Car boot sales are a mainly British form of market in which private individuals come together to sell household and garden goods. The term refers to the selling of items from a car's boot (U.K.) (or trunk in the U.S.). Although a small proportion of sellers are professional traders selling new goods or seconds, the goods on sale are often used but no longer wanted personal possessions. Car boot sales are a way of focusing a large group of people in one place to recycle still useful but unwanted domestic items that previously would have been thrown away. Car boot sales generally take place within the summer months, however a growing trend of indoor boot sales is now appearing in some parts of the UK. Car boot sales are also very popular in parts of Australia.
Anyone can sell their goods at a car boot sale, whether a first-timer, a regular, or a seasoned professional. To secure the best pitches, it is best to turn up very early, often from 7:00am. Often amateurs sell at car boots when they move home or clear out the home of a deceased relative. The seller pays a small fee of maybe £5 or £10 ($10 to $20) to set up the stall, which is often no more than a tarpaulin laid out in front of the car boot, on which the goods for sale are displayed. Sellers who are better prepared will come with folding tables or trestle tables on to which they can lay out their goods in a more accessible way.
Professional buyers and antique dealers often visit car boot sales in the hope of finding an amateur or one-time seller who has under-priced a valuable item. Genuine first timers are often easy to spot and can find it daunting as the professionals flock around their car like vultures before they have even started unloading. It is sensible for first time sellers to put prices on all their goods before leaving home, as the scrum when they arrive may make pricing difficult in a hurry.
Guarantees are rarely given at car boot sales. Often goods that are powered by mains electricity cannot be tested at the sale site. The general rule at car boot sales is caveat emptor - 'let the buyer beware'. However, if a seller describes goods in any way that proves to be false, they are legally obliged under the Trade Descriptions Act to give a refund or replacement or reduce the price to reflect the wrong description or misrepresentation. Nevertheless, the buyer will find it difficult to contact or locate the seller after the sale in practice. For some buyers, the random nature of the goods make car boot sales an interesting and exciting hobby. Although many of the goods on sale are not particularly useful, high quality or sought after items, there are exceptions. Young children’s shoes, clothes and toys are often discarded long before they wear out or lose their quality. Occasionally stories have made the papers of antiques or paintings being bought for a few pounds in a car boot sale and then sold in auction for thousands. Film collector Gordon Hendry, for example, purchased two episodes of the television series Doctor Who on 16 mm film at a sale in the early 1980s, paying £8 each. He later found that they were the only known surviving copies of these episodes (see Doctor Who missing episodes).