A car boot sale is the perfect place for getting rid of stuff and making extra cash. We do one every two to three years, and we always make at least £100 – £200 profit.
(The only cost on the day is the pitch and food.)
Which isn’t bad for a few hours work, and it clears up a lot of space in the attic and garage!
How much money you make depends on the quality and quantity of items you’re selling.
Most car boots take place in a field or car park during the summer months (weekly car boots in the UK typically start on the Easter weekend).
Often, but not always, they happen on Sunday mornings.
Choosing a Car Boot Sale
My best advice for choosing a car boot is to go to one that is established and on every week during the summer. A lot of pubs and local businesses hold the occasional car boot, but you never know how well attended they will be. You don’t want to do this twice, and you want to sell as much stuff as possible, so go where the people are, and not where they might be.
Even if it means travelling.
Our car boot of choice, Burnage Rugby Club in Manchester, is 12 miles away from home. It’s been going for over 10 years and is really well attended, which means we are sure to sell most of our stuff, if not all of it.
Preparing for a Car Boot Sale
Preparation is key to a successful car boot. Never leave it until the day before the event to start sorting through the pile of ‘junk’ at the back of the garage or in the attic.
In your head, you will estimate how long it will take you to separate the stuff you are selling from the stuff you are keeping or throwing away. Whatever that number is, at least double it.
Here are the reasons why:
- You have way more stuff than you realise
- A ‘walk down memory lane’ is often a meander rather than a sprint
- You will be struck with indecision
Be ruthless. Make decisions quickly and move on.
“People buy all sorts of stuff from a car boot sale.”
Contrary to what people say and what you might think, they don’t buy everything, old ornaments, worn out clothes and VHS videos probably won’t sell. So, rather than taking stuff like this with you, recycle it through various charities or your local council.
For a lot of people, the cleanliness of your items matters. A clean stall goes a long way to making sales and generating cash.
Have some polish or water at hand so you can clean anything that’s dirty or dusty.
If you can’t do it during the sorting stage, definitely do it before the car boot. Potential buyers pick up and examine the items you’re selling, if it feels mucky or dusty, they may put it down and move on.
After you have cleaned everything, it’s time to start thinking about pricing.
We always place stickers on larger items and create boxes based on price – 50p, £1.00 or even 10p (we use bright cardboard to display the price and attract attention). We always over-price the larger items because we know people will haggle. So, for example, if we want £5.00 for an old lamp, we price it at £7.00.
If you are taking clothes (which sell really well) think about how you are going to display them. Some people don’t mind rummaging through a pile of clothes, but you have more success if they are properly displayed on a clothes rail – it mimics real shopping and puts people in a ‘shop’ frame of mind rather than ‘jumble sale’ – it also makes it easier for people to see what’s on offer. You can pretty much guarantee the clothes at the bottom of a pile won’t see much daylight on the day of a car boot.
We bought a clothes rail specifically for this purpose. I think it cost about £10, but over the years it’s more than paid for itself.
Once the preparation, cleaning and pricing is done (and you have checked the internet for anything that looks like it might be valuable), it’s time to start thinking about the day itself, and what you need to take with you.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Always take carrier bags with you as people will ask for one
- Take plenty of change as everyone wants to pay with notes or large denomination coins
- Take a pen and some stickers so you can amend prices
- Check the weather and wear suitable clothing
- If rain is forecast, take plastic or tarpaulin so you can cover your stall when it starts
- If sun is forecast, take sun-cream and/or a hat
- Take a container to hold the money
- Take food and drinks
Car boots always start early. If you can, pack your car the evening before the event. If you can’t do this, put everything you’re selling into cardboard or plastic boxes so you can quickly pack the car in the morning.
Don’t forget the stall! Decorating tables are perfect, we use a cheap wooden one we bought years ago. We also take a few foldaway knee-height tables we use when we go camping.
On the Day
Take somebody with you. It’s kind of a no-brainer, but it ‘s good to have support and there will come a time when you need to visit the loo. You probably can trust the people next to you, but you know you can trust your companion.
Get up early and arrive at the location before the start time. You want a good pitch with plenty of passing traffic. Most likely you won’t choose the pitch, but getting there early could secure one near the main entrance.
Punters arrive early too, so the longer you have to sell, the more cash you will make.
If you arrive late, or even if you don’t, be prepared for people swooping on your car and rooting through your goods before you set up your stall. You can makes sales this way, but usually it’s a lot of hassle as you want to get the stall set up, so you may have to be quite forceful with people and shoo them away.
Typically, you pay for your pitch half-way through the morning. One of the organisers calls at each stall to collect the fee. This varies from site-to-site, with some charging more for vans than they do for cars.
Preparing Your Stall
My partner is superb at setting up the display; she pays a lot of attention to the look of the stall. The table is always covered with a clean cloth (usually a white blanket), and all of the stuff we’re selling is neatly displayed and easy to see.
The smaller items are usually at the front of the stall, the larger items towards the back and the best stuff is always bang in the middle. We put anything that’s too large for the table at its side.
We always place books, CDs and DVDs into boxes so their spines are showing, rather than placing them on the table in tower-like fashion.
We always place clothes on a rail, and if we need extra space, we take a fold down dryer we bought from Ikea.
Shoe boxes are a good way to add display height. We put them at the back of the stall and place our smaller wares on top of them.
Selling Your Stuff!
This is when the fun begins.
You can shout to attract people if you like, but most of us quietly lean against our car waiting for people to approach. When they do, you could try to engaging them in conversation; talk about the weather or tell a story about the item they’re looking at. Try being natural and not salesy – most people don’t like it.
Just like in a shop, they prefer to browse and come to when you when they need help.
Be prepared to haggle. People always try and save a quid here and a penny there. In your mind, have a rock-bottom price for each item and don’t sell for less, at least during the first few hours.
Keep yourself busy by adjusting the stall – look at if from a buyers point of view (literally: walk around the other side of the table and take a few steps back). This stops you staring at the people walking by, which gives them the confidence to browse. It also helps you focus on the attractiveness, or not, of your stall.
If no-one is looking at your stall, get the person or people you are with to pretend they’re potential buyers. It’s amazing how many people flock to busy stalls. They want to see what all the fuss is about and think they might miss out. It works for us every time!
The busiest times for most UK car boots is between 8.30am and 10.30 am. Dealers and collectors are always there at the start so they can grab the bargains before anyone else.
A couple of hours before the sale ends, start thinking about reducing prices. You want to sell as much as possible so hanging on for a few quid more could end up being a false economy. Watch the crowds to get a feel for the start of the wind-down.
The Last Half Hour
Now is the time to reduce prices and accept any offer. You may even consider giving stuff away (we’ve done it plenty of times).
Once the sale is over, pack up your table, anything you have left and count your money!
Hopefully, it will be tidy sum and you have had an enjoyable experience!
One last thing, pick up your litter and leave your pitch tidy.
Happy car booting!