How to Buy a Car on Bring a Trailer, the Internet’s Coolest Car Auction Site

Bring a Trailer is a phenomenal place to lurk for used cars. Here’s how you actually buy one.

In case you’ve never heard of it, Bring a Trailer is one of the internet’s best automotive-themed sites. New auctions happening every day display the full spectrum of used cars, from budget projects to million-dollar works of art. It’s the ideal place to lurk for a vintage Mercedes G-Class, a manual transmission dad wagon or your exact dream car from high school.

How do you buy one of those awesome cars in a Bring a Trailer auction? Here’s a quick and helpful guide.

Step 1: Bring a Credit Card

Bring a Trailer offers two tiers of accounts. The first is a community account that requires an email address. This level lets you question the seller, comment on a listing, set up a watchlist and set email/mobile alerts.

To buy a car, however, you must set up a bidder/seller account. This account requires you to provide your full name and address, and to put a credit card on file.

Step 2: Win the Auction

Most auctions on Bring a Trailer last seven days, though the occasional premium one (a higher tier of auction reserved generally for fancier cars) will go for 14 days. This period offers bidders the chance to do their homework and ask questions of both the seller and the community at large.

If you’re bidding on a vehicle, monitor the auction closely on the final day. Typically, there will be a flurry of activity and bidding during the last hours and minutes. The highest bidder at the end of the auction period wins.

Step 3: Pay the Auction Fee

When the auction ends, Bring a Trailer charges the winning bidder’s credit card a 5 percent fee, which is in addition to the auction price. So, if you buy a $50,000 car, you pay $2,500 to BaT via your card. (The 5 percent fee is capped at $5,000; buyers who win an auction at a price of more than $100,000 still pay just $5,000.)

This fee is lower than a traditional auction house, especially when the cost moves into the six figures. The automatic payment also acts as a deterrent to non-serious bidders.

Step 4: Pay for the Car

The winning auction bid creates an automated introduction between buyer and seller, including proper names and addresses. The buyer and seller arrange payment terms privately. Bring a Trailer is available as a resource, offering tips and advice to both parties, but the company is not a party to the transaction itself.

Step 5: Get the Car

The buyer and seller coordinate shipping. Those interactions can range from an in-person pickup to a door-to-door delivery service. Bring a Trailer does provide buyers and sellers with recommended shipping services. Door-to-door shipping can cost between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars, depending on the logistics and service quality. The process can take from three days to a couple of weeks.

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