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The Best Online Car Auctions for Buyers and Sellers

Buying and/or Selling a Vehicle Online Has Never Been Easier

best online car auctions

It’s a crazy time to be shopping for a new or used car. New vehicle shortages have pushed used car prices through the roof, and supplies are tight in all vehicle segments. This is especially true for sports cars and models that have even a little value to collectors and enthusiasts. Luckily, if you’re in the market to buy and absolutely cannot wait for the market to settle, you’ve got a few choices for the best online car auctions to shop for your next purchase.

Sure, you can try the dealership, but many are stretched thin on inventory, and you won’t find much outside of the most mainstream models on most lots. Websites like Autotrader, Cars.com, and others list thousands of cars, but they can be challenging to navigate, especially if you’re shopping for something out of the ordinary.

The Best Online Car Auctions: What to Know Before You Bid

If you’ve already tried all of the major channels to buy a car, your next step should be to check out the best online car auctions. Yes, an auction is a bit less certain than shelling out a set amount on a listed price. And yes, you could end up not winning the auction.

However, auctions are the best place to find weird, obscure, rare, and funky cars. They’re also a great place to learn about uncommon models. Online car auctions are big business these days, and at any given moment, there are hundreds of vehicles up for bid.

We’ve gathered a few of the largest, most popular, and best online car auction sites below. Though they are all function in generally the same way, the fees and rules are different for each site, so it’s essential to dig into the details before you place a bid.

Bring a Trailer

best online car auctions - bring a trailer website home page

Bring a Trailer (BaT) wasn’t the first auction site to hit the streets, but it quickly became one of the most popular and well-known companies in the business. The site was acquired by media giant Hearst in 2020, adding to the company’s portfolio of automotive media outlets that include Car and Driver and Road and Track.

Research

BaT has a team of writers whose job is to accurately describe each vehicle in detail. Rather than a table or bulleted list of details, BaT’s writers list the information as part of a story told about the car. This makes the posts more engaging to read but also means that bidders must sort through paragraphs to find the information they want. A sidebar contains the most pertinent information, such as mileage, color, and VIN.

Thanks to its years of auction data and thousands of vehicles sold, Bring a Trailer can go a step further with the data and analysis it offers. On its auction results page, the site also features pricing grids for several popular models, where users can view a graph of pricing information for the model they want.

Interface and User Experience

Bring a Trailer example page

BaT focuses heavily on telling a story in its auction pages and through front-page articles written about select auction vehicles. Understanding details and specs on each vehicle requires reading, and the information could be presented more clearly. Each auction does, however, come with an extensive library of images and videos.

Bidding Process and Fees

BaT requires a valid credit card to register as a bidder. When a bid is placed, five percent of the total bid amount is held on the bidder’s card. At the end of the auction, the amount is released for anyone who did not win.

During an auction, BaT extends the closing time by two minutes each time a bid is placed, until a full two minutes pass without a bid being placed. This is intended to prevent “sniping,” when a bidder swoops in at the last minute with a slightly higher bid to win the auction.

The winning bidder pays a 5 % fee on top of the final sale price. Fees start at $250 and are capped at $5,000.

Cars & Bids

best online car auctions - cars and bids homepage

Cars and Bids is the brainchild of ultra-popular YouTuber Doug DeMuro and his partners. Thanks to Doug’s massive YouTube following — 4.21 million at the time of this post — there is no shortage of cool, rare, and funky cars to bid on. Several of the auction vehicles also get a video review from Doug, so prospective buyers can get a detailed look before placing a bid.

Research

Cars & Bids lays out an overview of each vehicle and details the condition, equipment, modifications, and flaws. Users are given plenty of information in each category. Every vehicle also receives a written “review” from Doug that gives his opinion and added insights on the car.

While Cars & Bids doesn’t offer a historical price breakdown on auction results like BaT, it does feature a complete listing of past auction results with the ability to sort by lowest/highest mileage and lowest/highest price.

Interface and User Experience

Cars & Bids webpage

Cars & Bids’ auction interface is clean and straightforward with the information bidders need to make a car selection. The time remaining in each auction and the current bid amount are both listed on each car’s thumbnail image, and a short blurb below the images gives pertinent information on the car’s mileage, mods, and condition.

When viewing a vehicle, the clear, uncluttered table makes it easy to view mileage, color, VIN, and other information on a vehicle. Every auction page contains detailed specs and makes learning about the car a fairly simple process.

