Flea Bitten – So You’ve Caught The Car-Boot Bug?

I have spent my whole life going to flea markets and car-boot fairs. To me, a Sunday is not a day of rest; on the contrary, it is the start of my working week.

Over the years, as the demand for second-hand markets has soared, I have fine-tuned my buying skills and gathered an assortment of ‘tools’ that assist me in my market moseying.

In this article, I will give you my top tips for surviving a flea market or car-boot fair.


Most people will have been to a cash point on the way to the market, and are unlikely to have much change. This means that many unprepared vendors will be out of change early on. If you can plan, try to visit your bank to withdraw smaller denominations. Change is vital.

Early start

At one stage I used to get up at 4 am and try to be at my first fair around 6 am. In more recent years, I have found that many dealers are out at this time and that their attitudes can be less than pleasant! Diving into the back of a seller’s car as they are trying to unpack it will get you nowhere. The benefit of a very early start is that you are likely to find some great bargains. Quite often though, it takes time for the market to get going, so getting there when everything is set up may make for a smoother browsing experience. Nowadays, I tend to do 2-3 markets in a morning, getting to my first at around 7.30 am.


More likely than not, you’re going in your car. Top up your fuel beforehand to give yourself plenty of time in the morning. If you have a roof rack, maybe think about attaching it (or tightening it up) if you’re looking to buy larger items. Make sure that your car is clear; you don’t want to find you can’t get your new treasures in because your car is full of junk!

Comfy shoes

If you’re like me, you march around a market with determination; I will find those bargains! However, all those steps can take a toll on your feet. I recommend wearing durable shoes, like trainers or boots, so that you don’t suffer too much afterwards. It isn’t a fashion show – although, it can be! It is also worth considering the type of weather or terrain you’re covering; trainers may be ok for a covered market, but a spring car-boot fair in a field may require Wellington boots.

Packing and wrapping

Since the implementation of the 5p bag charge in the UK, the number of people giving away bags at car-boot fairs and markets has declined. Although they are useful, and in their way are being recycled, it makes much more sense to BYOB (bring your own bags). Over the years, I have acquired around 20 excellent reusable bags of varying sizes that never fail me when lugging my cargo back to my vehicle.

Another great storage solution is using folding crates. I was fortunate enough to be given a dozen by a friend who had pulled them from a skip! They will sit in the boot or footwell of your car until you need them. You can repack them if you don’t have an abundance of bags.

It is best not to assume that all vendors are prepared. If you’re planning on buying breakables, it is vital to keep a stack of newspapers and bubble wrap that you can take with you. There’s nothing more disappointing than getting a bargain and finding it hasn’t survived the journey home.


Depending on your ‘hunting’ preferences, you may have to use more refined tools. Specialist reference books, a jeweller’s eyepiece, or even a UV torch may come in handy.

A good attitude

My final tip, but the most important one. Engage with the vendors. Say hello. Ask them how their day is going. It will be a long morning without a bit of chit-chat. The benefits of banter go a long way; you may be more successful in your negotiating. You may also find that the seller is more inclined to be helpful. On numerous occasions, I have been invited to browse pieces that have not yet been unpacked or offered for sale.

I hope that you found these hints and tips useful; if you’re anything like me you’ll be itching to get to your next flea market! Don’t forget to keep enough change for that well-earned cup of tea and bacon sandwich at the end.

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