Schools – could Car Boot Sales be a possible solution to your funding gap?

There is no doubt about it – schools have less funding per pupil now than they have had in a fair few years. And while some schools are making cuts, others are looking at ways they can increase revenue to meet the shortfall. But rather than begging, stealing and borrowing, could something as simple as running a car boot sale be the answer for many schools?


Axcis Andy

We all love a bargain – and during difficult financial times, tracking down great deals has become an occupation for many families. More people than ever before are turning to food banks and bargain hunting in order to provide for their families. This means that car boot sales and charity shops are more popular than ever before – so could schools cash in on this to help their dwindling budgets?

How much money could schools really make from running a car boot sale?

Let’s consider a few facts:


  • Stall holders usually pay about £10 for a pitch
  • Many car boot sales charge a 50p or £1 entry for those wanting to come and have a look around
  • Organisers of car boot sales can offer refreshments. Selling cups of tea, coffee and bacon butties can provide a potential tidy profit in this respect
  • Organisers can also run their own charity stall, selling off things the school no longer needs/uses while putting some pennies in the bank at the same time
  • Organisers can also run a tombola or any other charitable fundraising activity at their own car boot sale, adding to their profits
  • A well organised and popular car boot sale can have as many as 500 stalls… now do the maths… that’s a HUGE amount of additional revenue for the school!


So, if you can establish a car boot sale at your school which attracts a decent number of stall holders and visitors, it could  be a fantastic way to boost school funds. But what are the rules? Can you just advertise and start running your own car boot sale?

What are the rules for starting your own car boot sale?

Rather annoyingly, the rules for running a car boot sale can vary a lot from borough to borough, so we can’t give a definitive answer. Some councils will allow a certain number of car boot sales (around 14 a year) before a licence is required (which can be costly so you should try and avoid this) and some allow unlimited boot sales provided that all proceeds go to charity (PTA organisations can register as a charity – find out more here). So our advice is to contact the local council for clarification on this.

What do you need to run a car boot sale?

You’ll need the following things to start your own car boot sale:


  1. Permission from whoever owns the school or land.
  2. Permission from the council (see above – you’ll need to find out what the rules are in your own borough)
  3. Space for stalls – even schools with no playground or field could use their hall or even classrooms to set up stalls
  4. Parking – although you can get away with running a small car boot sale without parking, it is highly preferable to offer this
  5. Toilet facilities – unless you want people peeing against your school fences/buildings, you’ll need to provide toilet facilities (and clear signs to find them)
  6. Refreshments – most schools have a canteen, so maximise the use of this by offering hot dogs, bacon butties and drinks – they are a car boot sale staple and a great money spinner!

Promoting your car boot sale

How will people find out about your car boot sale? If you want to establish a successful car boot sale which will make you a reasonable amount of money to add to the school purse, you’ll need to ensure that you promote it adequately. To do this, you might:


  • Put a large, clear sign outside the school stating when the next car boot sale will be
  • Publicise it on local Facebook groups
  • Add a listing to a car boot sale website/database
  • Put a note in the school newsletter
  • Make some posters to put in local shop windows
  • Advertise in local newspapers

Staff and clean up costs

In order to make sure you end up in profit, and not loss as a result of running your car boot sale, it would be a good idea to make sure any staff you need for directing traffic, taking pitch fees or cleaning up after the event are local volunteers. The PTA should be in a position to help out and you could even ask senior students to get involved as this will be good volunteer/charity experience for their CV and will help them to find paid employment later on. Failing this, you could even ask parents if they are prepared to help out – after all, many of them would probably rather do this than be asked to set up a standing order for a regular donation to the school themselves (which is what many schools are now doing!)

The 3 keys to making your car boot sale a huge success

if you want to develop a large and popular car boot sale, the main 3 things to consider are:


  1. Space to grow – the more space you have available for pitches and parking, the more potential you have to grow your car boot sale
  2. Regularity – the most popular car boot sales are the ones which run every week in summer or all year if indoor/undercover pitch space is available. Failing that, keep them regular so people know when they are on.
  3. Good promotion – you can’t expect to put a small note in the school newsletter and suddenly have a huge, popular car boot sale – keep promoting it and you’ll build a loyal customer base. You could even run special offers like free or reduced fee pitches for the first few events in order to build up interest.


If after reading this post you decide to have a go at setting up a car boot sale at your school, we’d love to hear how it went! To do this, or further help and advice, feel free to leave a comment below.


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