Bring A Trailer Auctions is the Best Thing To Happen To Vintage Cars

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I hate to say it, but I’ve been looking at vintage cars on eBay Motors for close to 20 years now. In the very early days, it made sense and there was a lot of cool stuff to be had. But for a lot of reasons, it’s hardly worth looking at now. Bring A Trailer, which has been an aggregator of classic cars for sale for a while now, has launched its own auction tool, and it’s turned into the greatest thing to happen to vintage cars since the dawn of the internet. We talked with Randy Nonnenberg — the guy behind Bring A Trailer — to find out how it’s been going.

Bring A Trailer instituted auctions because of the success of its BaT Exclusives. Most of the content on Bring A Trailer is aggregated ads from a multitude of sources that BaT’s writers find interesting, and think readers will find interesting, too. But as a means of bringing in some cash, Bring A Trailer started BaT Exclusives, which were proprietary classifieds that sellers would pay to have featured.

It worked well. Probably too well. Within 24 hours of publication, sellers would have 40 to 50 interested parties breaking down their door to make arrangements to see the car. It was a clumsy, unproductive situation for both the seller and the buyer.


Bring A Trailer Auctions make the whole thing a lot easier. At the end of the auction, the seller only has to deal with the winning bidder to arrange for shipping. The buyers duke it out amongst themselves.

Where eBay Fell Apart

Do a Google search for “eBay sucks” and you’ll get 13 million reasons why. In its earliest days, eBay was a great solution for putting your wares up online and selling them to the people willing to pay the most for them. But because it reaches the widest possible audience, it also reaches segments of the population you wouldn’t do business with if you had a gun to your head.

For vintage car sellers — or anyone with big ticket items, for that matter — it’s even worse. Mouthbreathers and dimwits can bid on your item despite the fact that they have no money. Chislers can show up at your home having bid on your item, only to consider that binding transaction just the starting point for negotiation.

Where Bring A Trailer Gets it Right


Bring A Trailer gets tons of traffic, but it’s a blip on eBay’s radar. It’s a small community of like-minded people who all serve to keep each other honest.

Anything that shows up on Bring a Trailer is of interest to that small community. If you post up an all-original 1967 Camaro Coupe with a six-cylinder and a three-speed on the column, you’re not fighting for shelf space with a guy’s 1967 Camaro that looks like it crashed into the accessories aisle at the local Pep Boys. The cars are vetted to begin with. Bring A Trailer has no interest in cars that don’t meet the very subjective qualifications that make cars cool to that audience.

For the seller, the bidders and the community at large, the most interesting thing about these auctions is that you get to see who’s bidding. Comments and bids are commingled at the bottom of the page. It’s like being at a live auction. The community is small enough that you begin to recognize the people bidding, and you get to see exactly what they’ve bid.

Open Contact

Unlike most physical auctions, bidders can contact the sellers directly to ask questions about the cars. Better yet, a potential bidder can post a question to the community at large, a group of people who are about as knowledgeable as vintage car enthusiasts get.



The most frustrating thing about eBay Motors is the fixed end time. Dozens of third party providers allow bidders to swoop in a the last possible nanosecond to outbid you. It’s a completely unfair method of selling an item. Bring A Trailer avoids the sniping situation by closing the auction not at a fixed time, but three minutes after a the last bidder makes his final offer. Instead of sniping a deal at the last second, the clock resets, always allowing you another three minutes to counter-offer, much like the “Going once, going twice, final warning” of a live auction.

Bidders Have Skin in the Game


Aside from eBay’s horrible bidder reputation system, there is little recourse against bogus bidders. If you want to bid on an item on eBay Motors, you bid on it whether you have money or not. There are countless stories of sellers contacting winning bidders after the auction closes and never hearing from them.

Bring A Trailer makes bidders cough up a bit of cash before the auction starts. To register as a bidder, Bring A Trailer puts a hold on the bidder’s credit card in the amount of the bidder’s fee. It’s enough to weed out the bogus bidders who are in it just to mess around when they’ve had too many beers on a Saturday night.

Randy Nonnenberg says that so far, it’s going great.  “Everyone seems to love the anti-sniping functionality and the open communication from sellers in the comment stream. We wanted transparency to be the goal, which seems to be lacking in other auction formats. The engagement of the community in the open commenting has really made it great.”

The format essentially forces engagement, and makes sellers and buyers communicate with each other. “Sellers need to be engaged and buyers have increased confidence and assistance. We have had many BaT Auction Success Stories as a result,” Randy says.

Some adjustments are happening on the fly as the Bring A Trailer team learns more about its new system. “We thought that since so much action happens in the final hour, that an auction could last just a few hours. But that was not the case,” he says. “Our audience wanted the auctions to be open for a whole week. We adjusted this, and now the bids come in all week and are part of the comment conversation. It was not our first instinct, but it is much better for all.”
It’s been a busy few months. Right now, Bring A Trailer only has the capacity to auction six cars a week, but that’s going to ramp up pretty quickly. “We’ll take it from 6/week currently to 10/week by the end of the year to likely 15 and 20 per week as we get into next year. It is a highly functional and enjoyable format for both buying and selling, so we will eventually have to redesign the site to display at larger volumes and also possibly go to multiple events per week instead of the current Wednesday format.”

There are six really interesting auctions going on right now, including all the cars pictured in this post. Keep an eye on these sales. They’re as fun to watch as they are to bid on.

Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at BestRide.com.


  1. Thank you for this “eBay wakeup call.”

    I experienced exactly what you are describing on eBay coupla years ago. The winning bidder said he needed an extra 48 hours for his loan to come through which he said included the “$500 nonrefundable deposit” (should have been first red flag… wouldn’t a bank want to see him making a down payment up front?) but he cheerfully offered instead of my “two weeks for full payment” to give me the full amount and pick up the vehicle on the fourth day. Sounded good and I said OK.

    Fourth day came and went. He didn’t answer phone on fifth. I redialed constantly on the sixth and finally his significant other something picked up and barked that she had nixed the deal: “the bum thought I was gonna loan him the money and I ain’t… stop calling a**hole.”

    eBay’s filipino customer support would do NOTHING (“You did not try to enforce your own deposit terms”). True. Relisted there and sold for 20% less.

    Unfortunately before I read this article I listed my truly excellent, flawless red, 45,000 mile 1967 Sport Fury Convertible with eBay Motors for the coming week. Seriously considering ending early, flushing the $40 list fee and moving over to BAT to avoid risking repeating the prior hassle but I guess I’ll ride this last one out and then go to BAT if modest reserve not met.

    Thanx again

  2. Sorry guys but I’m not in total agreement with you. There is some “hidden” non-transparency as BAT screens the posts of the auctions and “chooses” what posts to get posted. Regular posters don’t get screened but new posters ( although long time subscribers)!get screened and if the post is constrict but critical of the vehicle being auctioned then it just never makes it to the comments section. That is NOT transparency!
    Ever tried reaching BAT via e-mail? Unless it’s something BAT wants to address or discuss don’t hold your breath! The auto generated bla bla will be what you receive back. That is NOT customer service and they, like it or not, are heavily customer service dependent

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