1967 Porsche 910

Source: Bringatrailer.com

Bring a Trailer, the popular online auction site for collectible cars, posted record sales in 2023, even as classic-car prices hit the skids.

Bring a Trailer’s sales increased about 2% last year to over $1.4 billion from $1.35 billion in 2022, according to the company’s CEO Randy Nonnenberg. Bring a Trailer sold over 30,000 cars in 2023, up 19% from 2022.

The growth in the number of cars sold helped to offset a decline in prices. The average price of a car sold on the site fell to $54,000 in 2023 from $59,500 in 2022.

The company’s growth marked a rare bright spot in the classic-car market in 2023, as prices fell from their feverish highs of 2021 and 2022 and rising interest rates took a toll on collectors. Total auction sales of classic cars (for both online and live auctions) fell 3% last year to $4.19 billion from $4.32 billion in 2022, according to data from Classic.com. Prices for many models have fallen 10% or more, according to classic-car analysts.

592-Mile 2014 Pagani Huayra

Source: Bringatrailer.com

In an interview with CNBC, Nonnenberg said inflation, economic uncertainty, a volatile stock market and turmoil overseas have cooled demand among potential bidders. But he said sellers are still offering trophy cars, and buyers are bidding, even if their offers are lower.

“People were a little bit nervous about their portfolio, so that can slow down discretionary car buying,” he said. “We thought we might see that people would stop selling or holding cars if they’re nervous. Interestingly, we didn’t see that. We still saw people wanting to trade out into something else. It’s just changed the pricing a little bit.”

Bring a Trailer’s low-cost, user friendly platform also continued to attract car enthusiasts. Its number of registered users grew to 1.2 million in 2023, up from 880,000 in 2022, according to Nonnenberg.

The number of active bidders surged to over 520,000. Sellers on Bring a Trailer pay a flat fee of $99, while the buyer fee is 5% of the car’s sale price with a cap of $5,000 — a fraction of what traditional car-auction firms take. The site offers everything from $3,000 motorcycles to $200,00 Porsches and $1 million Ferraris.

The big draw of Bring a Trailer is the auction voyeurism. Users follow bids and sales in real time, and view photos of and comments on rare cars. The site has up to 1,000 cars being auctioned at any one time, and auctions for each car typically last a week, Nonnenberg said.

For 2024, the company is launching a new suite of services to speed up the checkout process, helping buyers with paperwork, money transfers and other requirements.

Nonnenberg said this year’s sales are shaping up to be as good as or better than those of 2023, as prices stabilize and bidders gain confidence from potential interest rate cuts later in the year.

“The spring months are really popular on Bring a Trailer because people are kind of coming out of winter, and opening up their garage and starting to care about travel and cars,” he said. “We think we will be right on track for a typical spring for us, which is exciting.”

While Bring a Trailer didn’t beat its previous record for most expensive car sold on the site — a $5.36 million La Ferrari sold in 2022 — it managed to sell two cars for over $2 million last year. It’s most expensive sale in 2023 was a 2014 Pagani Huayra that sold for $2.9 million. It also sold a rare 1967 Porsche 910 race car for $2.5 million, a 2020 “Liquid Carbon” Ford GT for $1.8 million and a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT with only 601 miles for $1.8 million.

Nonnenberg said more newer cars from the 2000s and 2010s are starting to go up for auction.

“Even cars from the 2000s are starting to become collector’s items,” he said. “As everything goes electric, those cars from 20 years ago become more special. A lot of people think BAT is for 1960s cars. It’s actually much more modern.”

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