Bring-a-Trailer & The Process of Selling – (BaT Part 2)

Note: In the first part of this article Bob talked about the history of Bring-a-Trailer (BaT), what it does, who created it, and how it works. If you missed it, you can catch up with Bat, and I Don’t Mean BATman … Who Are These Amazing Guys?

Bring a Trailer The Process of Selling BaT Part 2

So now let’s talk about the process of selling on BaT, and I will tell you about a long-time friend who just sold his spotless 1967 MGB Roadster on the site. Earlier this year my friend Dan acquired a 1959 MGA Twin Cam, a unicorn in the British car world with just over 2000 produced over a two-year period. While purchased in largely original driver-quality condition, it was going to take a pretty good cash infusion to get it up to Dan’s high standards. Hence, his MGB, lovingly restored over 13 years, was on the chopping block.

It sold on November 13 for $28,750. Dan’s research indicates it was the highest price paid on Bring-a-Trailer to date for a stock, non-V8, MGB. Among MG enthusiasts 1967 is known as the high-water mark for MGB’s, with wire wheels, overdrive, metal-dash, toggle switches, chrome bumpers, and leather seats, all with a pre-emissions drivetrain.

So, while it was a happy ending, Dan describes the experience as difficult. The process of inputting your description and photos/videos is not for the computer illiterate. Professional photography is available for a premium. And you must wait for your submission to be accepted, usually within days of the application. This starts with what Bat considers a reasonable reserve, a topic we covered in Part One. A Bring-a-Trailer staff editor writes the description based on the seller’s pictures and documentation, without the subjectivity or accolades you would expect to see in other collector car listings. They want, “The facts and just the facts.” I imagine lawyers were involved with that business decision.

1967 MGB on BaT - Bring a Trailer

There were several back-and-forth iterations of the car’s listing description. Many of Dan’s descriptive adjectives were rejected as insufficiently specific; Dan finally accepted the editor’s text. This process was surprisingly frustrating and emotional to the seller. After acceptance of the application, it took nearly a month before the seven-day auction went live.

As the auction began, the comments began flowing in. Most were complimentary, as it was clearly a very nice example of the marque. Dan’s supporting pictures clearly depicted a car that was in pristine condition and carefully restored with an eye for detail and originality. BaT supports direct contact of potential buyers to ask questions and clarifications, including setting up appointments for a personal inspection of the vehicle. Several interested parties contacted Dan directly, resulting in lengthy conversations. Dan welcomed these exchanges as another way to describe the car more fully. However, the top three bidders never contacted Dan.

Most of the comments were by owners of similar cars or those who previously owned an MGB. And a few were quite poignant, indicating the emotional attachment we have for the cars of our youth and why we love these cars so much. Interestingly, very few of the actual bidders made any online comment. Perhaps their strategy was to hide in the weeds and pounce at the last moment before attracting attention to their interest. And serious buyers can rely on the opinions of “experts” to confirm the desirability of the car.

Bring-a-Trailer & The Process of Selling

BaT seems not to mind if the seller is aware of seriously interested parties; they even offer to put the highest bidder and seller together if an auction fails to meet the reserve. Additionally, BaT encourages seller participation during the auction and with additional photos or videos if requested.

Comments are limited to those focused on the auction vehicle and can be flagged as “not constructive” and removed from the comment thread.

Finally, at the end of the auction, BaT resets the auction clock for any bids within the last two minutes to prevent last-second “sniping.” This can lead to exciting finishes. As you can see in the bidding history of Dan’s car, there was a flurry of bidding at the end of the auction, and the ultimate sales price nearly doubled in just the last day of the auction. Talk about spirited bidding… it is exactly the kind of passion, enthusiasm, and excitement Bring-A-Trailer provides for both arm-chair collectors and the guys who write checks.

Bob Seidler
Business Consultant
Bob is a classic car fan and long-time British car enthusiast. His areas of expertise range from hotel and resort management to automobile auctions and car values.

6 Comments

  1. Well what you don’t say is how many cars are turned away each day and they never tell you why. I have used them once on a BMW IS that did not met reserve. It was my first time and I would do some things differently. A while later they turned down a very good TR7 Spyder with very low miles and then a while later an original owner S Type 4.0 with 66000 miles. The owner sold his business to Orielly’s for a bundle. yet they will take all the JEEP Wagoners with fake wood grain paneling you can throw at them. They have become very full of themselves and while its an interesting business model that seems to get all the money for cars it is not helping hose of us who love cars and aren’t billionares, but its a free country.

