The Best Of The Boot Sale

Phillipa Smith explains why the car boot sale is the place to be.

When the weather is fine, our life extends from our homes into the great outdoors, and so many more activities become available to us. And if you like early mornings and rummaging for bargains, you’ll know it’s now officially car boot sale season.

As we increasingly head online to score a bargain (think Depop, eBay or Freecycle) it may seem surprising that these markets have remained so popular and such a permanent fixture in British culture. But with people travelling far and wide to snap up a bargain, the humble boot sale endures.

We all have items in our homes that we’re not quite sure where they came from – like my coffee table that everyone compliments, picked up for just £5 from Ardleigh boot sale in Essex. And because anyone can pitch up and sell useful but unwanted wares, this rotation of stock is fantastic for the environment. Not to mention the opportunities for vintage clothing and upcycling projects. Not convinced? Here’s some more evidence that boot sales are the place to be this summer.

Get thrifty

Enjoy the smug and satisfying sensation of finding a total bargain – It feels so good to buy a book or piece of jewellery for a snip of the usual price. Also, there are very often ‘regular’ stalls selling cleaning supplies or toiletries for a fraction of what you’d pay on the high street.

Make some money

If you’re moving house or having a clear out, the basic categories you need to divide your things into are: keep, store, sell, and charity. Bag up the items you think you could pass on and have a go at selling your wares. You’ll need a table to spread your goods out on, or a rail is useful if you are selling clothes, and a kitty of change.

Set up shop

If you’re a talented crafter, where better to start making your name known than at a boot sale? From printed cards to knitted blankets, you’ll get the chance to get your products in front of real customers and it will be easy to stand out against the sea of bric-a-brac.

Take a friend

Make the early start (you could be getting up at 5am) as fun as possible by taking a buddy along with you, and get ready to do your best Delboy and Rodney impressions. Plus, someone can man the stall at all times while the other does the tea run.

Reject fast fashion

If you’ve recently read about the environmental horrors of the Missguided £1 bikini, a morning spent rummaging clothing at a boot sale is the perfect antidote to the fast fashion movement. This is the perfect opportunity to find one-off unique pieces to really treasure, and guilt-free, too.

Try bartering

Often prices at boot sales are at rock bottom already, but it doesn’t take long for you to start questioning whether 50p for a Jamie Oliver cookbook is actually too much, and asking for prices to be slashed further. It’s part of the culture, so embrace the fun of a friendly barter.

Feel the community spirit

The first time I did a boot sale I made some rookie mistakes. Namely, not taking any change at all with me. But the kind guys on the stall next to me swapped a note for some coins and I was off on my boot sale journey. There’s great camaraderie amongst the regulars and, if the sun is shining, it can feel more like a community fete than anything.

Source quality furniture

Now I’m no David Dickinson, and most of what I know about antiques comes from watching Bargain Hunt, but it is possible to find great, durable furniture for fantastic prices. Look for sturdy craftsmanship, or search for piece you like on Pinterest and then start hunting out your own replica versions.

Enjoy the outdoors

Give yourself, and your family, a break from the internet and leave the phones at home for a few hours. There’s so much to keep everyone amused and entertained at boot sales, some of the bigger ones even have catering vans. You could always give the kids a few coins of pocket money too and let them find something for themselves.

Find those one-offs

A housemate of mine once picked up an enormous framed print of the French Royal Family tree from a boot sale in Bethnal Green, London. The picture hung in our hallway for years and got commented on by every visitor. We couldn’t tell anyone the why or the how about the piece, just that it cost 50p, but a little mystery never hurt anybody. Happy hunting!