Car Boot Sales: Three Home Truths

Miss Thrifty14 August 23, 2013

car boot sale tips

Uh-oh, Mum’s been car booting! This picture is from when we went and sold at the closest car boot sale to us: it’s on the local racecourse, just a mile or so away. In fact it was the first car boot sale I have been to since last autumn, when we made £50 selling at another location – it was after this jaunt that I posted my top tips for any would-be car boot sale sellers.

This time around we made £20 after sellers’ fees, which was okay considering that much of what we were selling was the stuff that didn’t go last time. Also I got away with leaving my husband on the stall for most of the time after the gates opened to buyers. Apart from wandering past occasionally, darting up to him and whispering things like, STOP FOLDING YOUR ARMS AND LOOKING SO GROUCHY. SMILE! I can’t help it: for some reason car boot sales bring out my competitive, showbiz mom side. My husband takes it in good grace, I swear.

I wandered around in tow to Thrifty Baby, who had a wonderful time checking out all the toys. This meant that our progress around the site was slow, but I didn’t mind: usually I rush around at these things, so it was nice to take a little more time and have a good think. I came away with a few goodies and three home truths about car boot sales. If you buy or sell at car boot sales, let me know if you think I’m right…

1. If you are selling, LET GO of the stuff, damn it.

Check out my new tin:

coronation tin

I like it a lot: it’s a fine addition to the collection of royal memorabilia I pick up at these places. It’s an old toffee tin, with pictures of Buck Palace & Windsor Castle on the sides, and I bought it to store spools of cotton next to my sewing machine. I got it for £1.50, towards the end of the car boot sale when people were beginning to pack up, but the lady who sold it was thin-lipped about the final price. She said she really liked the tin, that it was probably valuable (it isn’t), and she had wanted at least a fiver; I was about to walk away when her husband remonstrated with her that it would be one less thing to pack up again.

The thing is, even if you set out your stall at a car boot sale because you are down to brass tacks and need to get cash fast, if you are selling possessions of which you are particularly fond, or think might be valuable, you are going to come away miserable. Car boot buyers negotiate on price – hard. Those 50p pieces are prised out of their hands with pliers. If you want to get a sweet price for an item, a car boot sale is the wrong place to be, especially at the end of the sale when buyers go after the biggest discounts. Take your goods to eBay or a local Facebook selling site instead.

If you are a seller then the aim of the game, as that husband pointed out, is to drive away with as light a boot as possible. It’s STUFF. Just stuff, for which people will give you shiny coins. Detach yourself. Just get what you can – it’s more than you had before! On our stall we were down to the bits and pieces that car boot buyers hadn’t wanted the first time around, and we just wanted rid. After the first flurry of buyers, and as the car boot sale went on, we cut our prices and cut again. We had a steady flow of buyers, a steady flow of coins and by pack-up time, just two carrier bags of stuff left.


2. Don’t buy stuff that won’t fit into your car.

This wasn’t a problem last year when Thrifty Baby and his bargain buys were half the size:
car boot sale baby

This year, however, I must confess to getting a little overexcited:

little tikes car

I have been after one of these Little Tikes cars for ages. He loves them, but they cost upwards of £50 new. As you can see, this one needs a good scrub but at £4, it was a bargain. The problem came at home time when… yes (blushes), the bloomin’ thing wouldn’t fit in our car. And have you tried taking one of these things apart?

Luckily we were close enough to home that I could walk it back myself – albeit a slow, interminable walk on a hot, sticky day alongside dusty A-roads and B-roads – but this bargain could have turned into a mistake. Don’t do what I did: don’t go to the car boot sale and lose your head. At the very least, hang onto your spatial perception skills!


3. People who go to car boot sales NEVER need to buy children’s items at full price.

Here’s the rest of Thrifty Baby’s haul:

car boot sale thrifty baby

Here is something I have found since reproducing: there is so much kids’ stuff at car boot sales that, if you want something in particular and you’re at a decent-sized car boot, it is extremely likely that you will find it.

I’d been after a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar (terrific book!) and found this pristine copy for 50p.

Thrifty Baby is obsessed with the In The Night Garden series and, in particular, the Ninky Nonk (noisy train thing, for the uninitiated). That Ninky Nonk train set costs £9.99 from Argos, which I think is quite a lot for what it is, so I was pleased to pick one up at the car boot sale for £1.  The embroidered Iggle Piggle T-shirt was 50p.


So there we are: these were the home truths that I learned at this last car boot sale. I am sure there are plenty more in the trunk though! If you go car booting, what have I missed…? 

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14 Responses to “Car Boot Sales: Three Home Truths

I’ve not done much car booting this year but I absolutely have bought so much for my son from them, especially all the plastic type toys that I think are a rip off in the shops. My son’s room is decorated with many items we have found at the car boot sale too such as mobiles and wooden toys – it’s the element of surprise that is most exciting.

