The world of classic cars and auctions is fascinating for auto enthusiasts, but not one about which the average person necessarily knows a lot. A great deal of good can come from buying older cars, especially those with real collector value. These classics can represent a savvy long-term investment or create a treasured legacy to hand down to the next generation.
One of the most noteworthy platforms for vintage and classic car auctions is Bring a Trailer. This article will look at what makes this site unique, how Bring a Trailer (BaT) works, and what benefits it offers to those interested in vintage and classic cars.
Bring a Trailer: How Does It Work?
The site hosts separate auctions on individual vehicles, with the action typically lasting 7 days, but some do run longer. Each auction features a complete informational listing and a photo gallery. Plus, there’s a comment thread where community members can ask questions and discuss the particular auction.
Bring a Trailer encourages its buyers to participate in the comments section since this activity can prompt buyers to make bids. It stands to reason that a potential bidder gains more confidence in what they are looking at when the seller can answer questions and provide timely information. Based on location, a prospective buyer may arrange an in-person viewing of the vehicle and a test drive before bidding.
Once a seller selects a listing package and pays the fees (see “Fees” below), they submit their vehicle’s details. BaT reserves the right to only accept a car suitable for its platform and conform to applicable standards. The premium “Plus” listing option includes an on-site visit by a professional photographer.
From there, BaT writes the listing description and sends it to the seller for approval. Upon acceptance of this information, the listing gets scheduled and goes live.
All bidders become registered users of the Bring a Trailer (BaT) community. Once the bidding has begun, any submitted offers get verified with a credit card, with five percent of the bid placed on hold. That amount is released if that bid is unsuccessful. The five percent hold amount gets converted into a BaT buyer’s fee for the winning bidder.
One thing that tends to concern auction site bidders is “sniping.” This is the practice of waiting for an auction to be very close to the end and then putting in a slightly higher (and likely winning) bid. In many instances, this prevents the placement of a counter bid. BaT has “sniping protection” that adds two minutes to the auction clock every time a bid is placed at the last stage.
So, BaT bidding ends when the final bid occurs and a full two minutes has passed without any counter bids. This process ensures every bidder has a fair shot at success.
When Bidding is Over
At the auction’s end, the winning bidder and seller receive each other’s contact information. Both parties can then make the necessary arrangements to finalize the transaction and coordinate pick up or shipping.
BaT takes a different approach than other sites regarding a reserve price. BaT sellers can lower the reserve during the auction process if it becomes clear that the minimum is too high and there’s little chance of reaching it.
Further, when a reserve is not met at the end of the auction, BaT puts the highest bidder in touch with the seller in the hopes the two parties can work out a final deal. Absent an arrangement, both parties can walk away, and the seller is free to promote the vehicle elsewhere.
Bring a Trailer is not a free auction website. The seller and the buyer each have to pay fees. For sellers, there are three listing types:
The Classic plan is $99 and offers the essentials. With this option, the seller provides the photos. The $349 Plus plan includes the services of a professional photographer who will go to the seller’s location to take pro-level pictures. The upcharge can be worth it for a seller with a unique vehicle or who wants to highlight a car’s condition or distinct features.
The other option is the bespoke White-Glove plan which is generally used for an auction with a “significant car” (as BaT puts it). The offering may involve a scarce vehicle or one with exceptional collector value. BaT doesn’t attach a price for this type of service as a White-Glove listing is made available on a case-by-case basis.
As mentioned earlier, the winning bidder pays a fee, too. The buyer’s five percent fee has a $250 minimum and gets capped at $5,000 (a bonus for six-figure BaT auction winners).
Benefits of Bring a Trailer
There are plenty of auction sites out there ( check out this auction marketplace article ), including long-established plays like eBay Motors. But what sets BaT apart from the other players?
A BaT staff member rights each listing with objectivity and clarity in mind. This ensures a degree of standardization and transparency that’s appealing and reassuring to bidders. It also helps create consistency among all BaT listings.
Bring a Trailer’s method stands in contrast to the seller-written details you’ll find on sites like eBay and Craigslist . These mixed-bag descriptions might involve a single sentence or an endless scrawl of praise and promises. Plus, BaT’s writing services remove the seller’s burden of having to produce a professional-level listing. It’s a big part of what makes the listing fee worth the money.
The BaT comments feature not only fosters a rapport between seller and bidder but helps bidders judge the sincerity of the seller. A more engaged seller provides better customer service and offers reassurance to a potential buyer. And upfront answers reduce the likelihood of a disappointed buyer later on. Conversely, an unanswered question is likely to raise concerns among potential bidders.
BaT’s sniping protection system with the automatic two-minute bid extension is a sure pleaser to anyone who’s lost out in last-minute action. A frustration-free experience goes a long way in encouraging sellers and bidders to return to Bring a Trailer. At the same time, sniping protection increases the chances of more last-minute bidding and extra money for the seller.
No-Reserve Auctions Available
A bargain hunter with a watchful eye can take advantage of the no-reserve auctions that populate the BaT site. While these no-minimum offerings represent a small number of the 100 or so auctions usually available, a sharp investor or enthusiast might be able to grab something that others have missed.
The Best Auction Destination?
Bringing a Trailer gets high marks as a platform that makes online vehicle auctions more reliable. While the fees may be unsatisfactory to some, these charges are better at attracting genuine sellers and bidders. In addition, the site’s interactive nature and protections against sniping do help to set it apart. Yet, it’s unfortunate that the site only works for vintage and classic cars. If you’re in the market for something newer, you’ll have to try elsewhere.
Lastly, it’s important to note that Bring a Trailer was acquired in 2020 by Hearst Autos, part of media giant Heart Magazines that owns Car and Driver , Road & Track , and AutoWeek .