My first car boot: a quick fix for when you need to make money

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
West Yorkshire
LS21 3BD

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.

Helen Lawson


2012 predictions week: the top five markets worth checking out this year

Hackney Homemade, Wood Street Indoor Market, Frock Me, Judy’s kilo sales, and Little Chelsea: in the latest post of our 2012 predictions week, carbooted picks out five London markets you should visit on a bargain hunt.

Frock Me and Adams Antiques Fairs

Image via McMuggins

Hackney Homemade

Every Saturday, Lower Clapton Road, E5, 10am-4pm; Every Sunday, Chatsworth Road, E5, 11am-4pm

The Hackney Homemade markets are back up and running after a well-earned Christmas break. On Saturdays you’ll find them in the garden of St John church in Hackney selling good old-fashioned bric-a-brac alongside vintage clothing and books. There’s also a good choice of world food to fill your belly as you browse. Sundays are the artier days, promising ceramics, toys, and furniture in the courtyard of an independent book shop. As the name suggests, there’s a lovely handmade ethos to the markets, and they’re clearly doing something right as Time Out named founder Jane MacIntyre one of their most influential people of 2011. We love the clear advice that their friendly and welcoming website gives for people wanting to sell their wares at the market, telling you exactly what you need to know before pitching up.

Wood Street Indoor market

Wood Street, E17

Open Monday – Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, from 10am-5.30pm

We’re really excited to check out the goods here after organisers ran a competition to find 21 brand new shops for empty space in this Walthamstow market. The winners get three months free rent, and there’s a love-themed launch party on February 11 to say a big hello to the new kids in town. There’ll be flowers, homeware, records, costumes, and plenty of vintage to browse as well as performances in the indoor market, which used to be a cinema.

Frock Me and Adams Antique Fairs

Frock Me: Chelsea Town Hall, King’s Road, SW3. Next event: Sunday 12 February, 11am-5.30pm

Adams Antique Fairs: Elverton Street, SW1P. Next event: Sunday 5 February, 10am-4.30pm

Matthew Adams runs an antique fair at the Royal Horticultural Hall as well as the fun vintage Frock Me fair in Chelsea. Frock Me is excellent for celeb spotting (Hi Kylie! Hi Kate Moss!), and the prices do get a little steep at times. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do well on a budget as you explore the range of vintage clothing, burlesque items, jewellery and accessories, and there’s a tea room to quench your thirst in retro surroundings. The antiques fair attracts 140 stallholders so you could easily spend your entire Sunday lost among some real gems.

Judy’s vintage kilo sales

Moves around! Next event: The Rag Factory, Heneage Street, E1, on Saturday 11 February, 11am-4pm

Load up on a kilo of clothing for only £15 – bargain! You’ll need your rummaging arms at the ready for this sale, run by the team behind Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fairs. As well as finding your new favourite shirt, this one’s a great opportunity to get crafty as you can turn old cloth into new togs, or rework a fantastic fabric into an e-reader cover/purse/neck scarf/pillowcase…

 Little Chelsea Antiques Fair

Chelsea Town Hall, King’s Road, SW3

Next event: Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 March. 3-8pm on Monday, 11am-6pm on Tuesday.

This one calls itself “the affordable antiques fair”, so it’s a great way of making your first steps into antique buying for as little as a tenner. Steer clear of the items they say could cost as much as £30,000 – unless you’ve come into some incredible good fortune – and get haggling in the surrounds of Chelsea’s Old Town Hall. Here’s a long-running fair for furnishings, porcelain, glass… You name it, it’s probably there.

Helen Lawson

Shooting Star CHASE, car boot for charity, November 2011

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.

Tom Allsop

Find out more about Shooting Star CHASE here.


Chiswick Car Boot Sale, 6 November 2011, best buys and sells

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.

Tom Allsop


Wimbledon Car Boot Sale – 24 October 2011

carbooted went to Wimbledon Car Boot Sale, which is open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, making it one of London’s most prolific car boot venues.

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!”

Tom Allsop