Zen and the art of car booting

Car boots are my hunting ground – where I find at least some of my stock. Here are a few rules for success, or at least for a stress-free Sunday morning.

As it can turn into a stressful event – the big question is how to approach the alleys of stalls! Some say run up and down and see everything and then go back and buy – but you risk losing something that caught your eye to someone else; others say don’t dither – buy what you like then and there – but then you risk running out of money or missing something really good three stalls up.

Basically, you’re likely to miss something whatever you do. So, to be Zen about it all, I start at the end and work my way round, buying as I go, up or down one side of the alley at a time and don’t zigzag (in fact I try hard not to look at the other side at all!) Yes, I know I might miss something – but once you realise that whatever you do you can’t find everything, it’s better to relax and enjoy.

There are a few other things to avoid as well, so remember to take the following with you:

  • Plenty of change. Prices are low and you need to think hard if you are going to hand over a bank note, and there is nothing more annoying to a stallholder than you not having the right money. There are no cards taken at car boots!
  • Bags for life and newspaper. I’ve lost too many lovely objects, dropped or scratched by not having packing materials with me. Stallholders often don’t have enough packing materials themselves or may be keen to move on to the next customer.
  • A note or a picture of any sets you are trying to develop. Car boots are a great place to replace that missing plate or cup.

I’d advise anyone seriously buying at car boots or fairs to pick ‘your’ car boot (it might be one or it might be two). Go early and go in summer and in winter, when it’s sunny and when it’s raining. Prices are lower in the winter and in the rain – those who come to sell will either be semi-professional or desperate to move stuff on. The regular sellers will recognise you and now is the time to build up relationships – tell them what you are looking for, ask if they have it – they will often bring it the following week.

Haggling doesn’t work so well in the summer I find – there are lots of people there and the seller tends to think that someone else will come along – in the winter you might be the only buyer there!

Things to remember:

  • Don’t make assumptions about stalls. Just because there are piles of children’s clothing doesn’t mean there’s not one of granny’s treasures at the back. Look carefully.
  • If you find something you like, examine it closely. Often things are being sold because they are cracked or chipped, and you don’t want to be disappointed when you get home.
  • Always ask yourself “can I double my money on this?” If the answer’s yes then go ahead. Remember, cheap doesn’t always mean good.

Lastly – and I’m begging you, please – be nice to the stallholders, regardless of whether they’re professionals or neighbours. I often find that the main reason people sell at car boots or fairs is the contact with people, the atmosphere and the laughs. As a buyer it’s part of the deal that you add to the atmosphere – always say thank you to a stallholder if you make eye contact, even if you don’t buy anything. After all, you want sellers to come to the car boot to sell, don’t you? Remember what it’s like on the other side of the stall.

P.S. If you find that after a while of trading you have lots of things not worth more than a couple of pounds, it might be worth it some sunny day to take the car along yourself and sell them – ‘anything on this table for £2’ – you never know who might pass buy…

Free calendar of car boot sales: http://www.carbootsrus.com

Premium (paid-for) calendar of car boot sales: http://www.carbootcalendar.com

Scroll to Top