Is Bring a Trailer Auctions the best way to sell your collector car online? We listed this MGC GT and found out
BaT Auctions isn’t taking aim at the titans, and that’s great for enthusiasts
The barrier to entry for new online auction sites had seemed pretty impregnable — 15 feet of electrified chain-link topped with razor wire impregnable. Hell, if Amazon failed miserably at it, why would Bring a Trailer. a relatively small Bay Area-based site (albeit one with an impressive cult following) take a shot at eBay?
Probably because it thought it could be done better. Isn t that the dream of most startups that take on entrenched market leaders? Having sold my share of cars on eBay Motors over the years, and now having sold my first on BaT — a 1968 MGC GT — I m in a reasonable position to talk about how it s done.
BaT is never going to compete with eBay on volume, nor does it want to. It takes a selective/curated approach to what it does, not unlike the leading catalog auction houses in the live-auction world. If BaT doesn t think its audience will find a car interesting, the car won t be listed.
A live-updating comment section, a BaT hallmark found at the bottom of each post, adds a unique and often helpful aspect to each listing. Unlike eBay, where sellers can choose to publish their answers to bidder questions (or not), followers get to publicly grill the seller on BaT; the threads often break 100 comments.
I ve always said that the old-car hobby has its share of insufferable know-it-alls, and to be sure there is some of that in the BaT community, but legitimate subject matter experts almost always show up and I generally learn something from the comments. Abusive or patently unhelpful comments can also be flagged for removal by the community. (The MGC auction had a total of 95 comments and bids; you can read through the thread, as well as the totally transparent bid history, at the bottom of the archived listing to get a good feel for the typical back-and-forth.)
Movers and shakers: Bring a Trailer founder Randy Nonnenberg
He can t tell you what got him hooked, but California native Randy Nonnenberg has always had a thing for automotive classifieds. He d scour papers for interesting cars when he should have.
With relatively low volume and just $250 for a listing fee, plus a 5 percent buyer s premium paid by the auction winner, BaT s sell-through rate needs to be high — and at over 84 percent, it is. They appear to achieve that rate by doing some of the same things that the better live auction companies do: they write good descriptions, curate compelling cars and manage sellers expectations effectively. In my case, I suggested a particular reserve price and was gently told that I needed to consider something slightly lower (which I did).
BaT seems to follow other practices of the better live auction companies, too, like lining up a critical mass of interested/qualified bidders (all of whom have credit cards on file with BaT to ensure legitimacy).
Of late, eBay seems to be producing more lookers than bidders; I ve conducted eBay auctions that have had over 4,000 views and 200-plus followers, yet haven t translated into good results. In fact, the last two cars that I sold on eBay went to dealers, a sure sign that a car sold for under the money. Few things piss me off more than seeing my car for sale on a dealer s site, two hours after the auction ends (with my photos) for 20 percent more than I realized — money clearly and painfully left on the table.
BaT, by contrast, seems like more of a retail market. And the last-second sniping that is so annoying about eBay? It doesn t exist on BaT. The clock resets to three minutes after each late bid.
Further, and unlike eBay, where an unsuccessful seller s only option is to relist the car, BaT does what live auction companies do, continuing to assist in marketing the car in the rare instance that it doesn t meet reserve.
On the whole, BaT founder Randy Nonnenberg has created something that eBay, as a publicly traded company with big expectations, can t: a vibrant, serious online niche market for interesting collector cars.
To find out how to list your car or to register to bid, visit BaT Auctions .