I usually look for junk that can be used as display or pots in the garden , shelves and cupboards that can be painted up. I sometimes have taken a list so I don’t forget what I’m actually looking for.

August 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Ann says:

I love a good car boot sale and over the years I’ve got so many things for my daughter (and our home) from them so I totally agree with what you say about children’s items. My daughter had a little tykes car passed down from a relative and she love love loved it. It got played with so much.

I’ve done a couple myself too and I do agree that it is probably best to just cut the price and get rid, but this can be a bit more difficult in practice depending on how you are approached by a buyer. Sometimes I have held out and then just wished that I had sold the item when I had to take it home again, but then there is always the charity shop to give it to, which does give you a good feeling.

August 23, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Lozmk1 says:

If you are selling always take plenty of change and carrier bags!
I always keep the cash tin in the front of the car too, all too often I have seen less than desirable people just walk off with other sellers cash tins from the side of their tables. Don’t be afraid of saying no either. If someone makes you a silly offer early on say no,but f you come back at the end and its still there you can have it for that price. Rarely does the item not sell for what you are asking for it. I had a lady pick up 6 of my dresses (well over £200 worth) that was selling for £3 each and ask if I would take £10 for them. I used that line,she came back an hour later and they were all gone for £3 each!

August 24, 2013 at 11:11 am

I like to hang a bit of bunting across the front of the table or something else to make my table stand out. As well as makes it feel more festive I think it helps people to remember where the table is and to find their way back again!

August 24, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Margaret Beil says:

I’ve only recently started going to car boot sales (encouraged by an eager neighbour). Imagine my sheer and utter surprise when I bought 3lbs(1.4kg) plums for £1 . 3 cucumbers @20p ea masses of new potatoes courgettes and masses more. What a good job this one’s on the way to my local store as well! 🙂

August 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Catmac says:

Great that you’re back, Miss Thrifty! I have missed your posts! You must be very busy with thrifty boy (no longer a baby!!).

I have never sold at a car boot sale, but I love going for a browse. Last week I bought a beautiful Wedgewood jug for £5, which has given me much pleasure and a pretty blue one for 50p.

August 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Jane says:

I recently a high chair for my new grand-daughter for 4 euros! A bargain.

August 25, 2013 at 9:44 am

Alice says:

I want a ninky nonk now…I’m 26…is this wrong?

August 25, 2013 at 10:56 am

We always find the best deals on kid’s toys at these types of sales. We save a ton! I don’t think we’ve gotten a toy from the store in the past 5 or 6 years!

August 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Miss Thrifty says:

@Samantha Ah, so that is why I am digging up so many car boot bargains this year – because you haven’t been around to beat me to them! 🙂

@Ann This time around, we packed up what was left and took it to the charity shop the next day. There comes a point when you just don’t want the stuff sitting around and taking up space in the house/attic anymore!

@Lozmk1 Yes, those cash tins make me nervous too. They are so also to pick up and walk off with. When I’m selling I wear a belt bag thing: it’s red with gold trim and you can just about see it in the top picture.

@Skint Love the bunting idea! Mind you, knowing the buyers we get around here, the bunting would probably get sold too…

@Margaret Oh, I love the discount veg stalls too! My mum goes crazy at them: she takes a wee wheelie trolley now, to stock up.

@Catmac Ah, you are kind. I haven’t been far away, really, but it’s been difficult to post recently due to extraordinary family commitments. I have been debating about whether to post about them.

@Jane Funnily enough I had real trouble finding a suitable high chair for Thrifty Baby at car boots. Lots of them around, but none of them were suitable for various reasons. I found the best high chair for £10 at IKEA in the end!

@Alice You can have our Ninky Nonk when Thrifty Baby is done with it! He loves it but truly, it’s a flimsy piece of plastic tat and I am so pleased we didn’t pay full whack for it.

@Derek It’s amazing, isn’t it, how dramatically toys depreciate!

August 28, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Car boot sales turned out not to be my thing – I can neither sell anything nor spot stuff to buy. It seems to me that it is time you visit us and have a look in our garage; a lot of boy stuff there that is just not being used.

August 29, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Quinn says:

£4 – for the Little Tikes car – Love it. The caterpillar book is my daughters favourite too. We keep getting hers from the library but I would love to own one at that price!

September 6, 2013 at 8:58 pm

MrsMP says:

Thanks for this article, as it’s lead me back to your top car boot tips – very useful as we are hoping to do our first soon. We have a huge amount of clutter to clear! Quite looking forward to it now

September 9, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Miss Thrifty says:

Ah, I am pleased to have been of service, MrsMP!

September 9, 2013 at 9:29 pm

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