by Andrew Rohrlich

Car enthusiasts of all kinds have found the car of their dreams on Bring a Trailer. An online marketplace that specializes in hard-to-find vehicles like vintage and classic cars, Bring a Trailer personally approves every auction to ensure it meets its standards. If you’re interested in buying a car on Bring a Trailer, here’s a few tips to make the process as smooth as possible.

Bring a Trailer: An Overview for Buyers

Bring a Trailer is an online auction site for car enthusiasts. There are many types of cars available through Bring a Trailer: classic cars, vintage vehicles, recreational vehicles, motorcycles, electric vehicles, trucks, military vehicles, and even boats or go-karts.

Every auction listed is individually approved by Bring a Trailer customer service to ensure the available vehicles meet Bring a Trailer’s standards. Vehicles are professionally photographed, and a specialist helps the seller determine the details of the auction, such as listing information, reserve price, and starting bid.

Getting Started

Buying a car on Bring a Trailer is a simple process. You’ll want to decide what type of car you’re looking for, be that a specific make and model or just a list of wants and needs. Once you find a match with an open auction, you’ll register an account and place a bid. If your bid is the highest when the clock runs down, the seller will contact you to arrange payment and transfer.

Finding Your Dream Car

Some people have a car in mind they’ve always wanted. Maybe you’ve known since you were three that you wanted a red Mustang convertible or you always dreamed of a shiny, silver BMW like your favorite uncle drove. Maybe you don’t have a specific model in mind, but you’ll know it when you see it. You might have particular characteristics in mind, like a color or a brand or a type of engine.

When thinking about the car of your dreams, there are several factors to consider. Of course, you’ll want something that looks nice. Consider aesthetics you enjoy and look into cars that match that. You’ll also want to decide whether you’ll be driving this car every day or if it will be more for show. If it will be your primary vehicle, think about how you’ll be using it. If you have a long commute, look for something with good gas mileage. If you routinely haul things, look into the storage capacity and weight limits. If you have kids you’ll be driving in it, consider things like seat material, safety features, or seating arrangements. Also consider if there are any premium features you want, such as heated seats or a Bluetooth stereo.

Once you’ve found a vehicle that matches your wants and needs, find an open auction and start bidding. If you have a vehicle in mind but don’t see an active auction available, you can set an alert through the site. When a car matching your specifications goes live, a notification will be sent to your email so that you can bid.

Participating in the Auction Process

Once you’ve found your dream car available for auction, you’ll want to bid on it before time runs out. Like at other online auction houses, Bring a Trailer auctions include detailed descriptions of the item, a simple bidding process, and reserve pricing.

How Bidding Works

In order to bid in a Bring a Trailer auction, you’ll need to create an account and register to bid. If you’re creating a new account, you’ll need to provide your email address and choose a username and password. You’ll then want to select the “register to bid” option and fill in the required information, including a valid credit card number. You won’t be charged for registration, but the card will be verified so that you can use it to cover the buyer’s fees if you win an auction.

If you’ve already created a Bring a Trailer account but skipped the bid registration step, you can still register via the link on any auction page. You’ll need to be logged into your existing account and will then fill in the registration and payment information as above.

To bid, simply go to the auction page for your chosen vehicle, enter the price you’re willing to pay, and submit your bid. If yours is now the highest bid, the auction will update to reflect your offer. Until the timer runs out, others will have a chance to outbid you, so keep an eye on the auction until the time is up or until someone offers more than you’re willing to pay. If you are outbid and there is still time left on the auction clock, you can increase your bid, as long as the new amount is still within your price range.

Once an auction ends, the winner’s contact information will be sent to the seller to arrange payment, title transfer, and shipping or pickup. The highest bidder is also responsible for paying the Bring a Trailer buyer’s fee of 5%, which will be charged to the card on file. This amount is in addition to your bid amount, so keep that in mind when deciding your budget.

You’re the Highest Bidder but Didn’t Meet the Reserve Price

Some listings include a reserve price. This is the minimum amount that guarantees a sale. If the auction reserve price has been met, the sale carries on with the winning bidder as usual. Bring a Trailer doesn’t reveal any information about the reserve price in order to keep it a fair auction, so you may not know until the end if you’ve met the reserve.

If you’re the highest bidder on an auction, but the sale price does not meet the reserve, your contact information will still be sent to the owner. It is then up to them to contact you and try to arrange a deal. In some cases, they will accept the amount offered and proceed with payment and transfer from there. They may also choose to negotiate with you to meet the reserve price or at least get closer to it. If a deal cannot be reached, they are not obligated to sell you the vehicle as they would be if the reserve were met. Because the sale is not guaranteed, Bring a Trailer does not charge a buyer’s fee for auctions where the reserve is not met, even if you and the seller come to an agreement.

Working Out Shipping Details With the Seller

Once you’ve won the auction and the seller has contacted you, you’ll arrange to either pick up or ship the vehicle. If you happen to live nearby — or relish the idea of a road trip — pickup may be an option, in which case you’ll want to discuss whether the car can be driven or if you’ll need to bring a trailer or other means of hauling it home.

In most cases, you’ll arrange with the seller to ship the car. Bring a Trailer shipping services are available through the platform, but you’re not required to use them. It’s up to you and the seller to determine the best way to ship your new vehicle. Make sure whatever service you use offers insurance in case of damage in transit, and have the car inspected before and after shipment to ensure it arrives in the same condition it left in.

Tips for Buying a Car on Bring a Trailer

In order to make sure your bidding and buying process goes smoothly, there are a few things you should do.

Arrange an Inspection With the Seller

By bidding, you agree to buy the car exactly as it is, so it’s typically a good idea to have it inspected before you even bid. Although Bring a Trailer doesn’t publish seller information with the auction, it does provide a contact form for you to reach out to the seller. You can use this to arrange an inspection, either in person, if you are able to travel there, yourself, or via a trusted third-party inspector.

Whether personally inspecting or hiring an inspector, make sure all potential issues are accounted for. An issue might not be a deal breaker, but you’ll want to know about it before you bid so you can decide if it affects your budget. In addition to checking out mechanical components such as the engine, radiator, battery, or transmission, examine the interior and exterior. Look for issues such as rust, dents, or other cosmetic damage outside. Inside, pay attention to the seat conditions, whether the control panel and other electrical components work properly, and whether there are any alerts indicated. Also double-check that the odometer matches the mileage indicated by the seller.

Carefully Read Through the Listing Description and Comment Section

Before buying a car on Bring a Trailer, read through the entire description to find out if there are any issues you should be aware of, and to make sure it has the features you’re expecting. Don’t underestimate the value of the comment section, as well. The comments may include other questions and answers regarding the condition of the vehicle or the seller’s expectations. You can also see who placed which bids and when, giving you a look at how popular the vehicle is among bidders, and how quickly you might expect the price to go up.

Find Your Car on BaT, Bring It Home With Caramel

This article was written by Andrew Rohrlich. As a brand and product marketing expert, Andrew Rohrlich has crafted products, experiences and communications for household names like Gap and for multiple automotive technology businesses. For nearly a decade Andrew has studied automotive retail in depth from a customer point of view and aggregated the industry’s best research, thought leadership and know how to provide credible and important information to auto shoppers and sellers.

Start your transaction with Caramel, learn more about how the process works, or reach out to our Support team with any questions.