Friday, 27 June 2014

Buying At a Car Boot Sale: My Top 10 Tips

Car boot sale season is in full swing!  Hurrah!  During the summer months this is my full-time weekend hobby.  I love hunting for vintage treasure, furnishings for our new house, and things I never knew I wanted or needed!

Bessemer Road
Bessemer Road, Cardiff

Attending a car boot sale can be a bit of an investment in terms of time, travel and budget (depending on what you find!), so here are my top tips for getting the most out of attending a car boot sale as a buyer.

1. Choose Carefully Which Sale You Attend
Here in South Wales, the biggest and best car boot sale I've found runs on a Sunday at Sully.  It's by the sea, which is lovely, and it can be huge.  Lots of antiques dealers use this car boot sale, as well as individuals looking to do a clear out, so there's a good mix.  I have been to many other car boot sales which honestly haven't been worth the time.  Bessemer Road's car boot sale in Cardiff is also a good choice, running on both Saturdays and Sundays.  There are also a few around Abergavenny which are quite decent, though not as big, and I've heard a rumour that Merthyr has a fantastic one, but I've never been myself.  The most disappointing ones I've tried were on Bath racecourse (massively overpriced), and a very tiny one in a multi-storey car park in Llanelli!

Sully car boot sale
Just a small corner of the vast Sully boot sale!

2. Go Properly Equipped
You'll be walking around outside for hours and hours, so you might want to think about packing the following:
  • Bottle of water
  • Carrier bags for your purchases (lots of sellers run out early)
  • Snacks
  • CASH (including a stash of change)
  • Tape measure
  • Magnifying glass or your glasses if you need them!
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Weather appropriate clothing and comfortable footwear (I always cover my shoulders if it's hot)
  • Tissues and antibacterial handgel (toilet facilities go downhill rapidly when it's busy)
3. Make A List & Measure Up Before You Go
If you're looking for something specific, write it down!  For example, you are looking out for some second hand tiles for your bathroom floor, a frame to fit that vintage print you picked up last year, and a bulb for that beautiful art deco lamp.  Before you set out, you need to measure the bathroom floor and the print, and check what kind of bulb the lamp needs.  Otherwise you'll be stood there with a bargain in your hand, going 'well, I think it will fit, but..."

4. Set yourself a budget
I can get carried away sometimes and buy things just because they're cheap, and before you know it, there's £20 gone on a selection of items that I can't return if they turn out to be less appealing than I first thought, when I've calmed down from the excitement.  Setting yourself a budget is particularly important if you're after antiques, as there may be a lovely art deco lampshade on offer, but can you really afford the £90 price tag?

5. Haggle
This is a bit of an art, and I still don't get it quite right, whereas the OH seems to be a master at it!  Generally, if you are buying one thing, you really want it, and it's being offered at a very fair price, then pay it.  If you're buying multiple items then asking for a little discount might be appropriate.  If you like something but aren't desperate for it, then you can be a bit more casual about it, and pointing out minor flaws might get you a bit more money knocked off.

6.  Be polite
Sometimes this gets lost in the haggle, but it needn't.  Sometimes I see people being quite rude about things that they're trying to buy, and this can insult sellers.  I also see people throw things back on the seller's table with disgust, and again, this will not help you as a buyer!  I've actually seen sellers refuse to sell items to certain people, because they've felt insulted.  Striking up a personable conversation and being nice can help you with the haggle, and is just better all round, don't you think?

7. Go regularly
If you go to just one car boot sale in pursuit of a specific item, chances are you won't find it.  Going regularly can boost your chances, and you get to know more about the going rate for items, what is always available, and what is a rare item that should be pounced upon!  When you visit a lot of car boot sales, you get to know the going rates, and how often certain types of item turn up - you can get a George Foreman grill for £2 pretty much every week in the ones I attend!

8. Get To Know The Sellers
There are sellers that are there, week in, week out.  They are the reliable ones, who if they sell you an electronic device that doesn't work, you can return it the next week.  You're better off buying from these folk.  There will also be sellers there that aren't so ethical - my Baby had his bike stolen by a heroin addict a few years ago, and his bike actually ended up being sold at our local car boot sale!  The seller was not reputable, and we reported it not only to the police but to the organisers of the car boot sale as well.  They don't want any dodgy business taking place on their premises.  With regular sellers that run house clearances or antiques businesses, you can also put in requests - if you let them know that you're after a bit of Victorian glass, they'll take your number and give you a call when they find it.  They want to shift things quickly, so if they know they've got an interested buyer it's helpful to them.  Regular sellers are also more likely to do you a deal on something, if you've bought a few things from them.

9. Get there early
Items that are highly sought after will not stick around for long, which is when it benefits you to get there early and pay the asking price.  Recently we nearly lost out on a fireplace - we asked the seller for 5 minutes to think about it, and as we walked away somebody else came up and offered the asking price there and then.  We overheard and rushed back, and luckily the seller was very decent and said we'd seen it first, but we then had to decide right there and then to go for it.  Phew, it was ours!

10. Lurk at the end
As the day goes on, the prices drop.  If something's still not sold and the seller's starting to pack up, you can offer a lot less as quite often they really don't want to take it home!  At other times, I've seen something I liked but haven't thought it worth the asking price, and then towards the end of the sale have picked it up for next to nothing.  I've seen sellers from house clearances tip whole trays of china into the bin - get there before they do that and you can pick up a few nice pieces for free, and stop such waste!

I hope those tips help.  A car boot sale can be really hit or miss, but I've found some amazing things at car boot sales over the years, including a 1930's faux pearl collar, a 1950's beach top and a 1960's dress (pictured below), not to mention all the non-vintage goodies!  If you have more time than money, the car boot sale is worth a trip.  Happy hunting everyone!
Mad Men Dress
Early 1960's linen dress, £1 from Sully car boot sale

Do you like going to car boot sales?  What do you look out for?


  1. Oh I wish there were car boot sales here or at least just regular flee markets outdoors where everyone can go sell. There were 2 similar kind of events last summer, but I haven't heard anything about them being arranged this year. I'll usually look for clothes, because my apartment is so small that I can hardly furnish it properly, but now I'm into vintage style boxes and other stuff where I can stuff my multiple tea brands, sugar and stuff like that so they won't just lie around the kitched table drying.

    The 60's dress is truly a find, it looks gorgeous on you :)

  2. Seriously fantastic tips!!! We don't have car boot sales here in Canada, but we do have flea markets (indoors and out) and yard/garage sales and most of these excellent, helpful tips can be applied to those as well. Much yourself, hitting such sales is my warm weather hobby of choice every weekend I can possibly get out and do so. The pickings have been mighty slim here, by and large, in recent years, but the thrill of what might just be lurking out there waiting for me to discover it is more than enough to keep me going even during the longest of dry spells with little to no vintage is forthcoming.

    I hope you have a super successful car boot sale and find scores of great yesteryear pieces for a total song!

    ♥ Jessica

  3. Wow! What an awesome find! That yellow 1960's linen dress looks amazing!

  4. Some amazing tips P! I have been to the *flea* market at Bath racecourse and would have to agree....completely overpriced, though there is generally a terrific car boot just around the corner!! xx

  5. Great tips! I haven't been for years and would probably find the whole thing tests my patience too much, but I know people who go and get great bargains! If I do try, I'll bear your advice in mind... In the UK, the other thing you're gonna need is an umbrella... x


Comments from readers make my day!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...