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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

Bring A Trailer Website is Taking the Classic Car Auction Market by Storm

An online auction house is taking the classic car market by storm.  BringATrailer.com (BaT for short) has been around since it inception in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the website began auctioning off classic cars and trucks completely online.

Back in 2007, it started as more of an authoritative guide that showcased classic cars and trucks for sale across the country.  They provided more in-depth descriptions and images of the classics for sale.  In 2010, BaT began offering “BaT Exclusives” as its own for-sale listings.

Then in 2014 the website switched gears and became a fully functioning online auction house.  Car owners were able to list their classics for sale where buyers could search and bid on them with the vehicle going to the highest bidder. It’s really that easy.

It was founded by Randy Nonnenberg and Gentry Underwood, a pair of enthusiasts who were already directing friends to noteworthy vehicles for sale online.  In their first year of fulltime auctions, 450 cars were posted and 72% of them sold. By the end of 2018, the volume of auctions had grown considerably.  7,718 were offered, and 74% were sold to the highest bidders.

To sell a classic car or truck using BaT, you have three options.  The most basic option is the “Classic Package” of $99.  You submit your vehicle to BaT and they review your listing.  If approved, the seller then pays the $99 listing fee.  The “Plus Package” costs $349, but for the extra amount you get the same great service as Classic, but with professional photos to help viewers bid with confidence and enthusiasm – and the photographer will come to you!  There was a third option offered called the “White Glove Package” where you call BaT and they will the entire process for a fee depending on what all is required.  This option is typically reserved for higher end vehicles that require special consideration.

When a bidder wins the auction, that buyer is required to pay and additional 5% of the purchase price.  This buyer’s fee is capped at $5,000 so should you purchase a vehicle for more than $100,000 the buyer’s fee will only be $5,000.  This is certainly much cheaper than most auction houses charge buyers and sellers.

Most auctions last for 7 days with the majority of bids coming in the final hours and minutes.  Many of the cars and trucks are sold at no reserve, which can be very exciting for the buyers.  When it is time for the auction to end, the highest bidder will win.  The bidding can be extended by last minute bidders.  The auction is prolonged by 2 minutes at a time if higher bids come in.

There is, however, a drawback to buying a classic car in an online auction.  Prospective buyers will often need to purchase cars sight unseen. (Unless the car is in your area and the seller agrees to show it to you).  On the other end of the stick, this process is much safer, cheaper and less time consuming for the seller.  They no longer need to transport the vehicle to an auction where it could possibly be damaged or not sell which means they would incur costs of transporting each way.

When questioned about what makes this whole process work, the founder Randy Nonnenberg replied, “Honest presentation is a must. Great bids come from the confidence buyers have in the seller. Be forthright.”  In addition, it is imperative that the sellers pay close attention to their listing to provide feedback and answers to inclining comments and questions.  If a seller does not respond to important questions, it can look very suspicious to potential buyers.

BaT may be making some waves in the classic car auction markets, but it is certainly not going to replace the traditional auctions you see taking place around the country.  Auctions like Barrett Jackson and Mecum Auto Auctions and private sellers are still the only way many collectors will purchase a car or truck.  Many buyers prefer to be able to physically kick the tires and look under the hood before they buy.

That being said, don’t kid yourself.  These massive auction houses like the two previously mentioned and a grip of others are realizing the potential of online bidding and have incorporated it into their events as well with live online bidding during the auctions.

We think BringATrailer.com is a super cool idea and so do the other 130,000 registered bidders and 195,000 subscribers to the daily email newsletter. Those numbers, according to Nonnenberg, are growing by 10,000-plus new users a month.  Check it our for yourself.  It is free to browse and ultra-easy to bid.  Want to see some results of BaT?  Then check out the 20 biggest Bring a Trailer auction sales of 2019.

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