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How to sell at a car boot sale: expert tips to make more cash

Find a sale

Thousands of car boot sales take place across the country every weekend, so there are plenty of options to choose from.

The first step is to find the right car boot sale for you. Car Boot Junction provides a directory of events happening across the UK.

Most sales are outdoors but some are inside, and some are weekly or monthly, while others are more sporadic. Some run from January to December, while others only take place during the warmer months.

What you can expect to pay for a pitch varies – in some cases it’s between £6 and £12, although some are free. Some boot sales offer a payment scale, with a more expensive fee for a prime selling spot. When choosing a sale, you should also consider how much you will have to spend on petrol to get there and back.

Do a recce

It’s a good idea to visit the sale as a punter first to get an idea of how it works, where the best and busiest spots are, and the types of items that are popular.

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Harry Kind, a consumer expert at the consumer body Which?, says: “Selling unwanted items at a car boot sale can be a great way to make some extra cash and declutter your space but it’s worth doing some research and having a plan if you want to make it truly worthwhile.”

Items at a car boot sale in Scotland.
Items at a car boot sale in Scotland. Photograph: Findlay/Alamy

Be prepared

Experts recommend packing the night before the sale, so you don’t forget anything essential in the early morning rush. You are likely to have an early start, with some car boot sales opening as early as 5am.

You will need a table and ground sheets to display your wares – pack these in the car last so you can get them out first.

Take plenty of change, some carrier bags and weather-appropriate clothing.

Avoid spending extra money on food and drink on-site – which could quickly cancel out any profit you make – by taking your own.

It’s a good idea to have some batteries if you are selling any electrical items to demonstrate that they work, and having original packaging and instruction manuals can help you secure a sale.

Pitching up

A car boot sale in Yorkshire in 2009.
You can display your wares on a groundsheet. Photograph: Alan Curtis/Alamy

Car Boot Junction recommends turning up an hour before the advertised start time to get the best pitch, and make the most of interest from regular buyers.

The most profitable time for selling is within the first hour of setting up, experts at the online directory say.

However, many online forums warn car boot newbies about being swarmed by car boot regulars as soon as you arrive. Take out your table, close and lock the car, and set up the table before you start unloading goods.

Try to get a friend to come along to help you. They can look after the stall if you need to pop away, keep you company during quieter moments, keep an eye out for thieves, and help with sales if there’s a rush of customers.

“Roping in a pal is a good way to ensure you can get away to go to the loo or get a snack,” Kind says.

“You’ll also need to think about petty cash so that you can give your customers change, and consider what you’ll do with unsold items at the end of the day.”

Pricing

Opinion is split on whether you should price up all your goods.

It does make it clearer for customers who don’t want to haggle and who may carry on walking past if the price isn’t clear.

However, it can be time-consuming, and you may get a higher price than you anticipate. To save time, you could label groups of items – for example, by having an “everything 50p” section.

Secondhand vintage shoes are displayed at the Classic Car Boot Sale in London on 15 April 2023.
Secondhand vintage shoes are displayed at the Classic Car Boot Sale in London in April. Photograph: Maja Smiejkowska/Reuters

Whichever method you go for, make sure you have a general idea of how much your things are worth by checking what they are now selling for online.

Experts suggest pricing at between 10% and 15% of the original value. If you are desperate to declutter and don’t want to take anything home with you, consider lowering your prices. While haggling is part of the car boot sale experience, don’t feel you have to accept the first offer or to slash prices too early in the day.

Buyers visit car boot sales to bag a bargain, so if you have any designer or high-end items, consider selling those online instead to get a better price.

What to buy and sell

Bric-a-brac, clothes, books and toys are all car boot sale staples. However, it can be surprising what sells well, so even if you think an item is not worth anything, it may be worth bringing it along.

You should avoid spending all of your profits on buying more items from other sellers. However, according to the website NetVoucherCodes, there are some items that could be worth picking up at a car boot sale and reselling for a higher price online.

People look through vinyl records at the Classic Car Boot Sale in London in April 2023.
People look through vinyl records at the Classic Car Boot Sale in London in April. Photograph: Maja Smiejkowska/Reuters

The discount codes website says video games, collectible figures, designer brands and old furniture that can be upcycled may be worth picking up at a car boot sale to resell for a profit.

Remember that it is not guaranteed that you will be able to get a higher price. It is worth checking what similar items have sold for online in the past before making a purchase.

After the sale

Have a plan for what you are going to do with anything that doesn’t sell.

Don’t take leftover items back home if your main goal was to declutter – you could take them straight to a charity shop or recycling bank.

If you want to boost your profits further, you could try listing unsold items online

If you want to boost your profits further, you could try listing unsold items online.

Vinted, eBay and Depop are good for getting rid of old clothes, while Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace are better options for furniture and homewares. Books and CDs can be sold to Ziffit, WeBuyBooks or MusicMagpie – the prices for each item are often low but if you have a lot to sell, it will quickly add up.

Consider what to do with your profits after the car boot sale, too. You could pop to your nearest bank or post office on the way home to pay the cash into your account.