My Car Quest

May 20, 2024

My Wife Was The High Bidder On A Bring A Trailer Auction – But Still No Car

by Mike –

As I mentioned in the post yesterday about the BMW Isetta eBay auction the eBay “auction” process is really not an auction at all when the seller can cancel all bids and remove the car. The reader comments on this post are interesting too.

Volvo 1800

A few months back my wife and I decided we wanted a Volvo 1800, actually we decided that a long time ago. We saw one on the Bring a Trailer auction this past January that we thought would satisfy our desires.

We loved the color combination and the automatic transmission. Although my wife has a lot of experience driving a manual transmission over the last several years she has really wanted to drive automatics, so her cars have all been automatics. Her last manual transmission was a Volvo Turbo that she drove for eleven years, but that was a long time ago. She does occasionally drive our manual six-speed 1996 Porsche 911, which we have owned from new.

Volvo P1800

Bring a Trailer

I admire what Bring a Trailer is doing with their auction process. They are completely different than eBay which, as I said in a comment yesterday,

“ebay is not really an auction but a glorified classified ad listing and in my experience it is where bargain hunters go to shop.”

On Bring a Trailer the buyer and seller are committed to selling if the reserve is met and to buying if they are the high bidder and the reserve is met. If they don’t follow through as agreed there are consequences.

My wife was the high bidder (at $20,900 USD) on this 1971 Volvo P1800 on January 28 but the reserve was not met. After the auction was over Bring a Trailer introduced my wife to the seller to see if she could make a deal – but then not much happened!

When I learned who the seller was (a dealer), I went to their web site and found the Volvo listed for a price of $25,000. I thought, we are not so far apart.

I stepped in to help my wife and had a phone call with the dealer, located in New Orleans, who had the car on consignment. I was concerned about potential water damage and rust. Born in Louisiana, I know what the humidity is like down there.

The dealer assured me this car was not a Katrina car and it had only been in Louisiana for one year. I asked about some rust visible in the photos on the listing.

I also had a few email exchanges with the dealer but he did not answer all of my simple questions nor did he get back to me as promised. One of the simple questions was “What is the minimum price?” Since we made the last offer during the auction and did not meet the reserve then it is up to the seller to tell me what it takes to buy the car.

The auction ended on January 28, we sent an email on January 28 to the seller and I spoke with the seller on January 29. I sent a follow up email on January 29 and had no response so I sent another email on February 2 and received a quick reply with a promise to “get in touch tomorrow”. I haven’t heard from this dealer since.

This Volvo P1800 is still listed for sale for a reduced price of $21,800 – only $900 above my wife’s bid five months ago!

I prefer a salesman who tries a little harder. I wonder what the owner of this Volvo thinks?

AC Cobra Mk IV

Having lost the Volvo we moved on. In March we acquired a beautiful AC Cobra. The AC Cobra cost a lot more than the Volvo but it is a wonderful car that is worth the price and is much more rare than a Volvo P1800. Our AC Cobra also was from New Orleans!

AC Cobra Mk IV

AC Cobra Mk IV

The Cobra seller was handling the sale for his client and this seller answered all of my questions and returned every email and phone call and made me feel at ease. I bought this AC Cobra without a pre-purchase inspection and did not have any surprises. However, I do recommend pre-purchase inspections.

I believe we will acquire a Volvo 1800 someday but not the blue one in New Orleans. As for the AC Cobra, it will be in our garage for a long time.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.


My Wife Was The High Bidder On A Bring A Trailer Auction - But Still No Car
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My Wife Was The High Bidder On A Bring A Trailer Auction - But Still No Car
What is the best way to buy a classic car?


  1. Georgeg20 says

    Mike, your issue is with the selling dealer and not with BaT. Once the auction ends at “no sale”, BaT tries to bring The highest bidder and the seller together. Beyond that they can’t really do much elsE but I would advise BaT on the dealer’s attitude just in case that same dealer comes back with another car to sell.

    I too bid on BaT auctions once in a while. The only real gripe people have with that auction is inability to get the very last minute bids in due to website overload. That site is great for selling, with very few bargains to be found. In fact, some of the final bids really raise my eyebrows.

    What I’m really curios about are very few follow ups from the buyers on their experience.

  2. you guys do not write if there is a reserve in the ads , I’m to assume no reserve ??

