Words: Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse
Ah, Spring. Back are the inklings of sun, the longer days, the promise of BBQ’s to come, and also, much to the delight of secondhand shoppers, the great British tradition of the car boot sale. There’s no need to talk here about the popularity of second hand shopping, but with the social media phenomenon of charity shops, thrift hauls, and vintage styling videos continuing to grow, car boot sales never seemed to really make a comeback in any remarkable way.
Whether we can blame COVID lockdowns or the childhood memories of being dragged unwillingly out of bed on the weekend to traipse through muddy fields or run down car parks, the average person may hear ‘car boot’ and feel less than intrigued - but this would be a mistake.
Becky Chorlton, or beckysbazaar as her TikTok and Depop fans know her, has amassed a whopping 137K followers on TikTok by sharing videos of her car boot sale trips and finds. It’s odd watching the videos; many memories harboured of car boot sales revolve around shivering in the cold morning air, begging for 50ps to buy random items that will never be used beyond that day, and queuing for what felt like hours to get a styrofoam cup filled with watery tea and a bacon butty that's mostly just bread and butter. But Becky’s TikTok boasts car boots filled with vintage gems, piles of Harley Davidson merchandise, and brand labels upon brand labels priced at scream-worthy low prices. She seems very relaxed about the content her fans lose their minds over, “I was definitely shocked at the reaction of the young people on TikTok'' she says. “When I first started going to boot sales there were no young people there really. I think now though, my generation are definitely realising how fun it can be, tagging their friends in my videos and making plans to go to one which is nice to see. I’m also being recognised a lot at boot sales which is very surreal!”
With car boot sale season upon us, with the help of seasoned car booter Becky, we’ve compiled some tips, tricks and advice to make sure you get the most bang for your buck as this year’s car boots begin to get underway. Whether you’re shopping for resale, or to fill your own home and wardrobe, we’ve got you covered.
To get started, you need to actually find a car boot sale. There’s a myriad of sales happening across the UK near every weekend, “usually on Sundays” Becky tells us. But you don’t want to just turn up at random. Doing some research as to where the best sales are will go a long way in preventing that disappointment of waking up at the crack of dawn only to find aisles and aisles of kids toys, used makeup and clothes clinging to their last threads.
Wherever you are, local newspapers are bound to have compiled a guide of the best car boot sales in your area. Each one tends to list the types of things you can assume to find, the price points, and, perhaps most crucially, the food vans that frequent the events. If you’re not a fan of analogue, Becky says, “The best way to find out about car boot sales is to join your local Facebook groups. These pages will give you all the information you need regarding start times and cost of entry, as well as keeping you informed about cancellations due to the weather,” something the recent forecast has shown is vital. She also stresses, “It’s also a good idea to find a local indoor car boot for when the weather isn’t great - which, to be honest, is quite often.”
Once you’ve decided where you’re heading, you need to get there early. It may seem like a chore, but the earlier you get there, the more chance you will have of finding the very best items as, quite obviously, the best bits get sold quickly. Car boot shopping is quite a competitive event. Seasoned car-booters know what they want and they’re prepared to do whatever is necessary to get it. Whether that means waking up before the sun or breaking into a light jog as they scan the fold out tables, you need to be prepared to be just as invested. But if you’re not the type to rise with the sun, don’t worry. Becky says, “While I’d recommend getting to the car boot as soon as it opens to find the best items, you can still get some great deals later on!”
"Before the event, you want to get out some cash - this will also help you to set a budget for your day..."
With this early rise, make sure you’ve prepared your supplies the night before. Apart from the obvious travel mug of caffeine, you want to bring carrier bags and perhaps some newspaper or bubble wrap, depending on what you’ve set out to purchase. Car boot sellers are unlikely to offer you anything that ensures the safe travel of your purchases and, if you’ve hit a jackpot of gems, you want to make sure you can get it all home.
The practicalities continue. Car boot sales aren’t like regular shopping. You can’t turn up expecting to be able to tap your contactless card and make a purchase. Before the event, you want to get out some cash - this will also help you to set a budget for your day. It’s easy to get carried away on a bargain hunting spree, but all those pennies and pounds will add up over the course of your shopping.
It’s also a good idea to break your cash down into small change, Becky explains. For one, sellers won’t appreciate, or may not be able to, give change when you’re buying a 50p item with a £20 note. It’s also a lot harder to haggle down a price if you’re waving big money in someone's face.
But haggle you should. It’s all part of the fun. Unlike normal shopping, items won’t be priced, and when asking the seller politely how much something is, don't assume they are offering you the best price straight away. Understandably, some people are shy about asking for a discount, but as the old saying goes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Becky reminds us, “Be confident when bargaining with sellers, remember the worst they can say is no. Most sellers will be grateful to not go home with anything.”
Frame your question using terms like, ‘how much would this be if I bought it?', to remove the promise that you’re definitely going to buy the item - you’ll find things easier to put back this way. If you’re buying a bundle of items from the same seller, ask for a discount or offer a bundle price. After all, the seller is saving time by getting rid of several things at once. Becky emphasises not to get too cheeky though, “Be careful to offer a reasonable price, you don’t want to offend anyone, especially if it’s already cheap enough!”
"It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the low, low prices and quirky items, but ask yourself if you actually need or want what you’re buying..."
If you thought you had to rummage at the charity shop, get prepared for the car boot sale. You’ve really got to dig deep for good finds. This may be some people’s nightmare but it’s Becky’s favourite aspect. “It’s part of the fun and culture of going to a car boot sale,” she says. “It definitely gives me an adrenaline rush when I eventually find a hidden bargain.”
Items are often laid out without a second thought, or people bring so much to sell that clothing is just piled up and up until you stand before a tarpaulin covered in a mess of clothing that likely weighs more than yourself. While you do want to get round to each stall in time to get the best items, you don’t want to simply scan through these frenetic displays and miss the item of your dreams. Becky says, “I highly recommend rummaging as those stalls which are piled high are usually the ones where you find the most unique and cheapest items.”
The most important thing is to not get too carried away. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the low, low prices and quirky items, but ask yourself if you actually need or want what you’re buying. Don’t let sellers pressure you into a purchase, and remember, you’re only getting a good deal if you wanted the item in the first place.