10 Top Tips For A Successful Car Boot Sale

Car boot sale

Whilst you might not think it from the weather, we’re now slap bang in the middle of car boot sale season, certainly for those enough who aren’t hardy enough to go during the winter months.

Car boot sales might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no doubt that they can be a useful way of generating a bit of extra cash, as well as providing you with a chance to clear some unwanted clutter from your house. Whilst I wouldn’t class myself as an experienced car-booter (it requires too many cold, early mornings in a field for my liking), here are the tips I would suggest new booters need to consider before packing up your car and heading out to make your fortune:

  1. Think about what will actually sell – before you start piling everything and anything into your car, consider whether anyone will really want to buy your old junk. It’s true that people will buy some unbelievable stuff, but they’re unlikely to pay much for it, so you’ll be better off finding your bigger, better items first.
  2. Be realistic about pricing but don’t give it away – in the car boot sales I’ve attended buyers haven’t been prepared to part with much for anything, so decide beforehand what you’re going to charge for each item but be realistic about what you’ll get for it. That old video recorder may have given you hours of viewing pleasure, but to another punter it’s not going to be worth more than a couple of quid. But if you’re being haggled down to a price you’re not comfortable with, if it’s early enough in the day it might be worth holding out for someone who’s willing to pay a little more. Later in the day, it’s worth weighing up whether you should take a low offer or have to take the item back home and bring back to sell another time. Sometimes it’s better to get rid of the item and concetrate your efforts on more saleable items the next time round. If go regularly and find yourself taking the same things back home each time, it might be time to dump them and look for other stuff to sell.
  3. Be prepared – decide on your prices before you leave, as there are often buyers milling around before you’ve even got out of your car, which can leave you a little off guard. Get some small price stickers to put on your items if it helps.
  4. Think about how you are going to display your items – Organise similar items together to help “cross-sell”, and make use of the space you have, by using tables or groundsheets. Remember that wallpaper pasting table you’ve got stored in the garage? It might not see much decorating action, but it’s invaluable for car booting. Also, think about how you can catch people’s attention – obviously, this doesn’t mean by shouting or flashing naughty parts of your body, but by the way you layout your items or even the types of item you have to sell.
  5. Don’t park too close to the next car – this might be a little difficult depending on how keen the organisers are in cramming as many cars into their field, but if you can give yourself a little more space, do it.
  6. Watch your expensive items – car boot sales can be magnets for people who enjoy getting a “five finger discount”, so keep an eye on your more expensive items to ensure they don’t get nicked.
  7. Get there early – in general it pays to get to the sale early, as you’ll end up in one of the best pitches – you want to have as many people walking past as possible.
  8. Factor in costs – It’s no good earning £20 – £30 selling all of your stuff if your profit gets eaten up by the cost of your pitch, food and drink etc., so factor these in when you’re trying to work out if it’s worth going. To make it cheaper, take your own sandwiches or a flask of tea to keep you going.
  9. Go to the loo before you go! – says it all really, don’t get caught short – you might miss that important sale!
  10. Take some change – have a few 1p and 2p coins handy, as well as some change i slightly larger sizes.

I hope you’ve found these tips useful – we’ve found that we can earn between £50 – £100 at each car boot sale, although we only go a couple of times a year, as we don’t have that much stuff to sell.

Got any more car boot sale tips? Leave them in the comments below.

Update: there are already some really good car boot sale tips in the comments, so be sure to check them out.

Creative Commons License photo credit: kamshots

30 thoughts on “10 Top Tips For A Successful Car Boot Sale

  1. when you pull up at a carboot you need to be careful of your stuff straight away because some buyers will try to open your boot or car doors and nick stuff.
    If you are buying a box of different things, always check the stuff at the bottom as sellers put the tatty stuff at the bottom and some good stuff at the top

  2. Be firm with the ‘boot divers’ ie the professionals who congregate round your car and bully before you even have your tables up. No, you won’t discuss prices until you are ready and please step away from the car. Don’t bother with electrical items – it’s very difficult to sell them, you’ll do better on Ebay with it’s safer selling system. Offer a bowl of water for dogs in hot weather and put a big sign up advertising it. Don’t put huge cuddly toys on your stall – they don’t sell and parents will actually walk their families past your stall quicker to avoid being nagged. Always take plenty of change in a ‘float’. Your first 50p sale will invariably be paid for with a £20 note. watch out for sticky fingers – better if you have more than one person on the stand.

