Car boot sales or boot fairs are a form of market in which private individuals come together to sell household and garden goods. They are popular in the United Kingdom, where they are often referred to simply as 'car boots'.

Car boot sale at Apsley, Hertfordshire
Car boot sale in Sweden
A car boot sale seen from above.
A car boot sale in the borough of Enfield, London. Seen from a nearby bridge.
5 mobile phones that have been shown on grass and are being sold at a car boot sale.
5 BlackBerry mobile phones, exhibited at a car boot sale.

Some scientific research has studied people's shopping habits at car boot sales. These groups of scientists see the rotation of surplus household stock as essential as it prevents waste and disposal costs, and also produces a small community where thriftiness and entrepreneurship flourish.[1]

The term "car boot sale" refers to the selling of items from a car's boot. Although a small proportion of sellers are professional traders selling goods, or indeed browsing for items to buy, most of the goods on sale are used personal possessions. Car boot sales are a way of attracting a large group of people in one place to recycle useful but unwanted domestic items that otherwise might have been thrown away. Car boot sales generally take place in the summer months. However, in a growing trend, indoor boot sales, and all-year hard-standing outdoor boot sales, are now appearing in some parts of the UK. Items for sale are extremely varied, including for example antiques and collectables,[2] as in a flea market. Car boot sales are also very popular in parts of Australia, and have a growing presence in mainland Europe.



Car boot sales are held in a variety of locations, including the grounds of schools and other community buildings, or in grass fields or car parks. Usually they take place at a weekend, often on a Sunday. Sellers will typically pay a small fee for their pitch and arrive with their goods in the boot of their car. Usually the items are then unpacked onto folding trestle tables, a blanket or tarpaulin, or the ground. Entry to the general public is usually free, although sometimes a small admission charge is made. Advertised opening times are often not strictly adhered to: often the nature of the venue makes it impossible to prevent keen bargain hunters from wandering in as soon as the first stallholders arrive.



It has been said that Father Harry Clarke, a Catholic priest from Stockport, introduced the car boot sale to the UK as a charity fundraiser, after seeing a similar event or trunk fair in Canada, while on holiday there in the early 1970s. Despite the fact that no original source for this has been verified, the story continues to be told.[3] There are now large numbers of regular car boot sales across the UK.[4]

An alternative or complimentary history is that the world's first commercial 'Boot Fair' or 'Boot Sale,' or at least the first in the south of England,[5] was held at Nepicar Farm, Wrotham Heath, Kent, England on 20 September 1980.[6] 200 stalls and 2000 members of the public turned up despite inclement weather.[7] The title or name 'Boot Fair' was coined by one of the originators and organisers, Barry Peverett, in order to create the curiosity that ultimately ensured that car boot sale events became a run-away popular success and a burgeoning nationwide weekend activity. Barry Peverett was an antique dealer from Maidstone. His wife had visited the USA on a visit to her brother and had encountered "trunk sales" whilst there. As an antique dealer who regularly attended antique fairs Barry Peverett saw the potential of bringing this idea to the UK ultimately organising the first large non charity boot fair at Nepicar farm in Kent in September 1980 with fellow organisers Mr Harold Woolley and Mr John Powell. Barry Peverett ran successful boot fairs using the name Rainbow events across Kent in locations such as the Stour centre in Ashford [8] and Maidstone Market amongst many others.[9]



In the 2000s, various "car boot sales"[10] websites were established. These tend to be popular in winter when there are fewer normal outdoor car boot sales.


Car boot sale in 2011

In 2008, a national charter, Real Deal: Working Together For Fake-Free Markets, was launched by the Trading Standards Institute in England. It is intended to help local authority Trading Standards staff, market operators and copyright owners. By signing up to the charter, a market operator commits to work closely with Trading Standards to prevent the sale of counterfeit and other illegal goods, and to be aware of who is trading at the market. Trading Standards will, in return, commit to support the market operator and provide information to them in relation to the sale of infringing products.[11]

Guarantees are rarely sought or given at car boot sales and electrical items can rarely be tested at the sale site. Although tracing a seller can be difficult, in the UK they are still obliged to abide by the Trade Descriptions Act.

See also



  1. ^ Gregson, Nicky; Crang, Mike; Laws, Jennifer; Fleetwood, Tamlynn; Holmes, Helen (1 August 2013). "Moving up the waste hierarchy: Car boot sales, reuse exchange and the challenges of consumer culture to waste prevention" (PDF). Resources, Conservation and Recycling. 77 (Supplement C): 97–107. doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2013.06.005.
  2. ^ 'Pitch perfect at a car boot sale'. The Guardian, 2009.
  3. ^ "Colin and Justin go hunting for hidden treasure", Toronto Star, 3 August 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2014
  4. ^ "Online UK Car Boot Directory", eboots, 11 Apr 2023. Retrieved 11 April 2023
  5. ^ "Sevenoaks Chronicle". 13 September 1980.
  6. ^ "Sevenoaks Chronicle". 6 September 1980. p. 26.
  7. ^ "Sevenoaks Chronicle Borough Green Edition". Sevenoaks chronicle. 27 September 1980. p. 1.
  8. ^ rainbow events (21 March 1986). "Folkstone Herald". p. 20.
  9. ^ rainbow events (3 August 1984). "Sevenoaks Chronicle". p. 2.
  10. ^ "Famous Online Car Boot Sales" 23 October 2019
  11. ^ "Car boots & markets - 'Real Deal'", Doncaster Borough Council Archived August 19, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 17 August 2014