Car boot sales represent recycling at its best. Don’t forget: one man’s rubbish could easily be another man’s treasure

A brilliant way to make money out of the things you no longer love, car boot sales are thriving across the UK. And while they were off the agenda for a while during the pandemic, they are back – albeit with strict protocols in place. And we say hurrah; after all, they are – as the ultimate recycling method – completely on-message. Research suggests that at least 50 to 60,000 tonnes of goods are exchanged at car boot sales each year. After all, if we are going to be victims of a consumer culture, we might as well be buying second-hand goods.

It is thought that the car boot sale started as a charity fundraiser in the 1970s, after a Catholic priest from Stockport witnessed something similar while on holiday in Canada and held his own on his return.

They’ve been a national pastime pretty much ever since. Writing recently in the Eastern Daily Press, journalist Nick Richards said: ‘If an alien spacecraft crash landed on a village green and its crew demanded to be shown the most British thing that existed, I know where to take them. I’d skip the pub, the church fete or a cricket match and take them to a car boot sale.

‘Only in Britain can you stand in a field at 7.30am on a Sunday morning and get sworn at one minute, complimented the next and leave with jingoistic sense that this country really is in safe hands.’

While you might picture car boot sales to be dreary scenarios involving battered station wagons, thermoses of lukewarm tea and piles of tat, their eco credentials give them a certain glamour these days.

Visit these sites and find an excellent car boot near you.

#sheinspiresme Car Boot Sale

This one may have gone virtual this year, but we’re hoping for a return to the physical car boot in 2022. At this one-of-a-kind fashion extravaganza, held annually in aid of women survivors of war, top designers, influencers and celebrities come together for an afternoon of eco-friendly, guilt-free shopping. The sale normally takes place at the Brewer Street Car Park in London on a Saturday afternoon in May. Tickets are available on the door. Keep your eyes peeled on the Women for Women website for the date of next year’s fandango.

I Love Markets

Launched in 2012 by Katie Ingham, who used to be a stall trader herself, I Love Markets is a brilliant, lively, online destination that promotes London’s markets. While it is not dedicated to car boot sales, its listings section is very hot on them and is well worth a visit. There is also a superb blog, covering everything from new market launches to tips on how to be a successful trader. Featuring regularly on BBC London Radio 94.9, Katie is described as ‘London’s market expert’. A site to lose yourself in for a while. Check out the website here.

Wine Car Boot

A classy idea, this is a pop-up wine market in which over 30 independent retailers sell their wares from the boots of their cars or vans. Wine critic Jancis Robinson says she has ‘never experienced such a cool, friendly atmosphere at a public wine tasting’ as she does at this ‘staggeringly distinctive event’. Now in its eight year, it has produced over 15 markets all over London – and even gone on tour to South Africa. Sign up on the site for dates.

The London Car Boot Co

This site plays host to two cool London car boot sales that are held each weekend. St Augustine’s Car Boot in Kilburn, where fashion designer Henry Holland claims that Agyness Deyn used to rummage for clothing, has been going for 23 years. While the Princess May in Stoke Newington is packed with sellers of funky retro finds and blissful buyers guzzling Aberdeen Angus steak burgers from the barbecue. Both sales have indoor areas for rainy days. Check out the website here.

Capital Carboot Sale Pimlico

With both indoor and outdoor pitches available, this sophisticated car boot sale takes place every Sunday, come rain or shine, at the Pimlico Academy in London. Expect to find vintage fashion and second-hand collectables alongside a very cosmopolitan crowd. Book your stall early – on the simple but informative website – to avoid disappointment. Check out the website here.

Battersea Boot

Established in 1999, Battersea Boot is a busy, well-organised, weekly sale that takes place in the grounds of a school called Harris Academy (formerly Battersea Park School). It is dubbed ‘the boot sale that dealers try to keep a secret’. Bookings launch online every Monday at 7am for pitches the following Sunday. The organisers are proud of the excellent feedback they receive, saying: ‘First-timers tell us they find Battersea to be friendly and less daunting than other boot sales, mostly due to our calm, ‘no queue’ entry system and helpful staff.’ Check out the website here.

The Classic Car Boot Sale

Visitors are blown away by this boot sale with a twist, which is now in its ninnth year. Held a couple of times annually, it sees over 100 classic cars and traders joined by thousands of shoppers for a family-friendly celebration of all things vintage.

Its founder, Red or Dead designer Wayne Hemingway, says: ‘The CCBS offers something for everyone, with the mix of fabulous free entertainment, a host of stalls offering an eclectic mix of vintage, upcycled and uniquely designed goodies.

‘It is a place to celebrate music, food, fashion, design and, of course, the eye candy that is classic cars, bikes and commercial vehicles.’ Check out the website here.

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Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.