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I am a car boot sale binger. That is I become addicted to them after one visit, binge, going every week for a few months, and then don't bother for ages - until the next time I need a book, or something from the market stalls! I have been to many boot sales in Lancashire to both buy and sell. I'm going to give my opinion generally on what car boot sales are like based on things a lot of them have in common.
TYPES OF CAR BOOT
You can tell someone's spent hours at various car boots when they know enough to write a section called 'Types of car boot.' These things can be classified?! Oh yes. You see, there are car boots...and then there are giant car boots. The difference is mainly the amount of stalls and punters, the giant car boots usually occurring on a large farm field and having market stalls as well as second-hand stalls. They usually have copious amounts of food vans and portaloos. With smaller ones, there's usually very few traders' stalls, less chance of finding what you want as a buyer, and less people to spend money on your stuff as a seller, but there can be other plusses such as not having to jostle your way to the front at every stall, clean, fresh facilities, and a more friendly atmosphere. There are also covered car boots, usually at markets which obviously have an advantage on rainy days, and indoor car boots, which lose none of their appeal in winter.
GOING TO CAR BOOTS TO BUY
There's no denying it, I've found many, many bargains in my years as a self-confessed car booter. As a teacher, I've found countless children's books in great condition for 20p, 30p, 50p, up to a pound for lovely, well-illustrated hardback books, and have a great stock in my class library! I've also bought lots of books from car boots for between 40p and a pound, again for the hardbacks. You see more and more newer books these days as well, as die-hards tend to sell as soon as they've read. For example, I got Bridget Jones : The Edge of Reason for 50p, we got Last Light by Andy McNab for 2 pounds not long after its release, and Emotional Intelligence for 40p! With books I think 'can I sell it on and break even' and if the answer's no, I tend not to buy now. Things like books, toys, furniture and jewellery are usually good buys because you can see if they are in good order then and there. I have also acquired several CDs for a pound, but people don't often sell anything recent of course. My mum and I have bought many ornaments and fancies to put the finishing touches to various rooms, some of my favourites were a beautiful iridescent bird ornament for a pound, a pair of fancy green candlesticks for a pound, and a large black cat ornament for a pound. My favourite buy ever was my wooden jewellery box, which I got for six quid pretty new and in perfect condition, priced 17.50 in Argos. If you go to a giant boot sale, it pays not to buy the first of an item that you see, especially if it's not quite up to scratch, wait until the end and go back if necessary, you will often find two or three of the one thing you want and with so much choice you can afford to be picky. I used to buy immediately thinking well, it might not be here if I come back, but if you were unsure about it anyway, does it really matter? Take it as a sign - you'll find one next week!
Other things you can buy include antiques, clothes, shoes, games, jigsaws, household objects, music equipment, old TVs, and computer hardware. I don't recommend buying computer stuff, you can get it cheaply at computer fairs in your area, and it's not reliable. As we were building a computer from scratch last year (we've now done two and have one each!) we bought a few bits at car boots last year. Things tend to be ok from private sellers, we got a cracking Epson printer for 15 quid for example, but not from stalls that sell computer paraphernalia exclusively. They tend to profess to be able to advise you but really blind you with technical stuff and sometimes talk a load of rubbish (my partner has many times wanted to go over to innocent buyers and correct what the seller has said). Now obviously they are not all going to be like this, and you may know a good one, but we've had a hard drive, processor, sticks of ram (memory), and a modem which were all faulty. The hard drive (claimed to be new) just gave up the ghost about a month in, taking work, saved games and settings with it. And I could never find the seller again to complain.
