9 tips for surviving a car boot sale…

Jumpsuit: £34.99, H&M. Shoes: J Crew (old). Clothes rail: £120, John Lewis.

As most of you know, I love a carboot sale and try and do them twice a year – usually spring and autumn. I was considering doing one soon so thought I’d share some pearls of wisdom from what we’ve learnt along the way…

1. FIND THE BOOT FOR YOU

Chat to friends and do some research on the best car boot sale in your area. I used to do one locally to my parents but found that city-based ones are better for the product I’m selling (usually clothes). I do Battersea Car boot where you have to pay £30 for a stall, however, we always make this back within the first hour, this fee also allows early entry to set up your stall early so you’re prepared for when the madness begins. It also starts at 11:30am rather than 6am which suits my lifestyle that little bit more….

2. COLLECT FROM FRIENDS

Worried you don’t have enough to sell? You’ll be surprised what does actually sell….clothes, old photo frames, bric a brac, crockery, old baby toys. We always let our family and friends know we’re doing one, and they drop bags round – my dad’s old shirts always go down well and it also helps diversify your customer knowing there’s something for everyone.

And now for the bit where I mention I don’t actually allow myself to shop…

The real reason I do car boot sales is to clear out and make money for extras (this sale will be to raise spending money on our Babymoon in November!). The aim of the game for us is to leave with an empty car (in fact, anything we have left we drop in the locally parked charity van outside). So with this in mind, here are my tips for selling:

3. BRING YOUR LUNCH

We both refuse to spend our profits on greasy burgers, so we make sure we pack sandwiches, snacks and drinks so we’re not even tempted. Try and pack a stool to sit on for those lunchtime lulls, too.

4. DON’T HAGGLE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO

It’s your stall, and your product. Don’t let people bully you. Definitely think about whether it’s really worth putting potential buyers off (just because you spent £50 on an item, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be ‘worth’ £40 when you resell at a carboot), but if you’d genuinely not want to see it go for less than, say, £10, you don’t have to sell it for that. Just be warned you might be going home with it.

5. DON’T OPEN YOUR BOOT 

I know it’s called a car boot sale, but it’s YOUR boot, and as soon as you open it, people will start to peer in and rummage. Yes, you have to open it to get product out at the beginning, but you are well within your rights to say ‘Please get out of my boot’. Once people know you’re weak, they’ll push it further so it’s good to set boundaries.  We usually get out 3/4 of our product at first (the best product) and then after a few hours, bring out a second batch when it has quitened down, and replenish the table – we always get asked ‘got anymore in the car’ and we just say ‘yes, but we’re not getting it out yet, you’ll have to come back’ and generally people are respectful.

6. TAKE A PARTNER IN CRIME

These sales can be intimidating, when the first rush of people come in, buyers often run, knocking down rails and tripping each other over to find the best stalls (we’ve seen it happen!). We usually sell 50% of our product in the first hour, and it can be hard keeping track of figures, sorting change, putting things in bags and keeping control of who is buying what. I usually do the sale with my husband or my sister as it’s good to have support, even if it’s just ‘Can you take care of that’ or ‘have you get change for a fiver’. Before you go in, set a rule such as ‘never accept under £3 for clothing’ or ‘take anything that’s offered’!

7. YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE A CAR OR A TABLE

This one is probably quite surprising! Up until this year, we never had a car (we’ve only just bought a runaround for all the trips to the dump we do nowadays!). We would pop to my parents’ house and borrow a pasting table and their car every time. However, you don’t even need this – most sales have options to hire tables and you can take a suitcase of stuff to sell as well – some people even spread their wares out on a blanket – and buyers don’t seem phased at all.

8. BE PREPARED

It doesn’t have to be anything super organised, but take spare paper, pens and sellotape to perhaps write a sign to help shoppers…we find sticking a sign on the clothes rail saying ‘Everything £3’ or similar helps shoppers and you don’t get constant questions that way. And then you might want to reduce or change the sign after a while. We take bin bags for rubbish as well as packing up the last items for charity. Wilkinson sell plastic tubs which are great for separating items like books and means you can use more floorspace this way. I also try and save carrier bags for customers to use and recycle – I remember once everyone asked us if we had any bags (especially if they wanted to buy a lot) and it was tricky as we had none!

9. DISCUSS YOUR PRICE STRATEGY

I hate to break it to you, but you’ll never become a millionaire doing car boot sales. We really enjoy doing it, freeing up some space at home and making some extra spending money – it’s actually quite a social affair and we have a real laugh. As we plan on going home empty handed, we price items really reasonably – I don’t sell anything designer and nothing is brand new, it’s all quite worn. And then after an hour we bring the prices down – and by the end it’s reduced to 50p or nearest offer. We don’t price things individually (who has time for that?! and people ignore them anyway), so we usually have figures in our heads. Pricing is different for everyone, so it’s good to discuss with your partner – and we usually discuss the ‘lowest’ price we would take for a few items so we know we’re on the same page.

These are old archive images from my blog, and definitely not what my stall will look like!

And finally, try and enjoy yourself! It can be quite a fun day out and I love the adrenaline rush we get when we leave for home with an almost empty car….think of the end goal!

11 Comments

    1. Thank you – been feeling okay yesterday and today! So we’re doing a car boot tomorrow – I like to be anonymous though as I’m usually selling my dad’s old shirts and when readers have come in the past, they always look so disappointed and it’s a bit awkward! x

  1. I tend to do a yearly carboot sale but I’m gutted I’ve missed this year’s season! Some really great tips, I totally agree with the haggling one – the amount of times I’ve been offered 50p for a £50 dress I’ve worn once ha!

  2. Thank you for this post! You’ve inspired me to stop spending hours on eBay and I imagine a car boot sale would be really fun.

    Can I ask what type of clothes are suitable at Battersea car boot – I have lots of High Street clothes (Warehouse, Oliver Bonas, Oasis, H&M etc) and quite a few bits still with tags, but only one or two designer pieces.

    Would welcome your thoughts – never done one before.

    Also love the jumpsuit in your pic!

    Thanks, Emily

  3. I really enjoyed this piece especially as someone in the midst of ridding myself of basically anything left from my twenties that I’m not prepared to move across the ocean. I’m doing craigslist for the big furniture items, eBay, The Real Real and Vestiaire Collective for high end clothing items and Wasteland and Buffalo Exchange for lower priced items. This purge is totally necessary but it has been an undertaking and is reminding to always have less 😀

  4. love a good car boot! its surprising how it all adds up, made £100 from stuff I thought was better for the bin last year haha. Would love to head to the Battersea one!

    Laura | roseandweston.blogspot.co.uk

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