  3. its really is true all of these thing i have been doing carboots every year for about 5 years with my cousin and each yer through all our hard work we raise between £100-£200 only selling our stuff but if you get stuck try doing a raffle!

  4. Heres another tip for sellers;

    There is no point taking nothing but 300 VHS tapes to a car boot sale, expecting to make a good profit.

    DVD’s have made the VHS obsolete, and while some a small number of people may still look for them, you will be still be taking 295 of them back home with you!

    @Charlie – Fair enough but don’t forget that without dealers buying your items, you would probably take alot more of your items home with you!

    In addition – If someone sees something they are interested in and politely asks about it, then I am more than willing to let them have a look.

    I certainly don’t tell them to go away as they are a potential lead who wants to buy something from me :)

    I remember when I asked to look at a bass guitar and the seller was very rude and abrupt and told me to go away for half an hour.

    I did what I was told, only for them to take a much lower amount for it when they finally decided they had come to a car boot to sell – shame really, it was a nice guitar and I would have paid their asking price.

    I personally think its all part of the fun!


  5. Don’t forget carrier bags. Pack your table last of all you will need it first! You will get half an hour set up time before the buyers are allowed into our boot sales so if you are in Cornwall come to one of our sales for hassle free selling…

  6. Thanks for that advise. Im looking to save up for an ipad and im hoping to get £50-£100 pounds. Sure your advise will help

  7. I’d like to contribute a small piece on the type of customers a car booter can expect. I ‘ve encountered these types myself and learned to react accordingly.

    1) The no-deal haggler. Very odd people who will come along just to kill time and finger, touch, hold every product you’re selling, ask you the price, automatically put the item back and even wince when you reduce the price by half ; possibly haggle you even lower with still no intention of buying the items away whichever price you quote.

    You get to recognise the same faces after a while and learn to stone facedly stick to the original price whatever they try to do and say (they still don’t buy anything). The psychology of these timewasting folk is just odd, more out for the car boot experience than actually to buy anything however good or cheap.

    2) The last minute buyer …in the closing hours you tend to get customers revisiting your stall for a second look, having been round all the others, not having found exactly whatever it is they want, just for the sake of wanting to buy something they perhaps only half desire before they go home. Soft sell and a reduction tends to usher them to purchasing something.

    3) Browsers…don’t pounce…give them time and space and leave them to it and don’t say a word till after several minutes. In the past I’ve unwittingly scared off several customers just by being over zealous and enthusiastically pushing an item at them. A lot of customers are very much in a world of their own re what they’re looking for…leave them to it and the sale will take care of itself.

    4) Kids !!! Drawing them over to your stall is easy with some freebie sweets or soft drinks. ( ditto bowl of water for pet owners) Very keen , very enthusiastic and usually penniless ! Get mum and dad on your side ( who are usually sponsoring the transaction) ‘ I think you’d better ask mum/dad first ‘ should be the response as they gleefully express desire for just about everything you’re selling! Sensible trader/parent adult consultation , possibly with a reduction offer usually seals the deal.

    5) Old Codgers out fot a chat. Car Boots are not just trading places – they’re social events whereby particularly single elderly gentlemen and ladies come out for a natter about the history and nostalgia of something you’re selling or the memories it evokes from WWII to their entire family history . Humour them. Some of them can be quite interesting and might even dig deep and spend 50p on something ! If they get to like you they’ll come back every week for a natter and perhaps a sale.

  8. Just a few more tips I’ve picked up along the way;

    1) Pack some pan scrubs/dishcloths and some type of kitchen/bathroom spray cleaner. Throughout the sale, after several handlings, goods from books to dvds to brica-a-brac get grubby or greasy. Give them a quick clean up and they’re more likely to sell.

