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The Car Boot Sale – That Grand Old British Institution

Updated on October 2, 2016

Still Life Photography Created with Car Boot Items

The Car Boot Addict

I am a car boot addict. There, I have said it now! Each year, this grand old British Institution, times its’ arrival to coincide with the warmer weather. It signals a time for me to shut the front door behind me in favor of finding some outdoor pleasure. It is a time to enjoy the sunshine and a time to take in the sights and sounds of some of the local car boots held all over Norfolk.

The Car Boot! Taking It Quite Literally!

Not for sale
Not for sale | Source

Arminghall Car Boot


The Late One' Car Boot


Arminghall Car Boot Norwich

Arminghall car boot sale
Arminghall car boot sale | Source

The Late One Car Boot Sale, Aylsham, Norfolk

The late one car boot sale, Aylsham
The late one car boot sale, Aylsham | Source

The Late One Car Boot Sale, Aylsham, Norfolk

The late one car boot sale, Aylsham, Norfolk
The late one car boot sale, Aylsham, Norfolk | Source

Bringing People Together

The car coot is one of our best loved national pastimes and draws people from all over, young or old, mothers, fathers, children, grannies or grandpa’s, single people, people of different color, people of different faith, the rich and the poor, no matter, everyone is looking for a bargain. Here they will find things aplenty - both to enjoy and to delight in. In these poor economic times, the Car Boot is such a blessing! Here too, you will find school or casual clothing for adults and children, even branded items, which children especially crave these days. The clothes which they buy, may never have been worn. You will find books, puzzles, toys, bicycles and items of every description, something reasonable for everyone to enjoy, a prize for all, to take home without having to rob the bank.

Glorious Junk or Is It Treasure?

Glorious junk, or is it treasure?
Glorious junk, or is it treasure? | Source

Participation as a Seller and a Buyer

Being an addict means that I do turn up regularly, rain or sunshine. It does not mean that I buy everything in sight! I always go with a plan and occasionally I even change my guise and become a Car Boot Seller instead of just a Car Boot Buyer. Participation as a Seller can be just entertaining as is hunting for bargains!

I go to Car Boots to look for things I need but don’t wish to purchase brand new. It seems such a waste of money to buy new things when you know you can get all of them at a fraction of their cost at a Car Boot. Sale. I like to think of Car Boots as being this huge recycling plant where glorious junk (or treasure) arrives in an assortment of motor vehicles and at the end of the day the items go back home with their new owners - in different cars and vans. Somewhere in-between there will be an exchange of cash which will be channeled back into the community in the form of additional revenue for the town or village. That can’t be half bad can it?

All Lined up Ready to Go!


Negotiating a Deal

I like seeing a child negotiate a purchase on his or her own. I like the way a Car Boot encourages our children to become the wheeler dealers of the future. I love hearing their delight when a seller generously gives them two items for the price of one (Just because they are children!) and they still get to choose which two items they get to take home!

The British Weather

I especially love mixing with the people at car boots. Here you will find a glorious mix of race and nationalities.. I love hearing the different accents and I love watching the people as they walk around together, every one with the same purpose in mind, that is of course, to find a bargain. I love listening to the regular traders and I like to catch little snippets of their conversation spoken in local dialect. I love to look at their weathered faces and hear them speak of the weather! In England, the weather welds all people together and will bring forth an immediate response. If you can discuss the weather, you will never be short of a conversation!

The Late One Car Boot Sale, Aylsham

The late one car boot sale, aylsham
The late one car boot sale, aylsham | Source

In Praise of Car Boots

I sometimes tell my family abroad that one could easily furnish a three bedroom house with the bargains found at a car boot. Thank goodness for car boots - without them things would be a lot tougher for many people.

Getting it all together


Such a Curious Kind of Etiquette at Car Boots!

There does seem does seem to be a curious form of etiquette attached to car boots! Why is it that a person asks a seller for the price of an item and then they walk away without saying another word? If the price is low, they will beat the person right down to next to nothing while at the end of the day when everyone is packing up to go home, folk cannot even be persuaded to take the goods home for free! quite bizarre!

Big Mouth Billy Bass

A Living Doll With Teeth!

