Car Boot Season Is Upon Us. Here’s How To Get The Best Bargains

Because there's nothing better than finding a £3 Miu Miu jacket, is there?


by Bethan Holt |
Published on

A crisp white summer dress that looks a bit like one of Princess Diana’s more fabulous looks. A pretty lace-edged silk camisole top. A pair of chunky heeled Prada-like loafers. These are just a few of the brilliant bargains I’ve managed to score at car boot sales over the years. And it’s thoughts of these - none of which I paid more than £3 for - which keep me going back even after the occasional blip when I head to a sale and find nothing more exciting than grubby old kids toys and pointless gardening tools. In a way, that’s the beauty of a car boot sale. You never quite know how much treasure you’re going to unearth. If any.

While I'd never call myself an expert, I've got up at an ungodly hour on enough Sundays to know a thing or two about getting the best from a car boot. First of all, never ever go with something you want to buy in mind. If all you're looking out for is a floral printed midi skirt then chances are you're going to be coming home empty handed and annoyed. It's better to just go with a budget, which is super easy anyway because a car boot is one place you're def not going to be able to whip out your debit card.

Around London there are a few renowned car boots which you need to put top of your list. Chiswick has a brilliant reputation for being huge and full of quality garb- so good in fact that it’s where you’ll find many a fashion editor of a spring sunday morning. Stylist and blogger at The Frugality, Alexandra Stedman, loves Battersea. 'It's great because it doesn't start until midday,' she says, which is perfect if you’re combining car booting with a hangover, but do be prepared for a bit of a scramble when doors open. Another insider recommendation is Kempton Marketwhich is particularly great if you're not into the idea of too much crap - only vintage clothes and antiques are allowed so there's no messing about with dodgy DVDs and boxes of Jilly Cooper novels.

Further afield there's a savvy way to work out where the best car boots will be. Look for sales in areas where quite affluent, middle-aged people tend to live because they're the ones who'll probably have nice stuff they don’t mind getting rid of for a song. Think 'lovely' little towns like St Albans, where Stedman scouts vintage furniture at Redbourn Car Boot, Ascot, where I’ve picked up everything from a beautiful vintage bike to silk jumpsuits, or further North head to Chelford or Harrogate.

'Don’t be afraid to haggle; the buyers completely expect it,' advises Stedman. And always make sure you go with a few friends. There are many reasons for this. The first is that it’s useful for the aforementioned haggling - if a few of you are buying from a stall then you can get a bulk buy deal. Second, you really need trusted voices in lieu of the fancy lighting and full-length mirrors of shop changing rooms, get them to take pics of you trying stuff on so that when you’re buying something you definitely know you want it. Nothing worse than wasting Monday’s lunch money on a mega dress only to discover it’s two sizes too small. Oh, and on that note, always check for broken zips, stains and stuff. Have a quick google to check whether you’ll be able to solve the problem easily - it could still be worth it.

A highly unscientific survey suggests that these are the top 5 kinds of things you’re going to come across at car boots:

1. Old lady jewellery

Jewellery from the 50s and 60s is always relevant for now; think perfect pearls, huge plastic bangles, delicate rings and colourful paste pieces which look expensive but which shouldn’t set you back more than a few pounds.

2. Jumpers!

For some reason, people love selling their Grannies’ handknitted creations on car boot stalls. Check for any moth damage first. Look for really crafty crochet designs to channel Miu Miu AW14.

3. Pretty house stuff

Plates, mirrors, tea cups, tablecloths and jugs will be everywhere and very often look like they could actually have come from Anthropologie.

4. Right for now throwback pieces

Car boots tend to be where people get rid of the bags of clothes they’ve been keeping in their loft for the past who-knows-how-many-years so it’s not rare to find cute 80s jackets, men’s tuxedo shirts which you could wear as a dress or super feminine 70s hippie florals.

5. Practically new high street

Lots of car boots have dealers who get hold of factory samples from the likes of ASOS and Urban Outfitters. There’s also an outside chance of coming across that Zara dress you liked but never got round to buying last year- you know what they say about someone’s trash being someone else’s treasure.

And don’t forget that if you can’t be faffed with the eBay time consumption then car boots are an amazing place to make an easy £100. Stedman, describing the inevitable initial deluge of customers, completely sells the experience of having your own lo-fi version of a pop-up shop. 'It's really intense and you'll get a bit frustrated and disoriented but it's quite exciting.'

Follow Bethan on Twitter @BethanHolt

Picture: Jon Spence

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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