    2) Videos – VHS vid buyers DO exist provided you’ve got the particular film they’re after – no good taking half a dozen out – display your entire collection en masse, in bulk, organised like books, spines visible so they can read each and every title ( do not throw in a random heap). I find that less generic, more ‘obscure’ titles usally sell to VHS curio collectors. Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick as opposed to “Friends” series five or Buffy the Vampire Slayer Box Set ! They seem to appear in every stall !

    3) Books – like videos – a customer is usally seeking a particular title/author/genre from Dan Brown to Patricia Cornwell to Cook Books. Arrange them accordingly, neatly, preferably displayed on a book case, however old or unfashionable, so they can see exactly what you’ve got. Book heaps just get get walked past.
    In my experience it’s coffee table picture type books ( Cookery, Royalty, Nature, Crafts, Landscapes) that tend to sell. Also local history. Put paperbacks in sections : Sci Fi / Thriller / Poetry / Romance etc. For paperbacks my own pricing (as with vids)is 50p each ; three for a pound. Pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap !

    4) Magazines/comics – ideally get plastic pockets to put them in – it makes them look more collectible and defends them from the unpredictable English weather. I know traders who have lost literally boxes full in stock owing to a sudden shower !

    5) Surefire sellers – Handbags/bags/shoes/jeans/hats. I even surprised myself at how much sold in this section. If you’re brave enough to keep it cheap – one pound per item – you should move the lot. Randomness seems to help sell here – lay an attractive blanket on your pitch and strew them out. Coat hangers and clothes rail for displaying posher items – coats, shirts, jackets, blouses, trousers. Always inform customer how good they look in those boots/coats. “Oooh ! Suit you, Sir !” Take a mirror.

    6) If your partner can ‘mind the store’ for a while, it’s essential to have a walk round the other stalls as a customer for ten minutes or so and do some market reasearch as to what they’re selling and for how much and how they’re displaying it. Modify your own display accordingly. Avoid the temptation to spend up your profits on other people’s bargains !

    7) Trade to other Traders – they are often your best customers. One stallholder I met sold nothing but toys, he approached me and bought all mine to sell on his stall. Likewise I’ve received donations of books or bric a brac in barter for some of mine.

  9. I always find all of the good stuff being sold before ive had a chance to set up due to the very early morning buyers rummaging through all the boxes when im trying to set up. So once you reach your pitch remove your paste table (or whatever your using) then close up your car again and tell them your not ready to sell yet

  10. I do car boot sales usually twice a year and have got a few useful tips…

    (1)Research car boot sales.
    This might not seem like a big issue, but have a look at what car boots sales are on offer near you. I have 3 within half an hour of my house. Two are open air while one is undercover. The last few times I’ve done car boot sales it’s been the undercover one I’ve gone to. If it rains you don’t have to worry about getting wet half way through or sunburnt if it’s sunny. It can be helpful if you go to a couple as a buyer (but don’t be tempted if your aim is to get rid of things!). It will help you see what sellers have on offer and can help you price your unwanted goods. A lot of car boot sales won’t allow you to have any alcohol items for sale, so if you have any Bells decanters or things like that, you’ll need to try somewhere else to sell them.

    (2)Take a friend/relative with you.
    You will often have people gathering round your car as soon as you get out looking for certain thing (such as jewlery, perfume, etc). Having a second person will help you get things set up/packed up and make it easier to keep your eye on everything. Handy if you get a busy spell and someone you can chat to if you get a quiet spell. Also handy should you need to nip to the toilet.

    (2)Take carrier bags with you.
    It’s surprising how much people will buy so having a pile of bags with you will be a massive help. I save carrier bags when I get them so I have a pile ready for car boot sales.

    (3)Take plenty of change with you.
    There’s nothing worse than someone wanting to buy something for 50p and they only have a £20 note. If you don’t have change it will put buyers off buying something from you. Have a couple of £5 notes, a £10 and then a pile of mixed change. I usually take £50 worth of mixed change so I’m prepared for this. However, don’t leave your float on the table/on display as you don’t want someone to run off with it. If you can use a bum bag or a small over the shoulder bag then you can keep hold of the money.