    • BaT usually does have a reserve on their auctions but they do not disclose the reserve nor do the disclose if or when the reserve has been met. Each eBay listing can be different because eBay has many types of listings.

      • cary r crumpton says

        there is a vehicle called a stalker goin on auction right now and the seller told when the reserve was met. surprised me a lot.

  3. Used car dealers are exactly “used car dealers”

  4. Paul Peters says

    If I won the high bid on BaT, but decided that I just can’t buy the car, what can happen. Is is up to the dealer and I to work it out. What recourse do they have? Can I get barred from using Bat in the future..Can use some help..I might need to cancel and not buy the car..Thanks for your help

  5. Bring a Trailer is Good but there is a NEW Kid in town which is Better. If something like that happened with us we would have acted as a personal liaison to attempt to solve the problem. Check it out.

  6. Can someone let me know what happened when i win car but cannot finish tansaction? I mean what’s happen with BaT fee? Can i get it back?

    • Jaro,

      You should read the BaT terms of use. I believe that a winning bidder who does not pay for the car will lose the BaT fee and be banned for life from using BaT.

  7. I used to check out listings on BAT all the time and had high hopes to sell my car for big money but the process to get your car listed in ridiculous and I have to really wonder if people are actually paying the final bid prices posted? I tried to list my vehicle with them and the process took over a month where I did not ultimately list and put on Autotrader and sold in one day. I was told by a reputable car broker of high end cars (Porsche, Ferrari & Lambos) that they have 4 bidders working in the background to jack up bidding prices but not sure if this is really true but based on some of the ridiculous prices I have seen people pay it does makes me wonder. Anyway the process takes ridiculously long and they take 4-5 days to reply to e-mails and there is no one you can actually call and speak to and they won’t provide a timeline on the process which for me is not very professional and you should be able to provide customers a timeline for service. I was told they receive a lot of e-mails and pride themselves on the quality of their listings which to me is an excuse where if you have that many e-mails then hire more staff. The only good thing I can say is that when I ultimately requested a refund it was promptly processed and I got my money back for the listing.

  8. why is bat down today. 3-31-22 at 2pm cst.

  9. I was surprised when I got an email today saying that BaT would not sell my car unless I agreed to the reserve that they set. I wanted $53K and they said $47K, take it or leave it. The car is a fully restored 1970 Volvo 1800E that cost much more than my reserve just a year and a half ago. It is a fairly hard to find car in rare condition, so why do they get to set the reserve? I was surprised and disappointed. Is it common knowledge that they play hardball with reserves? That put too much risk in the equation for me so BaT is out.
    Any good experiences with other sites where I could successfully sell our rare little Volvo?

  10. BAT is a one side auction. If you make a negative comment and its acually factual to advise the buyer he may be getting taking advantage of on a car whitch is falsely advertised. Your comment will be removed by BAT. It has happened to me 3 times concerning a forged Vin number on a corvette. BAT wants those seller and buyer dollars, They could care less if the buyer is getting ripped off. I thiought Ebay was bad but these Guys take it to a new level.

  11. Axl Lini says

    Curious to know, BaT says they will help a auction that ends close but does not meet reserve. Has anyone ever heard of them pitching in $$ to make ;a deal happen?

    • I do not know if BaT has given money to make an auction happen. I suspect it does not happen often because BaT would not want to lose money so the only amount they have to play with is the buyers premium (5% of the price to a max of $5,000). The final bid would have to be that close for BaT to want to complete the transaction in this way.

  12. Kevin Hammond says

    Yes they do. Bring a Trailer made me whole on my recent auction reserve price by giving me a portion of their commission. Highest bid was close to but not quite up to my reserve so they gave me $1250 to get me there. Very pleased with how they ran my auction.

    • Kevin,

      That makes sense because BaT still made some commission and that is better for them than a no sale plus they made a seller happy.

      I was also happy with my experience selling my Lamborghini Espada on BaT earlier this year.

  13. Mike,
    As a 46 year selling dealer of European high end and collector cars,there is NOTHING that gets under my skin then the question,”What is your bottom dollar”?
    I set a price on the product and if there is a price in mind that buyer is willing to pay it is his or hers responsibility to share that.
    Would one ask his Lawyer or Doctor is that the “least they will take for that surgery”?
    Be respectful of the selling dealers professional history,his overhead,as well as all the nuiances that are incorporated into the knowledge,effort,and expenses of sourcing and purchasing product
    Jeff Frazier

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