Let’s have a look at how people make money at a car boot sale. Usually by selling stuff they no longer need, want or use. Stuff that’s been in the garage or attic for a while that’s served its purpose and now just takes up valuable space.
You know the kind of stuff I mean – toys, clothes, DVDs, books, ornaments, cutlery, chairs, tools, pans, small electrical goods and just about every other item you could name!
So, the big question – how much can you make at a car boot sale?
The big answer – it depends! It really does.
As an example, we do one every two to three years, and we always make at least £100 – £200 profit. Our goal is usually around the £100 mark. We easily make this just by selling stuff we don’t use anymore. Like clothes, kid’s toys and other bric-a-brac. We very rarely have large items to sell and the average price of our stuff is usually around a couple of quid per item.
£100 for a few hours work is pretty good these days and it frees up a lot of space in the attic and garage (so we can start accumulating stuff for our next car boot sale!).
Could you make the same or a similar amount? Easily. Keep reading for some tips, tricks and advice on how to make money at a car boot sale selling gear you no longer need, want or use.
Where and when do car boot sales happen?
Most regular outdoor car boot sales take place in a field or car park during the summer months, starting at around Easter weekend and ending around August or September when the weather starts turning colder and wetter.
Often, but not always, they happen on Sunday mornings. But you do sometimes see them during the week too. Bank Holiday Mondays are also a popular choice for car boots, especially one-off fund raisers or specials.
How to choose the best car boot sale for you
The point of doing a car boot sale o generate some extra funds is to sell as much of your stuff in as short a time as possible. If you have to do this twice over a couple of weekends, you’ll make less money and waste time.
My best advice for choosing a car boot sale is to pick one that’s established and on every weekend during the summer. And the larger, the better.
A lot of pubs, hospitals and charities hold the occasional car boot, but you never know how big or well-attended they’ll be. So they can be a bit risky. Go where the people are, 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. The price is £10 (for a car) and you have to get there at least two to three hours before it starts to get a decent pitch. This means leaving home between 3am and 4am and sitting in the car until the gates open.
How to prepare 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’ll estimate how long it’ll take you to separate the stuff you’re selling from the stuff you’re keeping or throwing away. Whatever that number is, at least double it. Maybe even treble it!
Here are a few of the reasons why:
- You have way more stuff than you realise
- A ‘walk down memory lane’ turns into a meander as you recall memories of days gone by
- You will be struck with indecision (should I sell it, or should I keep it?)
Be ruthless. Make decisions quickly and move on.
People aren’t interested in your old tat (unless it’s valuable or cheap)
Contrary to what people say and what you might think, people don’t buy everything you take to a car boot sale. Old ornaments, worn-out clothes and DVDs probably won’t sell unless they’re valuable (or dirt cheap)!
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, well-laid-out stall goes a long way to making sales and generating cash.
So, as you’re sorting through your stuff, have some water and polish to hand so you can clean up anything that’s dusty or marked. It could add a few pounds to the value of the stuff you’re selling.
If you can’t do it during the sorting stage, definitely do it before the car boot sale. 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.
How to price the stuff you’re selling at a car boot sale?
The people who attend car boot sales are always looking for bargains, and the haggling goes with the territory, so be prepared for some ridiculous offers. In the past, we’ve been offered 10p for stuff with a £3 price tag!
A good way to get the price you want, while letting the buyer think they’ve got a bargain, is to overprice your gear. Say you have a lovely lamp or framed print and you want £5 for it. On the day of the car boot sale, price it up at £7 or £8 so when somebody offers you a fiver, you agree straight away.
They’ll think they’ve got a bargain and you’ve got the fiver you wanted. Everybody’s happy!
Car boot sales are kind of the lowest of the low when it comes to pricing. People really do want a bargain so price your stuff that way. A £30 Next shirt might go for a maximum of £4. The same goes for a pair of Birkenstock Sandals.
What you have to remember is you’re selling old, used stuff. Usually second hand but sometimes third hand! So price your stuff to sell. You don’t want to take anything home with you.
Should you put prices on the stuff you’re selling?
We do. 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).
While some people are more than prepared to ask how much you want for something, most people won’t, so pricing stuff up can help sales.
Clothes sell if they’re well-presented
Clothes will sell well if you display them properly. By that I mean washing and ironing them, and on the day of the car boot sale, displaying them on a clothes rack.
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.
whatever do you, don’t dump everything in a pile and expect people to dive-in. Some people don’t mind rummaging through a pile of clothes, but you’ll 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.
Place everything in one big pile and you can pretty much guarantee the clothes at the bottom won’t see much daylight on the day of your car boot.
What sellers need to take to a car boot sale
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
How to prepare your car for the boot sale
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!
- Constable Robinson
- Chapman, Giles (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
Car Boot Sale FAQs
Can you choose your own pitch at a car boot sale?
In my experience, the answer to this question is no. Typically, cars are allowed onto the site in a first-come, first-served basis. So the people who arrive early tend to have pitches closest to the entrance. Although this varies from venue to venue.
When does the car boot season start?
There is no ‘season’ for many indoor car boot sales as they operate no matter the weather. Outdoor car boot sales usually run from around Easter time until the end of the summer but there are some that run all year round.
Are car boot sales allowed during the current COVID 19 outbreak?
Yes, they are allowed. But they must follow social distancing guidelines and any items touched by buyers must be quarantined for 72 hours. It’s kind of tough to run a car boot this way. So, while they are allowed, it could prove difficult to find one.
How do you find a car boot sale near you?
Google is the best place to start your search. Just google ‘car boot sale near me’ to see what shows up, then follow the links you see in the results. Other ways to find local car boots is Facebook groups, local newspapers, local radio ads and through the local council’s website.
Can you sell new goods at a car boot sale?
A traditional car boot sale is all about selling stuff you don’t need or use anymore, but you do sometimes see people selling new stuff. If you are planning on selling new stuff at a car boot sale, check with the organisers before you go. There’s usually a contact phone number on the website or promotional material.
What should you do if you think you’ve got something valuable in your possession?
Get it valued. There’s value all sorts of items. Some of which look tatty and worthless. The best place to start is google. Do a quick search to see what you can find out about the item. If nothing shows up, or it does but you need a more expert opinion, get in touch with an auctioneer or specialist in the field.
They can often offer free advice and/or a valuation by email. All you need to do is snap a photo on your phone and describe the item in your email. You’ve got nothing to lose.
What day of the week do car boot sales take place?
Sunday morning is a popular time for a car boot sale to take place. Saturday morning is a close second. You’ll also find bank holiday Mondays are a good time as well. These tend to be one-off events to raise money for a good cause such as a charity. While there are midweek car boot sales, they aren’t as popular for buyers or sellers as the majority of people are at work.