    (4)Use a runner rail.
    I have a large, sturdy metal runner rail for taking clothes with me. It makes looking through clothes easier for buyers as they can easily see what it looks like and what size it is without making your stall a complete mess and then needing to spend ages trying to tidy it up before the next buyer makes a mess. You can also display far more clothing this way. Some car boot sale locations have some available to rent. You pay a small fee to borrow it and then you get most of the fee back when you return it. If you’re taking a rail, make sure you pack it last along with the pasting table as you’ll need it first.

    (5)Pasting table.
    This is one of the most important things you can take with you so you can display your good. Make sure you pack this last as you’ll need this first.

  11. i have done a few car boot sales and i have some tips.

    1. Price things before hand becaus ebyers seem to think if u dont have aprice it will be expensive and usually pass on to another stall.

    2. take lunch with you because if you dont te money you make will just spent on lunchand you wont make a profit.

    3.make sure it is going to be sunny because if its cold or rainy byers dont come.

    4. get there early then you have to whole day to sell things.

    5. If you have valuble things keep them in sight at all times as you will find people who will steal them in the two minutes you turn around.

    6. Let the byers browse in peace because if you look at them it makes them feel pressurized and will slowly oush them away

    7. take plenty of different ammounts of change

    8.take carrier bags and newspaper to wrap things up

    9. always smile at byers it will make them feel more comftable.

    i hope my tips help ….

  12. I am doing my first car boot on Sunday and was wondering what kind of price i should sell my clothes at. I have quite a few pairs of jeans, dressy tops, skirts etc for going out and some brand new quite expensive clothes that still have the label on and have never been worn. I want to get a decent price for some these kind of items and am happy to sell other items for a pound or two but don’t want to set some prices too high and risk not selling as much.

  13. Emma, I took a massive stack of clothes and sold them at 3 for a pound and 50p each. (Some unwarn) I got 1 purchase. However, I went to a car boot in a poor area (Hull) In ares like cumbria and near london (surry, sussex) The brand new items will sell at £3 each.
    Car boot sales arent for profits. there for getting rid of junk.
    wear you clothes or return em otherwise youl get pennys.

  14. I’m doing my second carboot sale in a weeks time and I haven’t done one in several years -I’m going to be selling clothes and bags and a few other pieces of junk- and I’ve just been scrolling over all the above tips and I just wanted to say Thanx alot because they all really help :) just thought I’d let everyone know xxx

  15. Did a car boot sale today after reading these last night. Didn’t find crime a problem. People didn’t haggle too much. Taking large float (for me, £20) and a number of carrier bags was useful. Found that the bigger, higher value items (e.g. for me a radio control car) were easier to sell. Sold kids cuddly toys OK. Didn’t price things up first (which was good, as were able to change prices as experience improved). It’s very tiring. Averaged 3 sales per hour.

  16. im doing a car booty on wednesday i have some really good clothes .some i havent even worn with the tickets still on them dont know what to sell them for .

  17. did car booty wednesday was really good . doing another one sat. just one thing a woman came to my stall in asked what i was selling my iron for. i told her 4 pounds and she through it back down i said to her 2 go and buy one from a shop and c how much it would cost her then .

  18. I use to hate buyers looking through windows and rummaging in boxes before you had even started to unload with 101 questions. I’ve since found a few sales that use two set times. If you opt for the cheaper later time everybody is held at the top of the field and then +200 cars come down together, which tends to dilute the buyers and you can then set up hassle free.

  19. It’s true the above mentioned points really matters a lot. Last weekend I went to car boot sale with my mother , there I found very pretty cutlery set. The way you display your things really attract people around.

  20. You have discussed very good points. As a costumer when I go for a car boot shopping, I notice these things and then go to the seller. I want to mention one more things in your list is that “the seller should display the items so that it look attractive”.

  21. I precisely wanted to thank you so much once more. I am not sure the things that I could possibly have carried out without the type of techniques revealed by you directly on my subject matter. Previously it was an absolute alarming matter for me, nevertheless taking note of your well-written manner you managed it forced me to jump for happiness. I’m just happier for this support and as well , have high hopes you realize what a powerful job you are always undertaking teaching the mediocre ones using your web page. Most likely you’ve never got to know all of us.

