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What is a Car Boot Sale?

A car boot sale is a treasure trove of second-hand goods, where sellers unpack items from their vehicles to sell in an open-air market. It's a sustainable shopping adventure, often yielding unique finds and bargains. Imagine unearthing hidden gems among the array of personal trinkets and household items. Ready to discover what unexpected treasures await at your local car boot sale?
S. Gonzales
S. Gonzales

A car boot sale is to Britain as a garage sale is to the United States. Car boot sales are characterized by private citizens coming together to buy and sell unwanted and new, or second-hand, items in a public space.

The phrase car boot sale is derived from the habits of sellers who fill their vehicles' trunks — the cars' boots — with items to sell. These items can range from expensive antiques and heirlooms to inexpensive trinkets and children's toys. Books, CDs, DVDs, clothes, home decor and computer equipment are some of the most popular items bought and sold at boot sales. Much like an American garage sale, boot sales can carry something for everyone.

Some attributes of a boot sale are:

  • Location. Boot sales can be found almost anywhere, from sheep's or cow's fields, market stalls where food or other agricultural products are sold to schools and even parking lots. A boot sale can also take place indoors, in buildings capable of accommodating large numbers of people and their loot. Regardless of where a boot sale takes place, wares are commonly put on display atop a folding table.
  • Price. Because boot sales are likely to be organized, there may be fees that must be paid before one is allowed entry. Boot sales sponsored by cities or other centralized entities will likely impose a fee, although it's not impossible to buy or sell at a boot sale for free.
  • Times. Many boot sales occur in the summer or during otherwise hospitable weather and on weekends and holidays. A boot sale usually begins very early in the morning when the sun rises. Serious buyers will arrive at a boot sale early to get the best deals.
  • Numbers. Unlike American garage sales where only a few dozen buyers may show up on someone's driveway, the boot sale's use of public space typically brings in a high number of buyers. Attendees often number in the high hundreds or low thousands.

Boot sales can also act as the setting for social gatherings, since professional and hobbyist buyers regularly attend the same sales. Stands that sell french fries, hamburgers, doughnuts or other cheap foods encourage buyers to extend their visits.

British car boot sales are similar to American garage sales.
British car boot sales are similar to American garage sales.

A UK boot sale can be advertised in newspapers, but it's more common to find an announcement on a flier close to where the boot sale will take place. It's not uncommon for advertisements to be minimal or even non-existent, relying on word-of-mouth and a core group of buyers for sales.

While certain standards of decorum are observed, haggling is expected, and some would say encouraged, as it contributes to the feel of an authentic boot sale. The atmosphere is rich enough to warrant its own vernacular. For example, professional boot sale attendees who eagerly crowd sellers' vehicles before they've finished putting their wares on display are referred to as "scrum."

In addition, the highly organized "boot fair" popularized in the 1980s helped make the attendance of boot sales a favorite weekend pastime in the UK.

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Discussion Comments


Whether you call it a car boot sale, a garage sale or a yard sale, the key to getting the good items is to get up early and be the first person there. The good items get taken quickly and you are left with the leftovers.

On the other hand, if you go late then you are more likely to get a better deal. Towards the end, the people having the sales would much rather lower their prices than have to pack up all those unsold items.


Since my girlfriend read about someone going to a car boot sale outside of London and paying five pounds for a painting that turned out be worth twenty or thirty thousand pounds, she has been getting me out of bed early on Saturday mornings so we can hit the local yard sales. We have found a lot of interesting items, but we are yet to find anything of much value. We definitely haven't found anything worth thousands of dollars. I hope she'll get tired before long and I can start sleeping in again.


One weekend during the summer there is a super yard sale or car boot sale in North Carolina and Virginia in the United States. Actually, there are hundreds of vendors and people who set out there items along a road that runs from Virginia into NC. I'm not sure exactly how many miles this stretches, but I think the distance is between 50 miles and 100 miles.

Even if you don't like stopping at yard sales, you might enjoy driving down the road and looking at what seems like an endless collections of odds and ends set up along the roadside. Even if you love shopping, unless you are a bigger shopaholic than I am, you will tire out long before you reach the end of the line.

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    • British car boot sales are similar to American garage sales.
      By: Alexey Stiop
      British car boot sales are similar to American garage sales.
    • A garage sale can be useful in keeping a garage organized.
      By: trekandphoto
      A garage sale can be useful in keeping a garage organized.
    • A car boot sale may be advertised in a local newspaper.
      By: Kurhan
      A car boot sale may be advertised in a local newspaper.
    • Car boot sales may feature old books.
      By: Andrzej Solnica
      Car boot sales may feature old books.
    • A car boot sale may be a great way for a person to clean out her closet.
      By: Photographee.eu
      A car boot sale may be a great way for a person to clean out her closet.