A living doll with teeth
A living doll with teeth | Source

The Curious Tale of Big Mouth Billy Bass and a Strange Living Doll with Teeth

My own buying strategy can vary but I always try to have a wish list in the top of my head. I do try to walk systematically up and down the rows of tables looking for specific things. I do find that by doing this, I am far less likely to be distracted by things which I like but don’t necessarily need! Sometimes I will see that an item may have the potential to give me a good return on e-Bay and I will buy it (like the singing fish plaque I bought recently for two quid. I felt so horribly ashamed to carry my catch back to the car minus a carry bag because it was so embarrassingly awful. . Did I not have any taste! I did find out later that it was a collectors item just as I thought and it did turn me a profit on e-Bay. Somehow, talking about a profit is a so much easier to do than having to admit, that you actually bought that embarrassing fish for two quid.

Then there was the strange little doll I bought with teeth - she's a cutie to be sure - so perfectly formed and a such great little character but my guess. I still have to learn to love her otherwise she may still may become an e-Bay item too!!

I do try not to get distracted from my purpose - which is to buy only those items which I originally set out to find, not those which I must have because they seem like a bargain! It is so easy to fill your home with clutter because you think it is a bargain!

Up-Cycle or Re-Sell on E-Bay!

Summer brings with it my opportunity to replenish my craft box with items which I need for my hobbies from the Car Boot. It is also a time for me to explore the possibility of finding items which I can re-sell on e-Bay during the dark days and nights during Winter.

Victorian, Vintage Crochet, Tatting or Lace!

Last week I went searching for some vintage crochet tatting or lace. These I intend to use in a future wet felting project. Seen below are just a few of the items I found.

Beautiful Lace and Macrame

Beautiful lace, crochet, macrame
Beautiful lace, crochet, macrame | Source

Up-Cycling With Vintage Lace Doillies

Textures in Cream and White Cotton

Fabric has always been one of my weaknesses! I have been sewing or doing some type of craft using fabric ever since I can remember. Many women can’t walk past a beautiful piece of fabric without wanting to put out their hands to touch it. I am one of those. I am just drawn to it. I love everything about it. I love the feel of it and the colors. I love the different textures. These days I don't buy fabric new as it is tends to be really expensive in UK shops. I buy most things I need from car boots. I like the concept of being able to recycle beautiful pieces of fabric, either from older items of clothing or curtains. You will often find pieces of brand new fabric too, once purchased by someone and never used. The car boot can be a rich source of fabric, lace and crochet, especially for those wishing to be creative with cloth, Here you will also find buttons and zips, and even sewing threads, sewing machines and sewing patterns. Watch out for vintage fabric and beautiful lawn tablecloths!

Lace, Crochet, Tatting and Macramé.

Tatted Cushion Cover
Tatted Cushion Cover | Source

A Lace Handkerchief

Lace handkerchief
Lace handkerchief | Source

Textures in Cotton and Lace

Textures in cotton and lace
Textures in cotton and lace | Source


Textures in cotton and lace
Textures in cotton and lace | Source


Crochet | Source


Crochet | Source


Tatting | Source

Car Boot Spoils

Two visits to two separate car boots recently have rewarded me with some ‘wonderful texture’ for my next Felting project I have amassed some beautiful pieces of Victorian Lace, Tatting, crochet and macramé to work with. The ones I don’t use I shall put on e-Bay. This incredible array of Lace, Crochet, Macramé and Tatting were bought for less than just £20. Some of the pieces are Victorian some are Vintage, all of them are very beautiful. A few carry a little history with them, such as carefully monogrammed initials in one corner. One is a fine Victorian cotton lace handkerchief. This would have been used as a ‘Wedding Handkerchief’. I can see it being used again for that very purpose 'something old, something new'. The lace is beautiful and the fabric is so very fine and delicate. I have seen a similar one sell on e-Bay recently for £39! How lovely it is to think that these little works of art still survive and can still be found useful. . Two pairs of skilled hands would once have worked this lace. Each lace pattern must have been chosen by an individual according to their skill or their personality! Some of the worked patterns are so very complex! I am amazed at the skill they show. Many of these items now considered old fashioned. . I think they still deserve to be saved. Some can be recycled or used to up-cycle an item. I love the tatting. Some of the items probably came from a deceased estate, probably from a home where they were once treasured by an elderly person, now sold off as a job lot to a car boot trader - who neither cares nor appreciates the work which went into it's creation.

Some Ideas for Up-Cycling Doilies?