  22. I’m impressed with the content you have selected to discuss about. I was not at all aware of car boot sale. I have never seen that, but after reading your article I got some unique info about this. Anyways, I just wanted to say that the point you have mentioned above may helped so many car boot seller.

  23. I have done bootsales for about 20 years – usually just one or two a year to get rid of unwanted items. Here are my tips.

    Prepare beforehand. Make sure your items are clean and saleable. I like to use pasting tables and a small rail. I also use a clean tablecloth. I have some of my clothes on hangers ready to put straight on the rail. Sometimes if I have bulky larger items I take a groundsheet as well. Pack the table and rail on top of your items as you will need these first. Price items prior to arrival either with a sticker or at least have a price in mind and a minimum in mind you would accept. Have plenty of change and £5.00 notes available. I use a bum bag or cross the body bag to keep money safe. Take some carrier bags and if you have china or fragile items some newspaper or bubble to wrap them.

    2. On arrival – Absolute Golden Rule: Get out of your car, shut the doors, lock them and move away from the car for 5-10 minutes. Get a coffee, walk around, have a cigarette, just dont start getting goods out immediately. If you do this, most of the “grabbers”, “hagglers” and “vultures” we hear so much about at the start of the sale will have moved off down the line to newer arriving cars. You will likely get a few but this works.

    If anyone asks if you have any jewellery/records/perfume etc etc tell them politely “no” even if you have got those items. Then, after a short while, get out your table, rail etc and set them up how you want. Once you have your rail and table ready, then start getting out goods. If anyone starts going through your car boot, or tries to come round the back of the table and rummage through your stuff, politely but very firmly tell them not to and shut the boot. Get one bag out at a time if necessary. If people start grabbing stuff and asking prices before you have a chance to set up, tell them a very high price. Once you have done this a few times, they will soon clear off and annoy someone else. I usually take my husband and get him to watch the stuff and take any money whilst I put the stuff out. Look as though you are confident. Be polite but firm and stick to high prices to start with and the dealers, hagglers and vultures will soon go away. If someone is there buying at 6am they are looking for bargains they can sell on, so don’t fall for any sob stories.

    Set out your stall nicely. you don’t have to put everything out straight away. I usually find toys and children’s clothes are worth leaving until a little later in the day when the families come out. Put valuable items at the back of the table. Put them out last so you can watch them.

    HAve a small box or basket with 10p or 20p items in. Put a clear sign on it at the front. People love to rummage for a bargain. You can always put more things in it later on as a way of reducing some prices.

    Take a flask of coffee and some water if its likely to be warm. We usually treat ourselves to a burger whilst we are there, as the ones in our area are usually reasonably priced, but I never buy coffee or drinks. Many people take their own food. Take a deckchair if you have room as long boot sales = achy feet. Take suncream if the weather looks like it might be hot – I have had sunburn several times from boot sales. Take a cardi as it can be chilly first thing in the morning.

    Go to the loo before you leave the house. On arrival establish where the loos are (if any). Take a little loo roll with you and some santising hand gel as portaloos are not known for their hygiene or facilities at the best of times but if you gotta go, you’ve gotta go !

    Basically, dont let anyone rush you or bully you into a sale or a deal. Just politely decline any offers you do not feel are reasonable, and repeat your declination if the haggler is persistent. I usually stick pretty much to my prices, but perhaps give someone a discount if they are buying a few items. Identify a time – say an hour before the end – when you will reduce prices and have a “sale”. If you feel confident to barter and haggle then do so.

    Keep an eye on your goods. I think its best to have two people on a stall minimum. If anyone wants to pay 20p with a £20.00 note, just be careful the notes are not fakes.

    Most importantly, enjoy the experience and make yourself some dosh. Most people are decent, genuine and honest and there are some great characters, We always have a good chat, joke and banter with most of the customers. When you make a sale, thank the customer !

    IF you dont fancy doing a boot sale, take your items to a charity shop rather than dump them.

  24. I want to sell clothes which have been sitting in storage for a while so although not worn may be a little musty, should I wash and iron before doing a car boot and likewise with a throw for a king sized bed, I’d assume things should be clean but does it matter too much if they need an iron?

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