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.
An unexpectedly large household bill through the letterbox can be a nasty surprise when you’re on a tight budget. You have days to find the money, so a trip to the car boot can be the perfect quick fix, as well as a chance to finally deal with your home’s clutter.
Housemates Kate Birch and Toni Cotton, 27-year-old teachers from Leeds, found themselves in this situation when the gas and electric bill arrived after the cold winter.
Luckily for them, they were able to head to a local car boot in Otley, West Yorkshire, to sell their unwanted items. Kate tells carbooted about her first ever trip to a car boot, and how the pair came away nearly £300 richer!
Why did you decide to go to a car boot to make money?
We went to a car boot because using eBay seemed a bit too much like hard work to list and photograph all our items. I wasn’t expecting to get much for my bag of clothes so thought it wouldn’t be worthwhile with the costs of postage and packaging. Also, with our working hours and commutes to school, making trips to the post office just wasn’t going to be convenient.
Why did you choose the Otley car boot sale?
We chose the Otley Sale purely because it started at midday and we weren’t dedicated enough to get up at the crack of dawn! It turned out to be a good choice – there were lots of people buying and selling and it was a sunny day so even more turned out. It was only £12 per car and we didn’t need to pre-book a pitch either. Toni made over £200 and I made £70 so we still made a good profit.
What did you have to do when you arrived on the day?
We got a great spot because my boyfriend was driving and didn’t realise that the last to arrive were supposed to go to the other end of the site – he charmed a granny who let him have her granddaughter’s usual spot as she wasn’t going that day! We arrived at 11.30am, but regular sellers had been there setting up since 10am. We borrowed a pasting table to act as our stall, and Toni brought along a portable clothes rail to make it easier for buyers to browse.
What was it like once the gates were open for buyers to come in?
The main items on sale were clothes, toys and household items and it was a pretty friendly atmosphere. People were generally interested only if things were really cheap – say £1 for a top or £2 for a pair of jeans – but I’m sure more specialist items might have sold for more.
If you’re just looking for a big clear out of stuff you genuinely don’t need any more then it’s well worth making the trip to your local sale – I’m never planning on going skiing again so I happily waved goodbye to my ski goggles for a couple of quid. It was the sheer volume of clothes that made Toni her £200. I sold some books, jewellery and unopened Paperchase stationery for £3 a time – so for good quality and well-known brands you can get a bit more.
Did you have trouble selling any of your items?
The only thing I didn’t sell was a beaded top I’d bought for £45 and worn once. People wouldn’t pay £10 for it because they wanted everything dirt cheap. One or two sellers helpfully suggested that I sold it on eBay instead – because they knew, in general, the car booters aren’t after clothes that cost too much. I think it’ll be worth auctioning this one item online because it’s still stylish.
What tips would you offer people considering a car boot sale to make a quick bit of cash?
For first timers, I’d say go for it! We were lucky that it was a nice day and had three of us to look after our stall. As you have to pay to get in, you need to make sure you have the volume to make it worthwhile.
After two good hours of selling, it tailed off, so make sure you’re ready to go when the gates open as that’s your best chance of a sale.
Other people will buy your stuff to go on and sell it themselves. Toni sold £70 worth of clothes to a woman in the last 5 minutes – clearly intending to sell it the week after. But Toni needed wardrobe space and cash, so it didn’t really matter.
Will you go again?
Definitely! I’m a fair weather car booter – you wouldn’t catch me braving it in the winter. But the old lady next to us said that they go every week, come rain or shine, to raise cash for a local charity. It did take a lot of will power not to have a good look around the sale so I wasn’t tempted to sell my junk then go home with other people’s, though!
Kate and Toni sold their unwanted goods at:
Wharfedale Farmers Auction Mart
It’s open every Sunday from 12-4pm for buyers. Sellers can arrive from 10am. It’s £12 for a car, £14 for a van, and £2 for a trailer.
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.
Mike Collins, who runs the show, said: “Car boots are better than eBay and antiques shops. People are starting to realise that this is the way forward.”
We also met Leo, who comes every week and is the proud owner of more than 3,000 brooches, which she has collected over 25 years. She said: “Every so often, I’ll pick up a pendant just because I like how it looks. Then I find out the chain is made of gold, so I cash it in and spend the money on another brooch!”