How to shop at a car boot

The British tradition of car booting is still the best place to find bargains and is also renowned for yielding forgotten treasures - remember the diamond bought for a tenner in the 1980s that sold for over £650,000 last year? Here’s our advice to get the best from a day’s rummaging…

Malvern Flea & Collectors Fair (8th January 2012)

CHOOSE THE SALE FOR YOU

Do your research. If you want to buy dishcloths and a packet of bacon while picking up a pine cupboard and a watering can, and like the atmosphere of the car boot that sells everything, go for it. But if you’re seeking bric-a-brac and furniture and don’t want to sift through old children’s toys and CDs, make sure you know the sorts of items that will be for sale. Our favourites are the stately home car boots held for charity that have antiques and vintage pieces deposited in the grounds of country houses.

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HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR

Go with a list of what you might like and, that way, you can pounce when you spot something. You’ll no doubt return home with a few unexpected items too, but that’s all part of the fun.

MAKE A DAY OF IT

Unless you think you’ll be so focused on seeking out bargains with military precision that you won’t want to be distracted, invite friends along for the day. You can ask their opinions and you’ll have extra hands to help carry anything heavy. Take a picnic or book a table for lunch at a pub nearby.

BE PREPARED

Arrive early, with cash, and don’t be afraid to haggle as sellers will expect it. Walk the aisles quickly as a first run and then repeat the route slowly. If you think you may buy something large, clear space in your car or have a roof rack and straps ready. Check the forecast beforehand, as some events may be cancelled in bad weather.

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FIVE TOP CAR BOOTS THIS SUMMER

  1. 6th May The Great Antique & Vintage Car Boot Fair, Stonor Park, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, RG9 6HF. 7am-5pm. £3 (£7 before 9am). 01491 638587; stonor.com
  2. 13th May Long Melford Stately Home Car Boot Sale, Melford Hall, Long Melford, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 9AA. From 9am. £2-£6. longmelford-carboot.co.uk
  3. 8th July Stately Home Charity Car Boot Sale, Sledmere House, Sledmere, Driffeld, Yorkshire, YO25 3XG. 9am-3pm. £3. 01377 236637; sledmerehouse.com
  4. 27th August Mammoth Car Boot Sale, Wilton House, Wilton, Salisbury, SP2 0BJ. 9am-2pm. £2. 01722 746728; wiltonhouse.co.uk
  5. 6th May, 3rd June, 1st July & 5th August Chiswick Car Boot Sale, Chiswick School, Burlington Lane, Hounslow, London, W4 3UN. 7am- 12.30pm. £1. chiswickcarbootsale.com