Bidding Process and Fees

Prospective buyers must register with Cars & Bids prior to participating in an auction. The site requires a valid credit card and phone number to register. Bidders must perform their own due diligence, including arranging financing, shipping, and necessary inspections. These actions are expected to have been performed prior to placing a bid to avoid disruptions in the process.

Cars & Bids does charge a fee to participate in auctions. The winning bidder pays a 4.5% fee on top of their winning bid. Buyer fees start at a minimum of $225 and are capped at a maximum of $4,500.

eBay Motors

eBay Motors home page - best online car auctions

eBay is one of the biggest names in auctions of all types and has built a reputation for having nearly anything you can think of with a variety of buying options. eBay Motors offers an identical experience to buying other items on the site, so buying a $50,000 car feels a lot like buying a $20 toaster.

Research

Unlike a dedicated automotive auction site, eBay does not write descriptions or give background on every vehicle. It’s up to the seller to determine what is relevant information and then write that info in a way that is both accurate and easy to understand.

There’s a big downside here, in that the bidder has to know what they’re selling and have a handle on the details of the car. The upside is that eBay provides a variety of services designed to prevent unintended purchases, misleading information, and misrepresented cars. The site also provides some protection against fraud and misleading sellers.

Interface and User Experience

eBay Motors webpage

eBay has had years to perfect its auction site, and the results show. Sorting, searching, and reading through auction listings are all easy and straightforward. However, due to eBay’s hands-off hosting of auctions, the amount of detail and clutter on each auction listing comes down to how well the buyer organizes their thoughts.

Bidding Process and Fees

Registering to bid on eBay is straightforward and can be done in minutes. Placing a bid or opting to “buy it now” is also a simple process, but there are a few things that bidders need to understand. Sellers require a deposit when you win the auction, whether it’s through the bid process or if you decide to pay the cash price upfront. The amount is usually due immediately or within a set amount of time after each auction. eBay also gives sellers the ability to list a vehicle for a set price or to accept offers, so many vehicles can be purchased outright if you’d rather not take your chances bidding.

Bidders don’t pay a fee to buy a car on eBay, even if they win the auction. Instead, fees are shouldered by the seller, but there are a few options available. Low-volume sellers can choose from a few auction packages that range from a $19 Basic package to a $79 Premium package. Services and included benefits are different for each package, but the $19 Basic package for low-volume sellers allows up to 12 photos, an auction duration of up to 7 days, and an AutoCheck report for cars and trucks.

High-volume sellers, which are defined as selling seven or more cars per year, can choose either a $49 Plus package or a $79 Premium package. High-volume sellers also pay a $50 insertion fee, and if a deposit is required of the buyer, the seller must pay eBay a 2.8 percent + $.30 processing fee. There are no fees for a successful listing of a car or truck, but eBay charges $30 for a successful motorcycle, boat, RV, or powersports equipment auction up to $5,000, and $60 for sales over $5,000.

Hemmings Auctions

Hemmings Auctions home page - best online car auctions

Hemmings was founded in Illinois but moved to Vermont in the 1960s, where it resides today. The site features news, reviews, and other articles, in addition to a thriving auction site. Beyond auctions, users can also shop classifieds where vehicles are sold for a set price.

Research

Hemmings’ research and information are both wrapped into paragraphs, similar to the structure used by Bring a Trailer. The site provides in-depth information from the seller, including any damage, modifications, and a thorough report on the car’s current condition.

Interface and User Experience

Hemmings web page

The Hemmings interface is simple and easy to understand. However, bidders must sort through paragraphs to find the information they need, which could be more easily displayed in a table or bulleted list. However, the site does an excellent job at communicating the most pertinent information at the top of each auction page, including how many bids have been placed and who currently holds the highest bid.

Bidding Process and Fees

Registering to bid on Hemmings is free, and so is placing bids. Like other auction houses, the site requires a credit card to bid and places a hold on the card for five percent of the bid amount. Hemmings immediately releases the hold for bidders who did not win the auction.

Any bids placed within the last five minutes of an auction extend the auction time by two minutes to help prevent sniping. Though there is no charge to bid, Hemmings charges a buyer’s fee to the winner of an auction. Fees start at $500 and top out at $10,000.

PCar Market

PCar Marketplace home page

The PCar Market name makes it seem like the site is focused completely on Porsches, but there’s more going on than a one-brand love-fest. PCar Market currently has a BMW E39 M3, a rare Ducati motorcycle, and a couple of Mercedes up for auction alongside several cool and rare Porsche models.

Research

PCar Market takes a similar approach to Bring a Trailer and others, with long written backgrounds on each car. The site offers extensive backstories, but it takes a bit of reading to find the desired information. The site’s photography tends to be among the best and clearest of any auction site, so there’s a better chance of spotting important details in the images of the vehicles.