  2. I have to admit that I waste far too much time on BAT, although I have never won an auction. If there is a particular car or model you are looking for, chances are it will eventually show up on BAT. I think the commentary is the best part, with many knowledgeable (and some not so much) contributors that can provide great insight on a model or sometimes the particular car. It seems to be a good deal for sellers, as very clean or rare cars bring all the money. There are still some deals to be had, depending on interest and bidding, and BAT seems to insist on generally reasonable reserves.

  3. So Phil,

    Have you ever tried it? That is my point. They make it look easy peasey but it is not and there not even a reason given why cars don’t get accepted. Now to their credit you can research who bids, who won and who comments but research who gets to list and I will bet those who have ben most active get first dibs. Look at how many people they turn down every day. It has turned into a site for hose who have big bucks. Call me whatever but that leaves the small car guy out and that is how they started. They could now care about the small car guy. That is my point. When the market shits the bed and it will, they will quickly come back to the small car guy and probably apologize for ever leaving them, but until then they could care less. Yup it is the golden rule. Them who has the gold rules.

  4. J Guy Isabelle,

    I’ve been following BaT since 2009 and have sold 4 cars on the site. I am not someone with big bucks and the cars I sold were not high-dollar, with 3 of 4 selling for under $20k. For what they were, these cars were within the budget of the average enthusiast. It took some time to get the last one listed, because I believe BaT was going through growing pains, but all 4 cars I submitted had realistic reserves. I was never asked to negotiate my reserves. What I do suspect is that some people may have submitted cars with very high reserves which were rejected. I don’t know what reserve you set on your cars. As for the TR7, I’m not trying to insult anyone, but the market for TR7s was languishing for a long time. TR8s are beginning to rise in value and I suppose TR7s will soon follow.

    Slight correction to the article. In the early days of BaT it was just 2 guys blogging about interesting cars and deals they had found on the internet(Craigslist, eBay, etc). A few years later they started doing BaT Exclusives where they listed cars for sale on the site. This was followed a little while later with the current auction format. The great thing about BaT was that throughout its existence people were free to critique and comment about the cars presented.

    • Mike,

      I think you missed my point. I never got to the point of setting a reserve. They just flat out turned them away with no explanation. I have since learned that they are turning many cars away without reasons to the people who want to list. I understand your comment about the TR7s but one with under 20000 miles, a one year only model, may not be worth much to a collector but certainly a great starter for someone who wants to become a classic owner. I donated the car to a veterans group so maybe BAT did me a favor. I disagree that $20,000 is a great starter price. I have owned over 50 MGBs and never even paid close to $10,000 for my best example and I have had plenty of good ones. BAT does nothing for young people who want to get into the hobby and maybe they are they are not the place to start. I think they are forgetting their roots but I also said it is a free country and people don’t have to watch, buy or sell. Here are some comments from people who are in a different pay grade than me. http://www.500eboard.co/forums/threads/bring-a-trailer.

      I like the comments from experienced owners on BAT but hate those by people who are just wasting their bosses time and have never bought, bid or sold. There are plenty of those. It comes with the territory, I understand. My guess is that it has become way too exclusive for me so I will watch with envy and wonderment.

  5. Hey guys, thanks for all the comments here, I am the author of the two BaT articles.

    First, let me make clear I have never bid or listed a car on BaT. I’m an active observer and have been involved in collector car auctions over the years, only as a facilitator and not a buy or sell participant. And I am an active BAT aficionado, it’s my go-to website when I have a free moment in front of the computer. And I occasionally comment on the listings when I feel I have something to add, especially on TR6’s, having been a long-time owner.

    I am also aware their business model has changed over the years, less grass-roots and now more corporate, such is the way of capitalism. There is a fair amount of chatter on the site about big-buck vehicles nudging out the moderately-priced LBC’s we all cherish. Driving that transition is the increasingly expensive and difficult in-person auctions like Barrett-Jackson and others. It’s a sign of the times. And remember, there’s always Craigslist!!

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