Step-by-step: car boot sale
One person's trash is another person's treasure and who
doesn't love hunting for bargains? Running a car boot sale is a
popular PTA event and a great fundraising activity. Be mindful of
- Once you have a date in mind, contact your local authority to
see whether you need a permit and to check costs. Calculate how
many cars you can fit on the premises, allowing space between
vehicles. Identify access points, and discuss how, where and when
sellers and buyers will arrive and depart - using separate gates if
possible. Assemble your team and delegate tasks accordingly. Agree
what to charge - usually around £5-10 per pitch.
- Send a letter to parents with a tear-off booking form, asking
for the seller's name, address and car registration number. Create
posters with PTA Print Shop (ptaprintshop.co.uk) and spread the word with
flyers, banners and via social media. Provide sellers with an
advice sheet when they register and make it clear that they bring
their cars onto the premises at their own risk. Include guidelines
on trademarks, copyright and trade descriptions (see below).
Confirm that any commercial traders have their own public liability
- Contact sellers with an outline of arrival points and times.
Draw up a rota, appointing stewards, litter pickers, and volunteers
to collect entry fees and serve refreshments. Purchase
walkie-talkies so team members can communicate with each other
during the event.
- Set up early, and check that everyone knows what they are doing
and where they should be. Hand out walkie-talkies, hi-vis jackets
and copies of your floorplan to stewards. Welcome sellers as they
arrive and distribute a brief reminder of any rules - such as 'no
smoking', 'no dogs', 'no knives', etc. Hand out guidance notes to
buyers on arrival, advising them to inspect what they are
purchasing, and if buying expensive goods, to take contact details
of the seller.
- You might come across a few problems prior to or during the
event - take a note of these for next time to ensure mistakes
aren't repeated. Have a post-event debrief with your team to
discuss what worked well and what didn't. Be sure to thank your
sellers for taking part, and ask for feedback. Cultivate
relationships with sponsors by sending thank you letters detailing
how much the event raised and how this has contributed to your
Tips and advice for running a car boot sale
Licences: Contact your local authority to see whether a
licence is required - this varies from authority to authority.
Where a licence is required, the process is simple but fees vary
considerably. The average notice required is 28 days, but it's
worth checking. Some local authorities have other stipulations.
Trading Standards: As the organiser, it is your responsibility
to ensure nobody is breaking the law. Speak to your local Trading Standards office or Consumer Direct for guidance on trademarks,
copyright and trade descriptions. Electrical goods, furniture,
bicycles, prams and pushchairs all have specific legislation.
Customers have the same consumer rights when purchasing secondhand
goods as they do for new, though factors, such as age, should be
taken into account in the price. Read our FAQs on
selling secondhand goods.
Insurance: Commercial stallholders won't be covered by your
school or PTA insurance, so will need their own public liability
insurance. Contact your insurance provider to check what and who is
covered and to verify any other stipulations.
Wet weather: Hopefully you'll have a dry and sunny day, but work
on the assumption that the weather will be poor! Decide whether you
will postpone the event and set an alternative date, or go ahead
whatever the weather. Consider asking sellers to pay in advance, so
even if the weather turns bad at the last minute they won't pull
out. Read our wet-weather contingency plan
Dealers: Because of the informal nature of car boot sales,
professional dealers can sometimes attempt to get involved and use
aggressive sales techniques. Ensure that you have some
assertive volunteers who will act as security if
Facilities: Sellers will appreciate having access to some
facilities. Wherever possible, make the pitches within easy walking
distance of the toilets. If you plan to use the school's
facilities, consider security issues (and mud being walked through)
within your pre-event risk assessment.
Boost profits: Set up some PTA stalls selling secondhand games,
books or toys. If you haven't hired a caterer, sell hot drinks,
bacon butties and hot dogs. Bear in mind that sellers may not want
to leave their pitches, so have a mobile tea and coffee cart if
possible, providing refreshments to thirsty sellers!
Download a print-friendly PDF version of our
step-by-step guide to running a car boot sale.
Car boot sale success stories:
Christine Ellin, Chair, St Thomas of Canterbury School,
Sheffield, South Yorkshire (217 pupils): 'Planning began a
few months in advance. We contacted the local council for a permit
and, as our event fell within the terms of a "non-commercial market
of up to 100 vendors", there was no charge. We ordered posters from
PTA Print Shop to display around the school. Our event was run on a
Sunday and lasted two hours. We calculated that we could fit
approximately 24 cars into the playground and car park. With a week
to go, we hung large laminated letters spelling out "car boot sale"
(with the date and time of the event) on the school gates to drum
up excitement and bring in extra support from passers by. People
were queueing outside the gates half an hour before opening, which
was encouraging! When we opened the gates, people flooded in, but
in a very orderly, British fashion! Adults were charged 50p for
entry and children were free. Over 300 people attended and we made
£189 on entrance fees alone. A few stewards guided cars to their
spots, allowing one and a half parking spaces each so that nobody
felt cramped. We planned-out numbered spaces on a map of the
playground beforehand. Our only outlay was for the bacon butties we
sold, and poster printing, bringing our costs to £56.89. We all had
a lovely morning and raised £405.'
David Wilkins, PTA Treasurer, Chiswick School, London
(1,250 pupils): 'We have run a car boot sale once a month
for twenty years. We have up to 400 cars and vans, and around 50
people carrying items for sale. Success often depends on the
weather, but we have only cancelled once due to heavy snow.
Otherwise, if it rains, we get wet, and people selling plants do
better than people selling books! We have a good relationship with
a caterer, who sells burgers, bacon sandwiches and chips, as well
as coffee, cakes and ice creams. We also hire portaloos, as using
the school's facilities requires too much clearing up. Vehicles
start arriving from about 2am, parking in the streets around the
school ready for the car boot sale to open at 6.30am. Playgrounds
and sports fields work well as venues, but when it's wet, people
walking around can create a muddy mess. We are in no doubt that we
wreck the field on a regular basis, so we pay £2,500 a year for
repair and reseeding. We have three shifts for volunteers during
the day, and others manage the queues in the night - usually in
exchange for a pitch. We have about twenty helpers during the night
shift. We charge £15 per car, £10 for people walking in to sell and
£60 for vans and trailers. To promote the event we hang banners on
the school railings and advertise in local papers, on Twitter, and
via our school website. Sundays work well for us, and the event
runs until 12.30pm. Over the years this has become a real community
event. The best bit is meeting with the school to help decide how
to spend our £80- to 100k-a-year profit!'
The above is intended as guidance only. We
recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific
reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child
protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held
responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on
the guidance provided.
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