Your doilies can be up-cycled to create so many beautiful items:-

  • Make a lampshade from doilies. These can be glued together over a balloon and once the lampshade has dried, the balloon can be extracted to form a beautiful light fitting.
  • Make a modern necklace using a doily folded in half and covering a half moon shape of leather. Add a few embellishments and a silver fixing with which to attach it.
  • A vintage theme wedding dress can be made from doilies using crochet tablecloths
  • A plain neutral cream cloth handbag can be up-cycled with some beautiful lace and ribbons
  • A book of doilies can be presented to a loved one with some favorite photos inserted into it.
  • A doily can be dipped into wallpaper glue and turned into a starched fruit bowl.
  • A dream catcher made using several simple embroidery hoops and a few feathers.
  • A low old fashioned upholstered chair can be covered with crochet doilies.
  • Try adding a lace collar to an item of clothing
  • Several doilies or some tatting can be used to up-cycle a pair of wedge high heel shoes
  • Make some cushion covers as gifts
  • Make a beautiful pincushion as a gift
  • Cover a diary with lace and crochet work.

Who knows you may even find some of these beautiful items on e-Bay when you next look!

© 2013 Sally Gulbrandsen


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    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Susan Hambridge

      I can definitely recommend it, especially for children if they want to spend a little of their pocket money. Why pay high street prices when you don't have to. The kids love going and this really must be one of the best form of recycling that I know of.

      I appreciate the visit and the comment and hope you have fun at your next car boot. Careful though, it can be addictive.


    • Susan Hambidge profile image

      Susan Hambidge 2 years ago from Hertfordshire, England

      Hey Sally - I have only been to ones at my kids school when they were little, more out of duty than anything, but reading this has made me think about getting out there and going to them more regularly. Great photos too.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk


      I completely agree with you. Car booting really is national pastime and I look forward to the Summer months when I can spend a good portion of my time at them. I love that every man or woman's junk becomes become another one's treasure, recycling at it's very best.

      Thank you for the vote up, interesting and useful. Your support is valued and appreciated.

      Best wishes,


    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Sally,what a brilliant portrayal of our national past time with excellent photography and your unique style in your text. What would we do without car boot sales? I have procured many of my best and certainly my favourite reference books from such events. Without these 'old books' as a reference my articles would be a lost less interesting. Voted up,interesting and very useful.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk


      I completely agree with you about e-Bay. Postage costs have become prohibitive and unless you are selling an expensive item it sometimes is not worth doing.

      I guess the yard sales are similar to those which one finds in the villages in France - usually run in one village at a time on a Sunday. The items are brought out of the houses and placed in the road outside the house. I never found much there which I thought was a real bargain. Often the items are dirty and way past their prime.

      I have one follower who writes about his e-bay exploits, though not very active anymore, I always found it interesting to read about his finds and sales on e-Bay. My advice would be to write about things which you love or enjoy doing, whether it be places you have visited, or selling items on e-Bay. This will come across in your writing and be sufficient to attract readers to your writing.


    • Pixelhound profile image

      Wayne 2 years ago from west vancouver BC Canada

      Hi Sally I now live in Vancouver BC Canada and I have been to quite a few yard sales here but they are nowhere near as much fun as a boot sale, A yard sale is basically a garage sale sometimes they are communal events with neighbors getting together to do it but mostly they are individuals selling their own stuff from their own "yard" (they mean garden or driveway) They can be great sources of eBay fodder as they mostly just want rid of it to gain space in their house, I used to do eBay a lot in the UK and loved it but it is different here as most people use a site called Craigslist because it is free but is open to abuse and idiots, Plus because of the distances involved it is expensive and slow to ship items. So I have not got back into eBay but hope to do so at some point in the future, I am thinking of writing a hub about my exploits on eBay..maybee


    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Hello Wayne,

      I am a complete sucker for a car boot and go to them throughout the Summer. I love everything about them and am glad to have found someone who enjoys them as much as I do. I completely agree about the punters pulling the stuff out of the boot before you can even set up a table.

      I never realized when I wrote this hub that in the States a car boot is a trunk:) makes me smile just thinking about it. How do you explain the difference between a car boot and a yard sale.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, it is much appreciated.


