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Pandemic Was a Boon for Online Auctions, As They Eclipse Live Auctions for the First Time

People increasingly moved online during the isolation triggered by the health crisis, and this goes for everything, from dating to working to shopping. When it comes to cars though, you’d expect people still want to drive one before handing out the cash. This is not the case anymore, even when there are millions of dollars at stake.
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It’s quite interesting to see social animals like humans wanting to have as little interaction as possible with other fellow humans. We increasingly live our lives online and we only connect with friends and family these days. This anthropophobia was exacerbated during the isolation in the past years, so people turned to online services for most of their needs. Even for their newly discovered passion for classic cars, as it seems.

Last year, online auctions surpassed live auctions for the first time when it comes to the number of cars sold. More than 20,000 cars were sold online versus 16,000 cars sold live across North America. Live auctions still accounted for the most expensive sales, but that is about to change, as indicated by the recent record-breaking $1.9 million Porsche Carrera GT sale on Bring a Trailer.

The online auctions service dwarfed every other live auction house in the U.S. in terms of sales, with close to $829 million worth of cars. This is way above the $578 million in total sales Mecum Auctions reported and more than double the $407 million total of RM Sotheby’s. Also, Barrett-Jackson confirmed annual sales of $191 million for 2021, while Gooding & Co. raked in $150 million. Bonhams did not report its 2021 results as of yet.

Bring a Trailer ballooned their business 108% over the $398 million they reported in 2020. This is in line with the overall online car sales, up 107% year over year, according to Hagerty. Bring a Trailer 2021 results indicate a tectonic shift when it comes to the collectible and vintage car market. This comes as people realize the benefits of online shopping are extended to other areas.

Buying a car on Bring a Trailer is just as simple as buying something on eBay. The service’s fee is transparent and, at 5% (capped at $5,000), significantly lower than the double-digit percentages imposed by the traditional auction houses. In the case of high-profile cars, the biggest advantage of online auctions is anonymity for both the seller and the buyer. On the other hand, live auctions are all about the show, and people will still want to attend big sale events because of that.

 
 
 
 
 

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