Interface and User Experience

The PCar Market site is straightforward and simple to use. When reviewing a vehicle before bidding, the site makes pertinent information such as the VIN, mileage, and title situation easy to spot in a separate table. The challenge here, as with other sites that use long-form vehicle descriptions, is that each auction page feels miles long. The extended stories for each vehicle make it confusing, at times, to sort through or easily find information.

Bidding Process and Fees

Registering with PCar Market takes about 30 seconds and is a simple process. Once registered, users can place bids on an auction. Bidding is free but binding, and the site states that it will not cancel or refund a bid placed by mistake. The site’s recommendations note that pre-purchase inspections need to take place prior to bids being placed to prevent buyer’s remorse.

The winning bidder must pay 5% of their winning bid amount to PCar Market. The minimum fee is $500 and charges top out at $5,000.

PCar Marketplace also sells collectibles, parts, etc…, which all have a 10% buyer fee, with no minimum or maximum.

Collecting Cars

Collecting Cars home page

Collecting Cars is a UK-based auction site that features vehicles from countries around the world, including the United States. The site also owns a popular podcast with the same name hosted by Chris Harris.

Research

Collecting Cars makes understanding huge chunks of information about a vehicle extremely easy. The site’s bullet point organization style means that the listings can be thorough while retaining a decent level of clarity about a car. Equipment is also listed in bullet points, and the style makes it easy to read a car’s history chronologically.

The site’s auction results page is extensive and offers the ability to sort and filter by several different attributes. There is no price research or historical data, but Collecting Cars’ filtering system is one of the more advanced in the space.

Interface and User Experience

collecting cars web page

Collecting Cars’ photography is solid, but the site doesn’t jam images and sidebar clutter onto every auction page. There’s no “SUGGESTED CARS FOR YOU” section to take your attention away from the auction, and the extensive vehicle research section is free of distraction. Below the detailed information, the site offers a Carfax report, if available, and below that you’ll find the image gallery.

Bidding Process and Fees

Registering with Collecting Cars is a quick and easy process, and bids are free to make once registered. The site charges a winning bidder fee that varies depending on where the buyer lives. Outside the UK, winning bidders are required to pay a 5% fee with a $500 minimum and a $5,000 maximum.

 





Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best online car auction sites to buy and sell a car?

Choose the auction site that best suits your personality and type of vehicle you’re shopping for or planning on selling.

For example: If you are selling an obscure French car from the 1980s, eBay Motors might not be your best bet because of its massive reach and impersonal style.

You’ll have an easier time obtaining information from an engaged seller on the right forum and will have a better experience if you choose your venue wisely.

Is it safe to buy a car in an online auction?

Yes, but buying a car on the Internet comes with a few extra steps to protect yourself. The first is that you should buy the seller as much as you’re buying the car. Do they understand what they are auctioning? Are there detailed records of the car’s history?

You’ll also want to have the car inspected before bidding, if possible. Finding a shop and having the car checked over in the short window of time that the auction is active may be difficult, but it’s a step you should take no matter where you buy a used car.

Finally, make sure that your finances are in order and that you and the seller understand how and when you will make payment.

How do I get my auction car?

You have a few choices when it comes to taking delivery of your new ride. If you aren’t too far away or if you’re up for a road trip, picking the car up and driving it home is one of the most straightforward ways to get the vehicle where it needs to be. You may also have a loving friend willing to make the trip for you.

If you cannot pick the car up or have someone do so in your place, you can have the vehicle shipped. There are several companies that communicate with networks of truck drivers and operators to move vehicles around the country. Check online reviews and shop around to find the best prices.

Can I buy salvaged cars in an auction?

You can, but you likely won’t find salvage cars on the auction sites we have listed here. Companies such as Copart, ACV Auctions, and others offer a variety of vehicle types, including both repairable and scrap cars.

Buyer beware: You’d better be knowledgeable enough to understand what you’re buying when you step into a salvage auction, as you won’t get a refund if you don’t get what you thought you were buying.





Chris Teague
About Chris Teague

After working in the technology and software industry for several years, I began writing as a way to help people outside of that world understand the sometimes very technical work that goes on behind the scenes. With a lifelong love of all things automotive, I turned my attention to writing new vehicle reviews, detailing industry trends, and breaking news. Along the way, I earned an MBA with a focus on data analysis that has helped me gain a strong understanding of why the auto industry’s biggest companies make the decisions they do.