    • Pixelhound profile image

      Wayne 2 years ago from west vancouver BC Canada

      I love car boot sales me and many members of my family used to do "boot sales" the biggest one in our neck of the woods was the one at Chelford in Cheshire it became super popular and grew into a monster event, However I personally found that the smaller ones were better because people can have to much choice and by the time that they had trudged all around making mental notes of items they might come back and buy they were tired out and just were glad to get in their car and go home. they are huge fun though both as a buyer and a seller, as a seller I learn t that it was important to label everything clearly with prices because the early birds would swoop hoping to nail a total bargain while I was unloading my car even to the extent that they would be pulling stuff out of my car, Then later in the day I would walk around the other sellers only to see the stuff they bought from earlier on their stall for sale. (fair enough I did it myself sometimes) I totally agree with you about local dialects, up our way we got a lot of people from Stoke ( AKA The potteries) . A lot of the time the weather was pretty foul but it didn`t put of the die hard "booters" Anyway I will resist droning on for hours about the joys of car boot sales suffice to say they are huge fun and it was great to find your excellent Hub and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it...Wayne

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      grand old lady

      There certainly are a lot of people here who look forward to the weather becoming warmer when they can get out and about, to the many car boot sales which are held all over the country.

      Thank you for your visit and your comments.


    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      I love your suggestions on how to upcycle old tatting and lace items. Wish we had cart boot sales in the Philippines, they sound like so much fun.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      symonsharif - thank you, not sure how I missed your comment. Seasons Greetings.

    • profile image

      symonsharif 3 years ago

      Remind me when I was very little !! the photoes are interesting !!!!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      Valleypoet - Glad to meet a fellow Car Boot enthusiast on HubPages. It is definitely one of my favorite Summer Time occupations, I suspect it is one of yours to! Thank you so much for your visit and also you comments. They are much appreciated.


    • profile image

      Valleypoet 3 years ago

      I love car boot sales, and have acquired some experience both buying and selling over the's a great way to rid yourself of your unwanted items. It's also quite exciting when you look round and think you may come across an undiscovered treasure....this was a fantastic hub, both interesting and informative:-))

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 years ago from Norfolk

      Car Boots area godsend - so much beautiful stuff - and for so little - perhaps the best recycling idea ever thought of. - thank you DDE

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Interesting and informative makes me think of when I was little I used to see people trying out car boot sales, a very useful thought.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 years ago from Norfolk

      Thank you Kim (ocfireflies) I am delighted to find a kindred spirit. I love a Car Boot Sale and it definitely might be considered akin to you Yard Sales. Thank you for the vote up - it is much appreciated.

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 4 years ago from North Carolina


      I believe we are kindred spirits. I think around these parts a Car Boot Sale is comparable to our Community Yard Sales. Excellent Hub! Voted Up and Awesome!

      Best Always,


    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 years ago from Norfolk

      Thank you Eddy (Eiddwen) - I agree that a Car Boot Sale is certainly addictive - in fact I did one today and great fun it was too - especially the interaction with the Buyers - always pleasurable. Thank you for the vote and also for the share.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      I love nothing better than a walk round a car boot sale so this masterpiece from you was indeed a treat. Voted up, across and shared.


    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 years ago from Norfolk

      Joe, we sure do share the addiction and the lack of space is certainly a consideration here too. We are doing a car boot today. It will be nice to turn a little profit and have a lot of fun meeting lots of people.

      Thanks for the visit Joe, you have a great week-end too.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Sally, we share the same addiction. The lack of space should be a major consideration, but it never serves as a stop sign for my wife and me as we travel out on Fridays and Sundays to find the cool bargains at yard and estate sales, thrift shops, and wherever we can find great pickin' action.

      Thanks for a wonderful, enthusiastic, and motivational hub! Aloha, and have a great weekend!


    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 years ago from Norfolk

      Thank you MsDora, I am glad you were able to stop by. Your comments are always much appreciated.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Sally, this looks like a really fun event. I love the crochet pieces and your ideas about recycling them. Thanks for a view of the English Car Boot Sale.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 years ago from Norfolk

      I forget sometimes that perhaps I should begin to learn to write in American 'speak' Yes, our car boots are quite literally run from the back of a car boot - whereas in France they are from the pavement outside your house - one village at a time. Thanks for your visit Billybuc, appreciate your comments as always.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The differences in our language can be a bit challenging at times. I saw the title of this article and could not understand what you were writing about...then I saw the pictures and I said "oh, a garage sale on wheels." Now I get it.

      We go to garage sales every weekend and I love them. I love your tradition of everyone selling out of their vehicle in one clever.