Bring a Trailer sold $829 million worth of cars in 2021

The online-only enthusiast car sales site has taken off as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, overtaking legacy rivals

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A record US$1.9 million sale at Porsche isn’t the only big news from Bring a Trailer (BaT) these days. In 2021, the online car auction site sold $828.7 million in cars, a 108% gain from $398 million sold in 2020, and a quarter of a billion dollars in ahead of its closest competitor, the live auction house.

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The news significantly beats the US$578 million in total sales announced by Mecum Auctions on December 28. That’s more than double the US$407 million in total auction sales Canadian firm RM Sotheby’s announced for 2021. Further down the list, Barrett-Jackson confirmed annual sales. of US$191 million for 2021, while Gooding & Co. raised US$150 million. A representative for Bonhams did not respond to a request for comment.

“Big auctions will always have a business. They put on a great show,” said BaT President and Co-Founder Randy Nonnenberg. “But people find us to be a very effective way of [buy and sell cars] if you want to do it in a more personalized and streamlined way.

Online auctions eclipsed live auctions for the first time ever in 2021, with 20,000 cars sold online compared to 16,000 cars sold live in North America, according to data from the classic car insurer and the data company Hagerty. Online car sales across the board grew 107% year-over-year to US$492.5 million sold in 2020; at $1.02 billion sold in 2021, said Kevin Fisher of Hagerty.

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“Online and live auctions were on fire last year,” says Fisher. The recent Porsche Carrera sale represents another milestone in the popularity of such online sales, he added via email about the trend.

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BaT’s jump signals a major shift for the collector and collectible car market, the pinnacle of which has always been champagne-fueled auctions in white tents overseen by men in suits with noble accents: Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, Scottsdale, Paris and Lake Como. Last year, the top five live auction houses sold a total of $343 million worth of cars at Pebble alone. Moving online eliminates middlemen in an inherently opaque industry cloaked in backdoor deals, insider favors and club deals between would-be brokers.

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Buying on BaT is simple, like on eBay: those who want to place a bid must register on the site and provide a credit card number. Whoever has the highest bid when the seven-day countdown reaches zero wins the vehicle and pays a 5% buyer’s fee, capped at $5,000, which is significantly lower than the required double-digit percentages sellers and buyers in traditional auction houses. . Sellers pay a flat rate of US$99 to list their cars.

A 1971 Datsun 240Z sold on auction site Bring a Trailer in January 2020
A 1971 Datsun 240Z sold on auction site Bring a Trailer in January 2020 Photo by bring a trailer

In 2014, its first year of offering vehicles to the public, BaT listed 450 for an average sale price of $21,000 and a sell-through rate of 72%. In 2019, it had over 200,000 registered users; right now that number is 709,000, says Nonnenberg. Wait times to simply list a car on the site can stretch for several months. Hearst Autos acquired the brand in 2020 for an undisclosed price.

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“In 2021, signups are up 57%, but dollars through the platform are up more than 100% because prices have gone up, and there are more dollars in the market, and the quality of things submitted online is higher now,” says Nonnenberg. . In 2021, BAT sold 17,846 vehicles on its site, representing a volume gain of 83.5% compared to 2020.

It should be noted that the bulk of BaT sales are still sub-six-figure vehicles. It’s a high-volume, low-cost pool similar to that sold by Mecum Auctions, and it’s key to the online auction house’s success. The average sale price of a vehicle on BaT in 2021 was US$46,435, compared to US$34,996 the previous year. Having so many of these sales builds community, excitement and is the real lift to the bottom line.

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