Why do so many people buy ‘a l’occasion’ (second-hand) in France? Is it our love affair with the quintessentially French shabby-chic style; an increasing desire to recycle and upcycle to save our planet, or the fact that prices of some new goods may be a lot more than many bargained or even budgeted for?
Whatever the reason, there’s many a bargain to be had at the brocantes (antique fairs), vide greniers (car boot sales), and online. Here’s what you need to know about buying second-hand goods in France.
Brocantes and Vide Greniers
From an antiques store in your local village to a large antiques market, a brocante can often be the place to find those retro or vintage pieces you are looking for. From chandeliers to champagne bottles, hefty bed frames to huge armoires and much more. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price – especially at a market.
A ‘vide grenier’ is comparable to a car-boot sale in the UK. Often, whole villages will host a ‘vide grenier’ with people emptying their barns and attics, displaying their wares around the village or at a specific location such as a community centre or local park.
You may even see handwritten signs at the roadside saying, ‘vide-grenier’ or ‘vide maison’, which often indicate an individual house clearance.
Markets and sales take place all summer and into September (and sometimes out of season too, depending on the lcoation. You can find out about brocantes and vide greniers all over France on these websites:
Buying and Selling Second-Hand Goods Online
Perhaps the most popular website for second-hand sales in France is Le Bon Coin. Everything can be found here, including clothes, jobs, holidays, houses, cars, furniture, white goods, and homewares. You can perform an online search by department or postcode, and filter your specific requirements. With a 15-year track record and hundreds of thousands of items advertised for sale, it is a ‘go to’ for many in France.
You can sign-up for free and there is a secure payment system.
For Facebook users, the Marketplace is an easy way to see local items for sale. You can select a radius from your house and type in the item you are searching for. There are also many individual Facebook Buy and Sell groups in local areas – try searching your Department area with ‘Buy and Sell’ (Achete/Vendre).
Vinted is also popular and available for second-hand clothes, accessories, and small household items.
Recycling and Charity Shops
Charities that have recycling at their core are springing up all over France. Ask your Mairie for more information as to local associations near you.
Emmaus is a charity shop that is staffed by volunteers and seeks to aid those less fortunate. There is usually a selection of second-hand clothes, toys, materials, glassware, crockery and home items to be found.
Tips for Buying Second-Hand Goods in France
The second-hand market is hugely varied in France and you can often pick up some quality items. However, do make sure you thoroughly inspect the item you wish to buy and that you have taken any measurements to ensure it suits your requirements. With second-hand goods, there are no guarantees!
Unless you are a qualified electrician, take necessary sensible precautions when buying electrical goods. If buying a second-hand car, be sure that you understand the duties of both buyer and seller and have all the necessary documentation.
When purchasing something online, think about how you might be able to collect the item and any vehicle required to transport it home. It is wise to never go alone. Perhaps arrange to meet in a public place like a supermarket car park where others are present?
Just because you have agreed ‘online’ to view an item, it does not mean you are duty-bound to buy it in a private sale, if once you see it and inspect it, it is not what you want. Just politely decline and walk away.
Many people furnish whole houses and businesses with beautiful second-hand pieces, and there are lots of upcycling ideas available online to help you achieve the style you’re looking for. Second-hand buys and repurposing of goods is also a great way to recycle, meaning you’ll be doing a little bit to help the planet at the same time as saving money. Not to mention the sense of achievement to see your home or your business transformed at often a fraction of the cost!
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