THE MARKET STALLS
The market stalls or traders are ok as far as they go and are an inevitable feature of Giant Boot Sales. At Burscough and Banks (see below) they come in droves, some people don't like this but I don't mind, because I buy things like deodorants, bread, cakes, sweets, cheese, snacks, make-up and onwards. Admittedly they are hardly any cheaper than in the shops, and I definitely would not buy the 'fresh' (ahem) fruit and veg any more. Remember, most of these traders work the Saturday markets and what they sell seems to be the dog-ends. The fruit and veg promptly goes off if you don't eat it the day you buy it. Still, if it's for Sunday lunch, go for it. Another, pretty contentious, thing to look out for, is what we seasoned car booters call 'bootleggers.' People who sell counterfeit VCDs (DIRE quality film recordings), CDs, computer & console games and applications, for VERY cheap prices. These stalls seem to be popular but it's really up to you where you stand on this issue. After all, the music industry for one complains of losing money to this kind of trading. So use your own judgement, and avoid like the plague if you are definitely against. Remember, it IS illegal.
GOING TO CAR BOOT SALES TO SELL
The best I have ever done is just under a hundred quid and the worst, I made 5 pounds over and above my stall money. It really depends on 3 things :-
1. The quality, newness & amount of what you're selling. 2. Whether you have any more expensive items to sell, eg furniture and electrical equipment. 3. The amount of buyers who turn up!
The main trap you can fall into is that once you've had a good old clear-out and been once, maybe having made between 60 and a hundred pounds for the best of your stuff, you can get a taste for it and become hooked on doing car boots. This doesn't really work as a private seller because the whole point is, you'll have sold your best stuff in the first, maybe the second if you're lucky, boot sale you do. The best thing to do then is wait for a few months, maybe look again at your books, unwanted gifts and stuff you may have cleared out after decorating or changing the scheme of a room, older electrical equipment if you've bought new, etc. Don't forget you need to make back your stall money (between 8 and 10 pounds at the places listed below) for the outing to be worth it. There can be another few problems with selling. First off, and ugh, just horrible for me, is that as a seller you cannot just roll up whenever you like, you have to go early, because the organisers will run out of space and also have a cut-off time of usually about 8am. The best thing to do is to pack up your car the previous night, organise a float of change, pack a picnic lunch, etc, so that all you have to do is roll out of bed, get washed and dressed and go. The earlier you arrive, the more sales you will get, and most boot sales start admitting sellers at around 6.30am; at Burscough it is 5.30am. (Yuck). Another problem is that, when you are unpacking and setting up, no matter where you go, there will be people ferreting around in your stuff, peering (sometimes even leaning) in your car to get first dibs on new stuff, prowling around looking particularly for newbies. Beware - most of these are other sellers - experienced and ruthless and looking to buy and then make a profit. They will offer what can be, frankly, quite cheeky prices for your stuff, hoping to mark it up at their own stall. It can be hard to get rid of them, and if like me, you would feel rude telling them to go away, the best thing to do is to put price labels on all your stuff previously, having had time to make a calm, considered decision about what you think your items are worth. Then, if they try to haggle you, tell them you're not going to bring the price down so early, but are going to give the items a chance to sell for their asking price first. That usually tells them YOU know what you're doing, as well.
TOP TIPS FOR SELLING SUCCESS
1. Make sure you have a pasting table or other, resonably sized, table. People don't like crouching down to look at things laid on a mat or blanket. Also try not to use too wide a table as it will be hard for them to see things at the back. 2. Be fair to yourself and the customer in your prices. The best thing to do is to attend a car boot or two at your chosen venue, to see what kind of prices are charged for the types of items you have. 3. Haggling : when labelling your items with prices, and yes I DO recommend it as some people are shy and won't want to ask, allow for it maybe to come down up to 50p. So if you really want a pound for example, price at one fifty to begin with. Not everyone haggles so don't worry, but those who do often suggest 50p lower, if they suggest a pound lower stand your ground and suggest meeting them in the middle. They usually go for that. 4. Present your items nicely. As a seller, I hate rummaging through piles of dusty items that have just been dumped on the table. It's not a jumble sale, it's a car boot sale. Arrange things carefully and neatly on your table so it looks like the items are of value to you! And re-arrange when your table becomes a bit more empty or people won't all be bothered to have a look. 5. Things that sell well : books, CDs, toys, ornaments and trinkets, electrical goods in good condition, soft furnishings (only if clean), unused toiletries & gift sets. Things that don't sell well : adult clothes & shoes, videos (the age of the video is gone!), kitchen items.
