A Guide for Buyers

This guide has been put together with the aim of enabling the consumer to be more aware of the implications of purchasing goods from car boot sales.


You must always remember that you take a risk if buying items such as electrical goods as they may not be safe to use. All modern electrical goods must comply with a British Standard and are marked with the BSI Kite mark. This is a guarantee that when you use the goods you are safe. Although items in a car boot sale may still bear this Kite mark they may have been badly repaired, tampered with or just worn out. Always examine electrical items carefully before deciding to buy as they may be dangerous to use and could even prove fatal.

Beware of outdated appliances – they may have been considered safe when they were new but standards of safety have improved dramatically over the years.

Damaged flex – especially on irons, as constant use tends to wear out the insulation.

Electric fires – where the heating element could be touched by a child’s probing fingers. Only modern electric fires will have guards, which will prevent this from happening.

Any electrical item should have a plug already fitted – but always check that it has been wired correctly and has the correctly rated fuse fitted.

Take care when purchasing second hand toys and nursery equipment. Some second hand equipment may not be as safe and sturdy as it needs to be.

Beware of buying:

Well used toys which may easily be pulled apart. Old toys may reveal nails, rough edges or choking hazards.

Child’s car seats with worn or incomplete straps or fittings: Are there suitable fitting instructions? If not, would you be able to fit them safely? Are you sure the seat has never been in an accident as this can weaken the seat?

Prams or pushchairs with faulty harnesses, brakes or locking devices: Check these are working properly.

Upholstered furniture: All upholstered furniture now sold by traders must have been constructed using flame retardant foam. There must be a fixed label somewhere on each item of furniture, which indicates this fact. If you cannot find such a label, never buy as, when burnt, old style foam gives off lethal poisonous gasses.

Remember it is only illegal for a trader to sell an item of upholstered furniture, which is not made from flame retardant foam.

Counterfeit Goods

You may find some stalls selling CDs and DVDs, watches, perfumes or branded clothing. Be suspicious of those selling newly released albums and films, famous named perfume and clothes at really low prices. The chances are they will be illegal copies. It is an offence for a trader to sell counterfeit goods. Furthermore it is likely you will be wasting your money as counterfeit goods are usually of very poor quality.

If you find someone selling goods you believe may be counterfeit, please contact on of the Car Boot marshals who will investigate this further.

What are Your Rights?

If you buy from a private seller your rights are limited. If you discover that the goods are faulty then you may be unable to obtain a refund. You can only seek redress if the product has been wrongly described for example a sign stating ‘in perfect working order’. Experience shows that goods described in this way often do not work at all! If it is not of satisfactory quality or fit for its purpose then unlike buying from a retailer you have no rights against a private seller. It may also prove difficult to trace any seller if they do not regularly attend the car boot sale. It is buyer beware.