Car booty: Making a mint from your old junk

Covered mag, presented by
  • | by Rachel England

Shove your junk in the trunk, drive to a field and unload your tat to the masses. ‘Car booting’ is that easy, right? ‘Fraid not. Seasoned carbooters will tell you there’s a real skill to doing it successfully, and not all of them have over-gelled hair and talk in spurious rhyming slang either.

Consider the weather

Serious car booters are diehard. The sky could crack open and lava start flowing over the face of the Earth and they’d remain staunch in their pursuit of the best bargains. As such they have no time for your sunburn, or cold feet, or rain-splattered glasses. Be prepared.

Take a mate

Besides providing scintillating conversation during slow patches, having someone along to help out is invaluable when you need the toilet, want a burger or fancy a wander around yourself. Try to avoid buying too much more rubbish, though.

Prepare your pricing

There are two schools of thought on this. Either label everything up the night before and operate a dogmatic sales policy, which can save the hassle of bartering, or have a rough idea of how much you want to sell each item for and ‘feel out’ each sale as it comes along.

Take a lot of change

A lot. Have a quick run to the bank beforehand and get a £20 note broken into a variety of smaller denominations, because you can be sure that someone will try to buy a 50 pence paperback with a tenner.

Get there early

Car boot sales typically attract a particular demographic – a demographic that is likely to be up and about at an ungodly hour that most are unfamiliar with. But if you’re serious about your sale you’ll get up at the crack of sparrows and get there before everything kicks off. This will let you get a good pitch and protects you from bargain vultures. If you get there late you’ll have people swarming all over you before you’ve even had a chance to get your table out.

Position yourself properly

Getting a good pitch is important, but don't park too close to the car next to you. Make sure the doors of both cars can be opened without too much fuss, and that your goods don’t spill into this gangway.

Look at your table

Take a few steps back and view it as a passing buyer would. If it looks like an incomprehensible mess of stuff then people will be reluctant to look – don’t underestimate how shy some people can be and as such how keen they are to limit ‘contact time’ with sellers. Equally, busy dealers and car boot pros might miss your better quality items. So make sure everything is laid out methodically (books together, jewellery together, etc), and that there are not too many bulky items on the floor that might prevent people getting close to your table.


Don’t try and charm the pants off potential buyers, but a smile and a friendly ‘hello’ goes a long way, even if you are tired and irritable. Hovering over buyers can also be off-putting, so give them space to look at your wares.

Be assertive

If you’re at a collectibles/antiques car boot, beware of being haggled down by silver-tongued dealers and collectors, especially early in the day. Stand firm, and if they really want the item they’ll come back later. You’re not there to make friends; you’re there to get the best price for your stuff. It doesn’t matter how kindly that little old lady is, 10 pence is an unreasonable offer for a first press 7” Beatles record.

Beware scams and thieves

Smooth talkers trying to confuse you over change, pairs working the ‘distract and grab’ technique, quick-fingered chancers... Just because there’s a table selling homemade jam doesn't make a car boot sale any less susceptible to crime, so keep your wits about you.

Don’t lose your car keys

Rookie carboot error, this one. Keep them in a separate pocket lest they get lost in the jumble of junk, dropped in the grass or accidentally carted off by a little girl who’s just bought your hideous decorative plant pot.

Finally... Be realistic

Only the hugely disillusioned go to a car boot sale with the view to making buckets of cash. If you’re selling trash then you’re not going to go home with a wallet full of treasure, especially once you’ve factored in pitch prices which can spiral upwards of £10. However, all your clutter will be going to a loving home (instead of the bin, one up to the environment), you’ll get some fresh air and friendly banter, and you’ll certainly make enough for a well-deserved pint at the end of the day.