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Choose the right sale

Car boot sales are a great place for bargain hunters hoping to save money on everything from clothes to antiques. Larger, well-established sales tend to attract a wider variety of sellers and items, increasing your chances of finding a deal.

Brighton racecourse and Battersea in south London are considered two of Britain’s best car boot sales. Both open at lunchtime, so you don’t have to be an early riser. Newark international antiques and collectors fair is held every other month at Newark showground, Nottinghamshire, is one of Europe’s largest sales, with more than 2,500 stalls.

Before heading to a sale, think about what you are hoping to buy. If you are after preloved furniture, for example, Ikea’s car boot sale returned to its Cardiff, Exeter and Milton Keynes stores this month.

Consider sales near affluent areas for higher-end items but you never know where treasures may be hiding. Bear in mind, too, that weekly sales may offer more choice, as they allow sellers to refresh their stock regularly.

Many sales have an entry fee, and the cost may depend on when you want to get there, with the highest prices early in the day. Battersea’s entry price is £7 for early birds from noon, £3 from 12.30pm and £1 from 1.30pm. Brighton’s entry fee is 80p or £2.50 for early access before 10.30am.

You can search for sales at findcarboot and Car Boot Junction. You’ll find addresses, sale dates, opening times, entry fees, and information on facilities such as parking and children’s entertainment.

Set a budget

Before heading to a cat boot sale, set a budget. The excitement of hunting for bargains and temptingly low prices can easily lead to overspending on impulse buys. To avoid this, create a list of the items you need or want and how much you want to spend on them.

Avoid the impulse to overspend at a car boot sale. Photograph: Holly Palmer/Alamy

However, you could allow some flexibility for unexpected finds and deals within your budget. Bringing only cash could also help to set a hard limit on your spending.

Ele Clark, the retail editor at the consumer body Which?, says: “Bringing a set amount of money should prevent spending over the odds or buying unnecessary items.”

Go early

Car boot sales can offer incredible deals, but usually only if you beat the crowds. Many sellers set up stalls before the official opening, giving early arrivals the chance to grab the best items at bargain prices. This is why you may have to pay more to get in first thing than you would later in the day.

“Always try to be one of the first in the queue,” says Karl Baxter, the chief executive of the UK-based online retailer Wholesale Clearance UK, which supplies stock from bankrupt companies to trade and the public.

“Go to the stall with what you want to buy most. So head straight for clothing to find cheap branded items, jewellery for potential gems, or bric-a-brac for antiques. If you arrive later than an hour after opening, you’ve probably missed the boat.”

If you miss the early morning rush, though, you could try finding bargains at the end of the day, when sellers are eager to clear unsold items. But you will have to dig through what is left, and the best deals will probably be gone.


“When haggling, which sellers expect, never ask ‘would you take?’,” Baxter says. “If an item is £10, don’t ask if they’ll take £5 – they’ll just counter your low offer.” Instead, he suggests stating your firm opening offer directly, such as saying: “I only have £5 on me.”

Other haggling tips include starting at about 25% below the asking price, being willing to meet the seller halfway, and requesting bundle discounts if you are buying several items from the same stall.

Time your offers strategically. Sellers may be more open to offers on seasonal items towards the end of that season. For example, you’re more likely to get a deal on outdoor furniture and gardening supplies in late summer or early autumn, when sellers are eager to clear their stock.

Bring plenty of coins and small notes to make haggling easier and give you more flexibility when negotiating prices.

Dan Hatfield, the author of Money Maker: Unlocking Your Money Making Potential, says: “Having a load of change in your pocket can also work as an excellent bartering tool.

“When someone physically sees the money and knows they won’t have to use their float to give you change, it’s a much more powerful bargaining tip than many people realise.”


You may be looking for bargains for yourself or your family. However, some savvy bargain hunters look for brand-name or popular items to buy and resell online at a mark-up.

“Well-known, branded products are great sellers on marketplaces such as eBay and Vinted,” Baxter says. “Branded products have predictable resale values easily researched in seconds using your mobile phone and eBay’s past sales search feature.”

To find potentially valuable items, look for recognisable logos, or markings that indicate an antique’s authenticity and value. Some items you could also keep an eye out for to resell at a higher price include vintage clothing and collectible toys or memorabilia.

Doing a quick internet search to check an item’s usual retail price allows you to gauge if it’s actually a deal. If an item has a barcode, you could scan it using apps such as ShopSavvy to check if you could resell it for a higher price.

Some vintage clothing can be resold for higher prices. Photograph: Marcin Rogozinski/Alamy

Check for damage

While you may be hunting for a bargain, that doesn’t mean you should settle for damaged goods. Check items for defects or missing pieces that could justify requesting a greater discount from the seller.

For used clothing, check zips, buttons, hems and seams to ensure there aren’t rips or tears.

Estelle Keeber, 41, a car boot sale enthusiast from Leicestershire who runs a social media marketing business, says: “Ask to see items working if you’re buying something you’ll be plugging in, for example. And generally, dig a little deeper. There’s nothing worse than getting your bargain home to find a piece missing, and not everyone’s honest when selling. Your best bet is to always ask, then check yourself.”

Not all missing parts or defects will be deal breakers. Keeber says: “I recently bought a tent and saved more than £50. I asked the seller if it was in good condition or had any missing poles. They told me honestly it needed tent pegs, which are £10 on Amazon, so even with the additional purchase, I still grabbed myself a bargain.”

Beware, too, of buying counterfeit items at car boot sales, such as designer clothes and accessories. Check labels, and remember, if a price looks too good to be true, then the item probably isn’t genuine.