I also recommend taking your lunch. You will be there until 1 to 3 o'clock in the afternoon, so between about 5 to 9 hours! There are food vans there, but are usually ridiculously expensive. Another tip is don't stay until everyone else is going. Keep an eye on other stallholders. When 4 or 5 in your row have gone, make your move. Sales dwindle at the end and if you stay it will only be for the sake of another few pounds. People who go at that time are generally looking for last-minute bargains and will expect to pay less. Plus, you don't want to get caught in an hour's worth of traffic leaving the field at a Giant Car Boot. You really don't - trust me.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO WOULD-BE BOOTERS
To finish with, I'm going to rate the car boots in Lancashire I've been to, for the information of residents and visitors in this area who may be interested in going. *** means a great car boot, for both buying & selling or that you are pretty much guaranteed to find what you're looking for; ** means good for one or the other or good facilities; * means good occasionally, wouldn't go every week!
1. Banks Giant Car Boot Sale, Banks, Southport - never been to sell, but spend hours browsing to buy, quality stalls, market stalls & meat auction, every Saturday. *** 2. Burscough Giant Boot Sale, Burscough, same organisers with meat auction & an inflatable Titanic slide for the kids, great for selling, every Sunday. *** 3. Bolton Moor Lane Market, Bolton, well organised, covered stalls, busy although small, great for both buying & selling, every Sunday. *** 4. Elaine's Car Boot Sale, Chorley, claims to be giant but isn't, ok for selling, every Sunday. ** 5. Leigh Miners' Institute Club, Leigh, busy though small, better for buying than selling, nice facilities, every Sunday. ** 6. Cawdor Street Mill, Farnworth, an indoor car boot, most expensive stall prices ever here at a tenner, but made a lot of money too, not good for buying, every Sunday. ** 7. Preston Market, Preston, covered stalls, a bit too busy for buying but ok for a short browse, every Tuesday and Thursday. *
AND A SPECIAL MENTION FOR... ...QVC Quality Meat Auctions, a mobile butcher who can be found at Burscough and Banks every weekend. We were a bit dubious as to the quality of the meat at first, but having bought many of the meats he offers, it is tasty, great quality meat. You can buy, say 30 quid's worth for a tenner, of most anything, beef, steak, chicken breat, chicken thigh, lamb chops and joints, pork chops, the list goes on. Give it a chance if you go, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
This ended up being a very long op so I'm sorry to have gone on and on, but it all seemed important! It's a bit sad to be so clued up on the ways of car boot sales, I guess, but then I'm not complaining, I made 44 pounds on Sunday and didn't even have that much to sell, and have funded several trips to the cinema and takeaways!! Go on, give them a try - you know you want to!
I have always thought about going to a car boot sale to get rid of some unused but quality "junk" and to make a bit of money! Thanks for the advice, very informative and well written review xx
Story_Weaver 20.02.2004 23:28
Being an ex 'booter' (seller) myself, I would say your appraisal of the whole car boot thing is spot on. The only thing you omitted was the dreaded traders flogging new stuffed (generally banned) on car boots. What seems to be you 'pet hate' is the other 'professional booters' with their face in your boot before you even unlocked it. I acted differently to you. What I did was say I was gonna flog an item for £1 I would ask them for £20, and by the way 'get out of my ******** car!' I had absolutely no intention of seller to these wolves, so if I offended them, well tough. Having said that, I always go as a buyer early and look for the newbies. I am not rude like the wolves but you can get real bargains from the newbies, and you never know, you make get something valuable.
thethirdeye 04.11.2003 20:11
My partner recently did one before we moved house and sold a load of old vids for a pound each but the best selling items were kitchenalia would you believe?! You make a good point about the other traders sniffing round with silly offers.