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Beware the boat jumble

Jumble motor Jake Kavanagh’s guide to buying and selling at boat jumbles.

As the flowers open up, so do lofts sheds and lazarrettes. Corroded, obsolete and unwanted gear begins to clutter your boat, and make their way to a boat jumble.

Oh, I love a good jumble. So much quality ‘tat’ with people asking such ridiculous prices – both high and low. I have seen several used items more expensive than when brand new, and stuff so under-priced it feels like theft to haggle it lower still.

So, with a host of boat jumbles taking place across the country here’s a quick guide to buying and selling.


  • Know the retail price of stuff before going to a jumble. Sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people get it wrong, and pay full RRP for rubbish.
  • Watch the date stamp on consumables. Sealants, resins, and even some types of paint have a finite life in storage, and with sealants this can be as little as 6 months. If you spot an adhesive sealant for £1 that is usually priced at over £12 be wary. It may just be a tube of solidified silicon. Ask if you can squeeze some out – it will be a good investment.
  • Don’t be afraid to rummage. There can be some great stuff at the bottom of a box of fittings.
  • There is a big difference between a sensible offer and an insult. A bit like eBay, think of your maximum bid – what it’s worth to you – and pitch your opening offer a bit underneath. Offering someone a fiver for something priced at £100 is to invite a full and frank invitation to go forth and multiply.
  • Ask for demonstrations of things that need to work, such as an anchor windlass, or outboards (but obviously NOT flares or EPIRBS…). But – don’t let anyone demonstrate a water cooled engine out of the water – if they’ve done it once for you, even for a few seconds, they could have done it dozens of times, and impellers are hellish to change.
  • If there is something you really want, and the price is good, buy it. When you go back for it, it is bound to have gone. Been there, done that.
  • Can’t find it? Ask – especially dealers. Many companies use jumbles to get rid of stuff they are tripping over, but may just have spares for your Dark Ages diesel back at the workshop.
  • Making silly offers at the very end of the day often works if the seller can’t face hauling the item all the way home again.


  • Don’t glare at people, it puts them off.
  • Put prices on things – it give a start point for haggling.
  • Try and design your stand so rummagers can get to your wares relatively easily, even when the area it’s busy.
  • Know what things are worth – don’t be afraid to say no if someone is being cheeky. You’ll hear ‘well, if you don’t ask… a lot, usually from blokes.
  • Your best stuff will probably be bought by other traders as you set up your stand, and long before the public get anywhere near it! It may even go straight back on sale the same day with a big mark up! (Yes always annoying. See ‘Know what it’s worth)
  • Finally people will travel a long way to hunt for bargains, so enjoy the day! Remember, someone’s rubbish is someone else’s gold…

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