There are some things that we grow up doing as a child that creates fond and precious memories, memories from those simpler and worry free days that we usually associate with being a child and help us become the people we are today. When I was younger one of my absolute favourite things to do with my family was to venture to one of the many car boot sales for a early morning shop (this is where my love of making a bargain-buy stems from).
One that I (still to this day) frequent is called Bonzer boot sale in Fairlop and shall be paying them a visit when they open (their land is currently too wet to operate).
If you’re not already aware; a car boot sale or ‘boot sale’ (as I like to refer to it) is basically when people gather, either attempting to rid themselves of the possessions that they no longer want or need (sellers) and others looking to bag a bargain (buyers). One man’s junk is another man’s treasure is what it’s about (only add a few females in there as well). A great British treasure in itself really. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find; from vintage finds, antiques, designer items of clothing, old videos, classic SNES games, toiletries and old shoes. Some sellers operate on a more professional basis so you will also find some brand new items.
Think garage sale, only sellers usually use the boot of their car and generally operate outdoors, but you will also find some indoors. Although, more common than not using a table or drop sheet, in opposed to the boot of their car.
Money can go a lot further at a car boot sale than the high street. There are many bargains to be had and treasures to be discovered. My experiences began in the day when previously-loved vintage goods were just second-hand, old goods that someone else might possibly have a use for. Even before the days of ebay and the internet. In fact I guess the boot sale was the original ebay in a sense, the go-to place that people will try to get rid of unwanted items.
I’m sure some of you have heard some rather quaint stories of people making a purchase at a boot sale to then find they had struck gold? Well those things do happen, but now as people are more clued up than ever, both on the value of items they are selling and others with a keen eye to recognise a 'rare find’ - you have to be even more on the ball than ever.
The sellers pay a small fee for the pitch to sell their goods. Some boot sales charge a entrance or parking fee for buyers. The fees are reasonable and go to the landowners who organise and spend the duration ensuring everything is in order.
Here are a few tips to get you started, tips that I am offering from personal experience:
- There are some boot sales that don’t operate in the cold weather, so check what time of the year they are open. If in the morning as you get ready to make your way you notice the weather consists of torrential rain you may find that again (if it’s outdoor) it is possible that the boot sale has been cancelled. You wouldn’t really want to be walking around in a muddy field that would feel like a typical day at Glastonbury (minus the music) now would you?
- Take cash. Try to stick to coins and notes of smaller denominations - it’s easier to haggle this way.
- DON’T dress to impress. This is one place where dressing down is allowed, even required making it easier to haggle - If you look like you’re worth a million, don’t expect a trader to give you too much leeway with the price.
- Don’t show you’re overly keen on an item that you actually 'love’. If they are aware about how much you want an item, the less flexible they will be with the price. After all they’ll assume you’re willing to pay just about anything.
- Be quick thinking. Be decisive or perhaps even come back later (but don’t always expect it to still be there). Boot sales are the place to make a decision if you want something, if not then move on. If you do come across a potential treasure then ask them how much they want for it. Make an offer, if they refuse to move on the price, then you can attempt to walk away. Every seller is different, so it really can vary depending on the situation.
- You CAN haggle
- Go early! Otherwise all the bargains might already be gone. I usually would recommend 9am if you are going to simply buy, however you will come across the regulars who go earlier than that so they can claim the best buys first. If you are selling then usually get there for around 6am. However time all depends on the day you go, weekdays are naturally quieter than weekends.
- Be aware of the day or days the boot sale you want to visit operates, how much you might have to pay and obviously what time your chosen boot sale opens for buyers/sellers.
- Take a look here and here for a list of some of the boot sales around. Do some research, check local papers as well to see what works for you.
- Be careful with your belongings. Theft happens everywhere and boots sales are not excluded from the unfortunate act of those silly buggers who decide not to make an honest living. So be aware of your belongings just like you would when you are out and about - this has never happened to me, but prevention is better than cure right?
So perhaps you find yourself with a substantial amount of items that you not longer have need of, haven’t got enough time or patience to ebay and need some quick cash then pop some junk in the trunk and head to a good boot sale near you. Or if you want to take make a day of it and find some bargains then go, you’d be surprised what you might find!
I for one shall be returning to my old habits very soon.