I went car boot sale bargain hunting and got £500 of stuff for £50

CAR BOOT sale veterans say they’re a great place to get items you need at bargain prices – and to make money by selling on goods you get for cheap.

But could a car boot newbie like me get decent deals on my first visit to one of the country’s biggest sales?

Last week, I visited the Mega Car Boot sale in Sayers Common, West Sussex.

sing these expert tips, I managed to turn my £50 cash into nearly £500-worth of goods. 

Here’s how I did it – and how you could do the same.

Get there early to bag a bargain

Ellie Macsymons, a car boot sale expert from NetVoucherCodes.co.uk, says it’s important to arrive early to grab the best bargains.


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I followed her advice and arrived at 8.30am, half an hour before the official opening time. The site was already busy with shoppers, even though many sellers were still setting up. 

On the first stall I spotted a pair of new official England rugby t-shirts, complete with the original £16 price tags. I grabbed them for £1 each – they’ll make great gifts so I’m glad I got there early.

Check prices on eBay before you buy

Ellie says you should look up “sold” prices on eBay before you buy an item, to check you’re not paying too much for it and to work out if you could sell it on for more.

This was a great idea in theory but the signal wasn’t great in the field so my eBay app struggled to load. 

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As I was trying to get it working, I forgot the advice of Andrea Knowles, personal finance expert at vouchers.co.uk, who says you should hold onto the item while you’re looking it up online. 

It meant that while I was trying to find out if it was worth picking up a pair of Nike Air Max trainers for £5, someone else swooped in and got them. They resell for upwards of £30 so that was a big mistake.

Quality is important

But I also learnt not to be too hasty after the next item I picked up turned out to be worthless. 

I grabbed a kid’s Cath Kidston rucksack for £1 after a quick Google suggested they resell at around £10. But I later discovered the bag was mouldy and stained inside, so there was no way I could resell it. 

It ended up a wasted purchase because I’d panicked and didn’t take the time to check the quality – something Ellie warns is key.

“Make sure that are no hidden faults on the item you're buying,” she says. “But if you do spot a defect it could give you an opportunity to ask for a discount.”

Haggle down prices

“Family sellers are the people you should target should you want the best bargains,” explains Andrea. “They’re likely to want to get rid of everything by the end of the day so they’re likely to be fair in their haggling approach… unlike the regular car booters who may bring the same items every week.”

Commercial sellers tend to sell a lot of the same type of thing, like shoes or antiques, whereas family sellers will usually have a random collection of items. 

Her advice rang true for me. A regular seller refused to offer a discount on a £10 Mini Micro scooter, but I took it anyway as it was in good condition. The scooters cost around £75 new and I knew it would resell for around £30 on eBay. 

I hate haggling so almost anyone could have got better deals than I did, but I plucked up the courage to negotiate with a family seller and got a pair of second-hand men’s Converse shoes reduced from £3.50 to £3. Pairs in a similar condition sell for around £7.50 on eBay.

Take a rucksack

I was grateful for Andrea’s advice to take a rucksack as it made it easy to carry around my purchases and browse stalls. But I still had to make a couple of trips back to the car to drop off bigger items, losing valuable browsing time. I noticed savvy car boot shoppers at the event had pull-along shopping trolleys – and one even brought a wheeled camping wagon. Next time, I would take a wheeled trolley to carry my larger purchases.

Don’t buy Lego or electronics

“Never purchase something that needs to be tested at the car boot, such as electronics, or things that come in sets, like LEGO,” Andrea warns.

But I overlooked this rule to pick up a Duplo train for my son (£2) because it was displayed fully constructed and looked like it was complete. Once home, I realised it was actually missing a block but luckily we had a spare I could add in. The sets cost around £30 new and resell for up to £10 so it was still a bargain, even with the missing part.

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I also broke this rule to buy a board game – the box was taped shut so I couldn’t check it but I took a gamble and bought it for £2.50. At home, I discovered all the parts were there and in good condition, which was lucky. Other sets of the Newsdesk game from the 1970s sell on Amazon Marketplace for £35, so the car boot price was a steal.

Bundles can be good value

While it’s best to avoid “sets” like Lego sold in plastic bags in case they’re missing parts, other items sold as a bundle can be great value. I picked up a bag of toy dinosaurs for £1 – a bargain as they were good as new and there were more than 30 inside. On Amazon, it would cost around £15 to buy the same amount in a similar design.

Look for brand names and quality items you can sell on 

A sequinned French Connection dress glittering in the sunshine caught my eye and I discovered it still had the tags in, showing it originally cost £210. I snapped it up for £2.50. Even if it didn’t fit me, I knew I could resell it – the same dress has sold on eBay for up to £115. 

By carefully checking labels I also found a 100 per cent silk scarf in a box of old scarves, for 50p. It’s a quality product so it should have a decent resale value – similar designs sell on Etsy for around £30. 

Another item I plan to clean up and sell on was an antique coffee pot I got for £6. I picked it because I liked its design but I saw there was a name stamped on the bottom of Thomas Otley and Sons of Sheffield. When I Googled it, I found it dated from the late 1800s and similar items by the same company have sold on eBay for around £40 to £55. 

How we bagged a bargain

MUM and daughter Natalie and Mia Hannon were first-time visitors to the Mega Car Boot sale but were chuffed with their purchases.

They had travelled around 20 miles from their home near Brighton to come to the sale.

Natalie haggled to get two throw cushions for £5 and also picked up a large table lamp for just £5. 

“I think we’ve done really well,” she said. “I’ve got some nice new things for my lounge at bargain prices.

"We focused on only getting things we needed so we didn’t waste money.”

If you can’t sell it, it’s only a bargain if you actually need it

“It's easy to get carried away when you're on a bargain-hunting spree, but it's only a deal if you needed that item anyway,” says Ellie.

I was chuffed to come across another children’s rucksack which was something I’d previously wanted to buy but it was too expensive, usually costing £16 in the shops and around £10 second-hand. The Jojo Maman Bebe dinosaur rucksack at the car boot sale was in good condition and only £2.

I also grabbed up a few other items which had no resale value but were bargains to me as I needed them. They included a brand new Tu grey jumper, bought for 50p, and four children’s books, for 50p each. 

Go around again at the end

Sellers started packing up quicker than I expected – by 11am, many had already driven off. Andrea advises going around again near the end of the sale for last-minute bargains. “As the momentum of the seller’s sales will have slowed down, they may be more open to lower offers than they were earlier,” she says.

I took her advice and in the final minutes, I grabbed three pieces of costume jewellery for £1 from one stall. 

My final bargain of the day was a vintage stepladder which I managed to haggle down to £13, the seller having already dropped it from £20 to £15. I had been looking for something like this for a while so it was a great deal – it will need some work but once upcycled, it could fetch around £30 to £40 on eBay.

Stick to your budget

Set a budget and stick to it, says Ellie, who adds: “Even if you're only spending a pound or two at a time, the costs can add up over the course of the day.”

I had budgeted £50 to spend and took only the cash I needed (plus enough to cover the £3 entry fee and drinks and snacks), including plenty of £1 and 50p coins so I could give the exact change once I’d negotiated a price.

Using notes on my phone, I also kept track of how much I spent as I went round. That meant I was able to come in just under budget, spending £49 in total.

For more money saving tips, read our guide on what to buy at Aldi – and which products to avoid.

Plus, we rate supermarket own-brand fish fingers.

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