Car boot sale savvy – how to find those hidden gems

Here at Under the Vintage Veil we receive a LOT of homespun wedding submissions – we love them! Accompanying them are scores of write ups from vintage-loving brides, detailing how so many of their decorations were sourced from car boot sales. When I first started reading blogs, I wondered, with awe and envy, where these brides were finding these hidden gems. The car boot sale world seemed big, scary and impenetrable for a lousy haggler like me. But with my handy guide to car booting, hopefully future brides will make better use of this fantastic resource to style their big day:

How to find hidden gems at car boot sales

Avoid popular car boot sales

It sounds terribly cynical – but the reason things are so cheap at car boot sales is that people don’t know what they’re selling. Once a car boot sale becomes too “trendy” (yes, I sound about 100) and people get wind of it, savvy vintage dealers start to turn up – and therein lies the problem. Rather than doing a kindly old lady who’s had an attic cleanout a favour (and picking up a bargain in the process) you end up spending retail prices because people selling understand their vintage chic value.

For example, my favourite car boot sale in London was featured on a popular website. Within weeks it had gone from retro bargain heaven to overpriced and overcrowded. Stay away from the crowds to be ahead of the curves – and in with the best chance of some good finds.

Arrive early

What’s that phrase? The early bird gets the worm? Yes – that. It’s worth losing a few hours’ sleep to be the first to rummage through and find some hidden treasures. Also early entry is usually much cheaper.

Develop a sixth sense

Being car boot savvy requires you to be able to (sorry to be impolite) sift through the crap. If you can spot that cool retro phone underneath a headless doll, or that chic china set in amongst the tat, you’ll find some amazing deals. Finding the hidden gems takes real practice and patience so don’t lose heart if you don’t come home with armfuls of fabulous vintage finds on your first trip.

Know when NOT to buy car boot

I tried to source all my vintage china from car boot sales. A nice idea, but it became SO time consuming. To source all the china I needed for my 100+ guests would have taken months of dedicated visits, week-in, week-out – I didn’t have the stamina. And in the end, renting turned out to be cheaper. What I did find cheaply was furniture, crystal decanters, little trinkets, phones, lace, ribbon and everything in between.

Keep your cool

I have so much stuff that never went with our wedding theme and that I’ll never use. Why? Because I jumped at the bargain and thought I might be able to use it somewhere. Keep a cool head when it comes to your purchases, picture the item in question alongside your other wedding decor stash – does it match? Don’t end up with mountains of bunting the wrong colour just because it was bunting (ahem – I don’t know anyone who’d do that – anyone want some purple and green bunting?)

We painted, distressed and upholstered a run-down wooden trunk to make this coffee table

Don’t write off a fixer-upper

I bought a dilapidated, hole-ridden chest and turned it into one of the centrepiece items at my wedding. If something needs a bit of TLC, don’t give up on it!

Don’t be afraid to haggle

It’s expected. I mean don’t be cheeky – if some lovely old lady is selling you something for 50p, don’t try to haggle it down to 10p, but if you buy bulk items, try to get a bulk price – if you want to pay a fiver less for furniture, ask. People are there to get rid of their stuff, generally not to make a massive profit, so try your luck! They can only say no after all.

Come by car

For obvious reasons – imagine trying to lug a beautiful vintage dressing table or a sofa on the bus home!

Bring cash

It goes without saying but car boot sale stall holders won’t take card! Make sure you bring plenty of cash with you – just be safe about where you keep it!

Have you been car booting for your wedding? What are you best finds so far?

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