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Car boot sales: How to turn your clutter into cash

BY Jane Pusey

20th Apr 2023 Life

Car boot sales: How to turn your clutter into cash

With car boot sales season upon us, here’s how to make some extra money from things you don’t need or use

Decluttering is having a moment, but once you’ve emptied your overflowing wardrobe, sorted through the garage and cleared out your cupboards, what to do with all that stuff ?

How about making some money?

Making money in the fresh air

You’ve heard the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and never is that more evident than at a car boot sale.

"With a full boot, it’s not unusual to make £80+ for a few hours out in the fresh air"

Wait, no one would want a partly used stationary set or a once lit candle you didn’t like the scent of surely? Wrong. These are just two examples of items I’ve taken to a car boot sale and have sold. For actual hard cash. Obviously no holidays were booked on the back of the proceeds of those two items, but with a full boot, it’s not unusual to make £80+ for a few hours out in the fresh air. And if your motivation is more about the environment, getting paid for keeping things out of the dump is a bonus.

When and where

Car boot sales—people selling and buying at a car boot sale in sunny weatherSelling at car boot sales is a great way to make money and enjoy nice weather. Credit: JohnDWilliams

Car boot season starts in late March/Easter weekend. Just google “car boots near me”. Make sure you check the forecast for the weekend as the better (drier!) the weather, the more potential customers you’ll have. Assuming the forecast is good to go, start collecting your potential treasure.

What to sell

Shopping for DVDs at a car boot saleDVDs and CDs are still popular items at car boot sales. Credit: JohnDWilliams

You’ll hopefully have some “big ticket” items—video games consoles; collectable toys, like Lego or Playmobile; electrical items; small furniture, like side tables and chairs. But don’t rule out the rest of your clutter. Here’s a list of ideas to inspire you:

Board games: Check all the pieces are there but don’t dismiss them if not—just put a note on the box saying what’s missing.

Old tins of paint: Make sure they’ve not dried up then paint a patch on the lid to show the colour and a mark on the side to show how much is left. Some people just want a small amount of paint for a project.

Cooking items: Streamline your utensil drawer, haul out casserole dishes you never use, banish items bought and forgotten about—I’m talking cake tins in the shape of numbers, waffle makers, cake pop makers (all things I’ve either sold or bought at a car boot).

"Cake tins in the shape of numbers, waffle makers, cake pop makers—all things I’ve either sold or bought at a car boot"

Ornaments, photo frames, vases, candle holders, coasters etc: If you have things that are no longer bringing you joy (to paraphrase Marie Kondo) here’s your chance to pass them on to someone who might love them.

DVDs/CDs: Assuming you have access to streaming music and films, clear out the physical hard copies. CDs are apparently the new vinyl for collectors, and some people do still watch films on DVD.

Old rugs, cushions, blankets: Even if they’re not in great condition, people will often want them for their pets.

Random stuff: This is the bit I love. I wander around the house checking drawers and seeing what has been stashed and never used. The items I’ve thought “one day I’ll…. with that”. If you’re anything like me, the likelihood is you won’t. Abandoned hobbies, craft projects, DIY bits and pieces—I promise you’ll be amazed at what people will buy.

Don't forget the essentials

Clothes rail at car boot saleIf you're selling clothes, make sure to take a rail and hangers. Credit: Firn

  • A table—a folding decorators table is usual. If you don’t have one, they’re around £10 from a DIY shop.
  • If you’re selling clothes, a portable rail and hangers is a good idea—it makes it much easier for people to see what you’re selling.
  • Food, hot drinks/water, warm clothes. It will be an early start and you don’t want to be cold and hungry by 9am.
  • Plastic bags—people will often ask if you have a bag, especially for larger items.
  • You’ll have to pay to sell, usually between £5 and £10 pounds—take cash to pay on the gate.
  • Plenty of change—use a tin or plastic tub and have at least £20 in fivers and coins. Make sure you note how much float you take—you’ll want to work out your profits at the end!
  • Card, a marker pen and Sellotape. It sometimes helps to throw small items in a box and stick an “everything 50p” sign on it. Or three items for a fiver—depending on what’s in there. People love rummaging through a bargain box.
  • Something to throw over the table if it rains (bin bags will do).

What to expect

An early start—most car boots start from 7am or even earlier and you’ll want to park early for a prime spot. You could arrive a bit later, but you’ll miss out on those keen shoppers.

Be prepared to haggle. Whatever price you put on an item, someone will want it cheaper. As the morning goes on, lower your prices if people aren’t buying. The aim is to go back with as little as possible in your boot. I’ve even given things away for free just to get rid of them. Once you’ve covered the cost of your stall and petrol, anything else is a bonus.

"Most car boots start from 7am or even earlier and you’ll want to park early for a prime spot"

The car boot “zombies”. No matter what time you arrive, as you park up they’ll come. Surrounding the car, peering in the windows to see what you’ve got. I’ve had a car boot zombie rifling through my boot as I unpacked it! But don’t let that put you off. They’ll wander off to the next new arrival soon enough.

Car booting can be addictive whether you’re buying or selling—just don’t go home with new “treasure” to replace the stuff you’ve sold!

Banner photo credit: JohnDWilliams

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