Saturday, September 25, 2010

Garage sales, Rummage sales (USA) vs Car Boot Sales, Jumble sales (UK)

I was quite surprised today to see a neighbour holding a garage sale. Why was I surprised? This is the first time (that I know of) that anyone in my town has held a garage sale. I'm hoping the idea will catch on.

The British way of selling unwanted items from the household is to load up the car and drive to a Car Boot Sale - where you sell your items from your car's boot (trunk). These type of sales are usually held in a field or a car park (parking lot) and sellers have to pay a fee for their pitch (car space). The fees can vary depending on the day of the week (weekend charges are higher) and can range from about £6 to £12 for a car, £8 to £15 for a van. And buyers usually have to pay a fee for entry to the car boot sale! The entry fees also vary, from as little as 20p or as much as £5. Charges to enter are higher on weekends. There usually isn't an entry fee for children.

The other popular method of selling secondhand items is at a Jumble Sale. This is like an American rummage sale but whereas in the USA, the items would be sold either from the owner's garage or their yard or even sometimes from inside their home, the Jumble sale is held at a church hall or school or village/town hall. And yes, there are fees - the sellers have to pay a fee for a table to sell from and the buyers have to pay a fee (usually from 50p to a £1) to enter the sale. These sales are often (but not always) a way to raise money for a special cause and will be advertised as such.

As an American, I have to say that I miss seeing the widespread presence of garage sales. I always thought it was fun to see a sign pointing to someone's yard or garage and just stopping at the spur of the moment to have a look. Garage sales and rummage sales are a very common occurrence throughout the USA and not only an easy way to get rid of household clutter and make a bit of money or be able to find a good bargain but also a fun way to meet neighbours.

I don't really enjoy going to car boot sales and I've never felt like participating in selling items at one either. I dislike the idea of having to pay a fee to sell my items, and I'm also not keen to have to spend a day hanging out in a field for a whole day. I've also noticed that sellers don't put price tags on their items which means you have to ask "how much?" and then you have to wait while they seem to contemplate how much you will be willing to pay.

I have considered selling items at a jumble sale when our local schools or town hall have advertised about holding one but still think it's more trouble than it's worth. It involves loading up the car and taking the items to the venue and taking them inside and displaying them on a table and spending the whole time at that venue.

Also, I think it's odd that people are charged an entry fee to both car boot sales and jumble sales. In my opinion, charging an entry fee only makes sense if the fee is going to a charity. If it is for a charity or a local cause, I try to support them by going to their jumble sales and I usually buy something - but I've never felt inclined to be one of the sellers.

I'm not sure why garage sales are so rare in the UK. When I first moved to England, I was told it wasn't allowed because it was against the law to sell anything from your home or property without a special licence. I've never bothered finding out more about the law because whether it has changed or not, it seems to me that it's just not the done thing - at least in my area. That's why I was so shocked to see a garage sale in my neighbourhood today. I will be very interested to see if more British people start holding garage sales or yard sales. I don't think it will ever be as common as it is in the USA because most British garages are very small (most people use them for storage rather than for their cars). So, I think it might be easier for Brits to sell from their front or back garden (what Americans call the 'yard' is called the 'garden' in the UK).

It's worth noting that sometimes car boot sales are combined with other fun activities so it can be a fun day out. For example, the Country House Car Boot Sale is being held tomorrow in the Cotswolds. The sale also offers fairground rides, food stalls, licensed bars and a variety of arts and crafts stall, plus the National Trust property Lodge Park, part of the Sherborne Estate, will be open for visitors and the picnic areas and sculpture trail available for public access. All proceeds from the sale will go towards the South West Child's Voice Appeal - NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). I think these kind of organized events are much more fun to go to and a very British way of raising funds for a worthwhile charity.

What are your thoughts about car boot sales and jumble sales? Do you sell or buy from them? What are your thoughts about holding (American style) garage sales and rummage sales in the UK? What is it like where you live - do your neighbours hold garage sales?

Interesting trivia about car boot sales (via


  1. We always had sales from our front garden when I was a kid (in the UK). I don't think it has ever been illegal to sell from your own property - or if it is, everyone turns a blind eye. Where I live - Cambridgeshire - I see quite a few sales throughout the summer but not as many as I saw in the USA where there would be several in our neighbourhood every weekend. I love them! Charity shops are more commonplace here which is where a lot of British junk (high quality second hand items!!) end up.

  2. Interesting - maybe my area (Hertfordshire)is just unusual.

    Oh yes - charity shops are very commonplace here. I donate a lot of my unwanted household items to charity shops. I love to buy from them too - they are great for finding good bargains.

  3. I personally like to give way my household items for charity rather than selling in jumble sales or garage sells where i have to pay some fee for stall, and also need to pay for uploading, transportation charges etc... off-course if you have a lot of stuff to sell then it may be the better choice but not for every time.

  4. Excellent read. I like your style...have a good one!/Nice blog! Keep it up!
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  5. Drivers Ed Georgia - I like to donate my items to charity shops too. I'm lucky because there are lots of them in my town.