A car boot sale is a type of second-hand market where sellers drive into the market area, open their boot, and perhaps lay out a rug or table to sell various items. With a bit of organising, it makes an exciting and easy fundraiser for schools, clubs, and community group.
Why a car boot sale is easier than a second-hand stall
Everyone loves a bargain and whether you call it Trash’n’Treasure, a second-hand stall or a white elephant stall, many great items are often found at cheap prices.
How a car boot sale differs from a typical second-hand stall, is that you do not call for donations in advance of the event, meaning much time and energy is saved by not having to sort and cull donations. Instead, each seller takes responsibility for their own items – they need to sort and store them, they do the pricing, and they are responsible for taking home anything left unsold. They also get to keep all money made from their own sales.
How to make money from a car boot sale
There are different ways for your group to make money from a car boot sale:
- Charge each seller a fixed price for attending the sale ($10-$20 per car)
- Charge customers who visit the sale (ie a gold coin donation)
- Seek sponsorship from local businesses to cover the costs of signage, food stalls or even to hire a bouncy castle for kids to play on while their parents shop. You may also be able to get some donations from businesses to raffle on the day.
- Run concurrent fundraisers such as selling food, drink and raffles.
- With the national ban on single-use plastic bags, you might also consider designing and selling shopping totes as an extra fundraiser.
If a school has access to a car park or oval where they can safely park 100 cars, that would be $1,000 profit before you take into account any extra food/raffle sales.
When and where to run your sale
The primary consideration is having ample space for the cars. If you have access to a carpark this is the best option, as the bays are clearly marked and the surface is safe for lots of cars and traffic.
The next option is an oval – however you will need to plan and mark bays for each car, and will probably need parking attendants to make sure cars park correctly.
Weather in the next consideration – it’s best to avoid the wettest and hottest months. However, if you plan the event properly and give sufficient warning, sellers might be able to bring their items inside if you have access to a hall or undercover area.
Plan your event so that all the sellers/cars have arrived and parked before customers are allowed in.
Similarly, make sure customers know when the event is finishing, and clear everyone away before the cars are allowed to leave. Make it a condition of entry that cars know they are not allowed to attempt to leave before the end of the event. You can’t have cars driving away with customers milling around, even if they have already sold all of their goods.
If you are worried about professional dealers coming in early and making aggressive low-ball offers to your sellers, make sure you have some competent and confident volunteers on hand to help manage or diffuse any situation. Make sure you stick to your opening time for buyers, so sellers have a chance to unpack and set-up in peace before buyers start picking over their goods.
In advance of the event you will need a small team of people to plan the logistics of the day (permits, a parking plan, marketing, sponsorship, food/drinks, rides, financials). Keep in mind that once you have run this event once, you have the plan in place to repeat every year as an annual event. It will get easier each time if you keep a good handover record.
Set up a page for selling car bays via an online ticketing service in advance of the event.
Write a document that all sellers will receive which outlines what they can/can’t sell and how much space they can have outside of their car boot. Remind them they are also responsible for organising their own float/change.
On the day of the sale you will need volunteers to direct sellers to their bays. You will know in advance if you have sold all your bays and if everyone just needs to squeeze in next to each other, or if there is space between sellers. If using an oval, make sure you allow space for foot traffic between rows of cars. Planning your parking strategy is probably the most important component – you want to be able to get the sellers’ cars in and out as quickly and painlessly as possible.
You will also need volunteers to be stationed at the entrances and collect any fees from customers.
Volunteers will also be required to run any food stalls and rides, and perhaps roaming raffle ticket sellers. People will be needed at the end of the event to assist cars to leave in a safe and timely fashion and to pick up any rubbish at the conclusion of the event.
Promoting Your Event
Promotion is a crucial part of ensuring a successful car boot sale. As mentioned earlier, use local community boards and social media to spread the word, but also consider printing posters and flyers to be distributed in your area. Contact local radio stations and newspapers to see if they will cover your event as part of a community service announcement. If your sale is for a charitable cause, be sure to include that in your promotional materials as it might entice more people to attend.
Your car boot sale should be accessible to everyone. Think about people with disabilities and families with strollers. Make sure pathways are wide and clear, and provide a designated area for people with disabilities to park.
Encourage sustainable practices at your car boot sale. As mentioned, selling reusable shopping bags can be a great idea, but also consider setting up recycling stations for packaging and food waste. Encourage sellers to think about the packaging they use for their goods and ask food vendors to use biodegradable or recyclable packaging.
Food and Entertainment
Having food stalls, drinks, and entertainment can make the day more enjoyable for attendees. This can also serve as an additional source of fundraising. Aside from the mentioned sausage sizzles and bacon and egg rolls, you can also sell homemade baked goods, sandwiches, and drinks like lemonade or iced tea.
Entertainment is not only about bouncy castles or rides for children. You might want to consider inviting local musicians or performers for a live performance. This will not only entertain the attendees but will also promote local talent.
- Check with the local council to determine if you require a permit for the sale itself or if you plan on selling food, especially if you have hired a public area to hold the event.
- If you are a school/P&C, make sure your indemnity insurance covers the event.
- You can open the event up to people beyond your own school/club community. Advertise the sale on local area Facebook pages, community boards and for a few dollars you can run an advert in the classifieds of your local paper. People may consider bringing their goods to your car boot sale rather than holding their own garage sale at home.
- Will your event be within walking distance of an ATM? For larger events you may want to consider hiring one (the cost can be passed onto sellers).
- If you are having an early morning event, consider hiring a coffee van who will donate some of their proceeds to your fundraising cause. Sausage sizzles and bacon and eggs rolls are also very popular morning snacks.
- Make sure you advertise your event well in advance.
- Will your customers and sellers have access to toilets during the event?
Plan for clean up afterwards. Have plenty of bins available for waste, and assign volunteers to clean up duty to make sure the site is left as it was found.
Finally, after the event, take the time to debrief with your team. Discuss what worked well and what could be improved. This feedback will be invaluable for planning future car boot sales or other events.
Author: Shannon Meyerkort