Paying your way through university can be tough, even if you’ve got your fees covered. But while Guy Roberts, 25, from London, was studying illustration at the Norwich University College of the Arts, he realised Norwich’s car boot sales were an untapped goldmine of vintage fashion. He set up an eBay account and soon he was earning up to £300 a month.
Guy is now a self-confessed car boot addict and has agreed to tell carbooted the secrets of buying and selling at the car boot.
When did you start going to car boot sales?
I used to go with my parents but I didn’t really get what they were all about. It was only when I started going off my own back that I realised there were people who were willing to practically give away stuff. I’d be mesmerised by these things and they would let me have them for 50p because they thought were rubbish.
What’s been your best buy at a car boot sale?
The first thing I remember being proud of buying was an old Miami Dolphins jacket, which I still love to bits. It cost me £2, but if you bought it in America it would be about £70. I also bought two Helly Hansen jackets for £2 each, and they’re worth around £70 if you buy them new.
What made you decide to start selling clothes online?
I’m into vintage clothing myself, so I could see that a lot of this stuff was worth good money. I thought, if people are selling these things so cheap but I know there’s a market for them, why not start selling them on eBay? So I started going to car boot sales and charity shops, and buying vintage things so I could sell them online. Once, I bought a River Island jumper which wasn’t even vintage but it had that kind of feel – I got it for £3 and sold it for £30. After that I was addicted.
What are the easiest things to sell?
You can normally sell designer brands for double what you pay for them at the car boot. Sportswear from famous brands like Nike or Adidas always goes down well. If anything has a brand name on it but looks like a granddad would wear it, people will be willing to pay for it.
How much do you make out of car boot sales?
While I was at university I was making £200-£300 a month. That covered all the money I needed to have fun, and I was able to go out pretty much every night. It probably wasn’t great for my liver and my brain cells, though.
But now when I sell stuff on eBay, the money stays in my paypal account and I usually end up spending it on more clothes.
Where’s the best place for finding bargains?
London’s not the best for cheap stuff because people here have a bit more money. But at the car boot sales in Norwich, where I studied, you’d find things for 50p which would go for at least four times that in London.
I like the Battersea Car Boot Sale but a lot of people are there to make as much money as they can, so you feel like you’re getting hustled sometimes. I saw this really nice Tommy Hilfiger towel there but they were selling it for £8. In London they know how much they can get for stuff, but outside London, they’re not so bothered about brands so that makes it cheaper.
Chiswick School Car Boot Sale is good because even though you’re in London it’s more like an out of town sale. A lot of people come in from outside the city and you also get well off families who just want to get rid of their stuff as quickly as they can.
Where’s the worst place?
The East End is a lot more trendy – you get people coming in looking for vintage clothes and furniture – there are a lot more posers round there so things are more expensive.
What was your last buy?
This jacket I’m wearing (see picture). I got it for £4.
What was your last sell?
Last weekend I went to Battersea Car Boot Sale to get rid of some old clothes, I had forty huge plastic rings that my friend had bought back from Thailand. I sold them for £4 to this weird old man with a massive empty suitcase – I’ve got no idea what he wanted to do with them.
We car boot fans have lots in common; we all love a bargain, a good deal or a great sale. We all, however, have different reasons for heading down the car boot.
carbooted have identified the three ‘booting cliques – which one are you in?
1. The professional carbooters
Attending more than one car boot a week, at various different sites, the serious professional is out for a profit. They buy at the car boot, but usually only to sell on. They’re the first at the ‘boot in the morning, trying to bag a bargain for resale, and usually have a well organised and pre-priced stall and focus on selling one type of good.
Professionals should be very aware of consumer law and should also try to get involved with fun aspects of the car boot community.
2. The hobby carbooters
Tending to stick to one weekly patch (be it their local or the best ‘boot they know about), carbooting at the weekends in their free time, the hobby carbooter loves to buy to collect and keeps things a while before selling them on. They’re great at pricing, knowing their stuff, but their stalls tend to be a mishmash of all sorts of bits and pieces. They’re out to break even, but aren’t too concerned about profits and love being a part of the car boot community.
Hobby carbooters should remember that they have the knowledge and the stock to make a profit, so shouldn’t sell themselves short.
3. The necessity carbooters
Usually only down the car boot once in a blue moon, the necessity ‘booter tends to pop by to sell off unwanted household goods after a clear out or when cash flow’s short. Usually they’re only selling, but they’ll come down to browse and pick up a bargain sometimes. Often unaware of which ‘boots are the best they’ll head to their local and won’t be sure of the value of their goods. It’s unlikely they’ll make a profit.
Necessity carbooters can easily get taken advantage of by those more experienced at ‘booting. They should make sure they follow the lead of the hobby ‘booters and professionals, getting involved with the community and doing their research.
Car boot sales are not only a great way of making extra cash for yourself, they’re also a good way of raising money for charity.
carbooted went to one of the busiest stalls at Chiswick Car Boot Sale and spoke to Lynda Daroga, coordinator of the Richmond branch of Shooting Star CHASE children’s hospice service.
Lynda told us how she and her group raised £45,000 for the charity last year, and that they were hoping to raise hundreds of pounds by selling DVDs, clothes and loads of jewellery at the car boot.
Find out more about Shooting Star CHASE here.
carbooted went to Chiswick Car Boot Sale to find out what’s selling at the moment and ask people to tell us about their best buys and sells.