Here's How to Buy a Car on Bring a Trailer

Bring a Trailer has become an obsession for many auto enthusiasts. This famed auction site site causes many of us to spend lots of hours drooling over vintage, collectible and rare vehicles. Launched in 2014, BaT makes it simple to bypass the junk of Craigslist and eBay when searching for a unique vehicle. Their meticulously curated selection of cars is ready to purchase, if you know and understand the process of buying a car off Bring a Trailer.

Today we’re going to go over the basics, and what you can expect to

Bring a Trailer Basics: Joining, Searching, and Bidding

Unlike eBay, Bring a Trailer doesn’t offer Buy it Now pricing. Everything is done auction-style on BaT, so if you want to win, you must be the highest bidder.

Register to bid

Before you can do anything on the site, you need to register to bid. This requires you to enter your information on the site, then BaT will send you an e-mail to confirm registration.

Find a car

Then, find the car you want to bid on (there’s plenty of amazing vehicles to choose from). It’s critical that you read the listing entirely and peruse the comments section for questions, answers, and additional information. If you still have a question, you can contact the seller directly or post a comment for everyone to see.

Join an auction

Now it’s time to place your bid. Just like eBay, you can enter the total amount you are willing to pay and the program will automatically adjust your bid as needed. As long as your bid remains the highest, you will win the auction. Bids cannot be cancelled.

If there is no reserve on the auction, that information is clearly listed. You won’t be able to see what the reserve amount is on the car, but you’ll know when it’s been met.

Receiving Auction Updates

Once you’ve decided which cars you want to follow on Bring a Trailer, it’s vital that you sign up for updates on the auctions. You can subscribe to the update by clicking into the auction listing and simply selecting the WATCH button located at the top.

If you decide to stop following that particular auction, go back into the listing and click WATCH again to stop receiving updates. You can also see all the auctions that you are currently WATCHING. Just go to the General Auctions page and click on the “Watched” selection at the top of your screen. This filters everything that you have your eye on – which I promise will be a lot!

What’s Going on With the Clock?

One of the most significant points of confusion for new Bring a Trailer users is the clock. In a typical eBay listing, you got used to bid sniping. This term refers to those who wait until the final seconds of an auction and then throw in the winning bid. Did you know that people use software just to make sure they get that last minute winning bid in? Crazy, right?

BaT Auctions didn’t want that happening on their site, so they did something about it. During the final two minutes of an auction on Bring a Trailer, the clock resets whenever a bid is placed. Once there are no more bids coming in, the time runs out. This practice ensures that everyone has the chance to place their bids and it allows the seller to receive a fair value for their vehicle.

What Happens After the Auction?

Bring a Trailer fees

If you become the winner of an auction, you need to prepare to pay BaT’s fee: 5% of the final bid price. The minimum fee charged is $250 and it cannot exceed $5,000. So, if you plan to purchase a car for more than $100,000, at least you know the fees won’t be more than $5,000.

Deposits and holds

With that in mind, you need to be aware that when you make the first bid, 5% of that amount will be held on your card. Again, the minimum for that is $250. If you win the auction, they convert it into a charge. If you don’t win the auction, they release those funds back to you. As with any refund, it could take a few days before you see that money back.

Exchanging documents

BaT Auctions doesn’t get involved in the transaction between the buyer and the seller. Instead, they provide the contact information to both parties at the close of the sale. Good faith practices recommended by the site ask the seller to send the buyer a copy of the Bill of Sale and title before the buyer sends the payment. Furthermore, they suggest that you send the money via a wire transfer to buy the car.

Shipping is solely the responsibility of the buyer. They must arrange and pay for any shipping vendor they choose.

What if the Car Didn’t Meet the Reserve Price?

In the case of cars with a reserve price, it’s possible that bidding never got high enough to close the deal. While BaT Auctions work closely with sellers to ensure the reserve prices are reasonable, it’s not uncommon for this to occur.

At the close of the auction, the seller receives the contact information of the highest bidder. From there, the two of them can work out their own deal, if they desire. Sometimes, the seller is willing to share with the bidder what they would take to sell the car. Other times, they may try another avenue to get a higher price.

What Makes BaT Auctions Different Than eBay or Craigslist?

In addition to bidding charges and sniping protection, numerous qualities make buying a car off Bring a Trailer a different and more distinguished experience.

Curated listings

You won’t find your neighbor’s Prius or your boss’s Camry on BaT. In fact, sellers have to submit the information about their car and then BaT Auctions chooses the most exciting and interesting cars to list. Each seller must pay $99 to list their vehicle. That amount is owed whether the auction is successful or not.

High-quality descriptions

All sellers need to work with a BaT team member to design an informative and honest listing for the vehicle. Often the auction doesn’t begin for a couple of weeks. Vehicles usually cannot be relisted if the auction fails, and auctions cannot be cancelled once they have begun.

Community confidence

BaT Auctions is famous for its vibrant community of loyal commenters. These are people who know the right steering wheel center cap for a 1985 BMW M5 and the correct headlight rings for a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL; they help inspire confidence by highlighting potential issues and concerns.

All of these things considered make BaT Auctions a great option when you are looking to buy or sell a rare collectible vehicle.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for the lowest price possible on a car for resale or because you are completely broke, go to eBay or Craigslist. Buyer beware in these situations because there’s minimal oversight and you could buy a real junker by complete accident.

If you’re looking to invest your money in something beautiful and vintage, then Bring a Trailer Auctions is the place for you. They take their time to vet all the prospects and ensure that you get what you pay for. Of course, a pre-purchase inspection is still the best practice for anyone looking to buy.

Aside from buying a car, BaT Auctions is a great place to spend hours a day just daydreaming about what you could have. Just make sure you don’t get caught by the boss.


Title Gods specializes in recovering lost car titles and solving all kinds of title-related issues. We are not attorneys. This article is not legal advice.

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