed layout, there was more interest in the items. Looking around, the stalls that looked busiest were those who had tables, boxes to bring together similar items and had made an effort to display items nicely. If you don’t care about the stuff you are offering for sale, why should a buyer?


  1. Any downsides? Most Boot sales mean an early start but once you have your stall set up and you start to sell, it is really enjoyable. We liked talking to buyers and there is a little thrill every time you sell something. However, you are unlikely to sell everything so you have to have a disposal plan for all the unsold items. We always take unsold items to the charity shop either same or next day. That way you aren’t tempted to hold on to anything ‘just in case’. Offering an item for sale does help lessen any emotional attachment! So trade on that and get rid of the unsold stuff as quickly as possible. Your home is not a storage area.


My sister and I are planning to do a Car Boot Sale every year as we enjoy it once we have got over the pain of an early start on a Sunday. As long as you have enough sellable stuff, you should make a profit.

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