Over the Bank Holiday weekend me and my Mum decided to do a car boot sale at Brighton race course. We’d planned it perhaps a week before, because we both needed a bit of cash, and I really needed to clear out my old stuff.
I’ll admit it wasn’t a roaring success. We paid £12 for a pitch and made about £50 in total. There are a few factors to blame for this –
1. The weather was not outstanding. The sun came out at around 12:30pm, and by then the crowds had died down.
2. The atmosphere was all sorts of wrong. The traders were rude and invasive, and the vast majority of people wanted something for (next to) nothing.
3. You pretty much have to drive to the race course, which is a bit out of the way and up some rather hilly roads, Convenient it is not.
Despite this, it was still an interesting experience and so I wanted to impart some wisdom on how to do car boot sales. I am not an expert by any account, and I am mostly turning around the mistakes we made.
Organising what to take
It can be difficult to let go of the past and get rid of things that you once loved. Or maybe you just have a collection of gifts you never really wanted. Either way, you’ll have to sort the items you think will sell, and the items which should really just go in the bin.
Items that tend to sell well I think are clothes and shoes – the majority of what I sold was clothes – most of which were dresses. Of course it will always depend on the crowd and you never know what to expect, but clothes are a good bet. Children’s toys are also a good bet. I should have taken more of my old toys as I reckon I would have made a mint!
Make sure the items you take are clean. No one wants to buy musty things covered in dust no matter how little you charge. It is sometimes worth waiting until you arrive and are unpacking your goods to dust them off and make them presentable.
I’ll admit it – we didn’t price any of our items and it was a big mistake. I had a general idea of what I wanted to charge, but as in a shop, people hate asking how much something is. It is more common at a car boot for people to ask, but if you make your pricing clear and simple, you’ll reduce the chance of getting desperate or offering conflicting prices. A lot of buyers will want to go away and think about it before making a purchase (this happened to us several times), and if you give them a different price when they return, you will likely turn them off of wanting to buy.
Definitely don’t do what my Mum did and ask people what they would expect to pay. She really wanted to get rid of stuff and as a result charged much less than she should have for some things.
Getting your stuff there
Try and pack tightly as best you can. If you have fragile things, wrap them in bubble wrap or newspaper and try and keep them in a flat container. When driving to a boot fair the last thing you want is to hear smashing and crashing as your items break or get damaged.
Also don’t do what we did and pack the tables and table covers in first. It makes unpacking a nightmare.
Rock up early
Turn up early for the best pitch and if there aren’t restrictions on the size of your pitch, you will want your options to be open.
We were lucky in that the race course deliberately lay out the cars for an easy escape, but this is not always the case. Don’t be afraid to ask for a spot that makes for an easier way out.
Food services at car boots (generally a greasy burger van) are always horrifically overpriced – and often disgusting. Mum packed us some sandwiches, sausage rolls, cocktail sausages and crisps to keep us going, as well as a bottle of water each. This was more than enough for the time we were there, but if you are planning on spending quite a long day at the car boot, make sure you pack enough to save forking out all your earnings on a subpar lunch.
As we were cold in the morning we did buy hot chocolates from the burger van, and they were worse than you could ever imagine. They were lukewarm (so did little to help warm us up), and even worse – they tasted of some sort of plastic. The cost of two of these (thankfully) small cups? £3.
Organise a cash float
We did this very last minute after we realised that the odd pennies we found around the house were not going to cut it. I ended up taking out £10 and paying for some mints at the local petrol station to get lots of changed. We did manage just fine considering we didn’t sell loads, but the last thing you want is to not be able to provide change.
Don’t be afraid to ask if buyers do have change if you are running low, or adjust your prices accordingly!
Beware the hagglers and thieves
Always be on your guard at a car boot. Keep your money somewhere safe and your most valuable items nearby. Thieves are common at car boots – it’s nothing to fear though if you’re sensible.
Hagglers are a guarantee, and shouldn’t be taken lightly – I have had people try and be very stern in the past about only paying so much. A common technique I have noticed is that they will repeat the price they want to pay multiple times as if they are trying to brainwash you. Stay firm back – if you don’t want to charge less, then you do not have to!
So there we have it – my tips for how to do a car boot! Have you ever done one before and have anything else to add to the list?