Auctions aren’t for the faint of heart. When they go right, bidders in an auction can walk away with a new prized possession that they purchased at a fraction of its true value. However, when bidding occurs in a frenzy, prices in an auction can quickly skyrocket to unreasonable levels and the winning bidder can be left paying way too much money for an item. But when the car is a rare collector’s item, sometimes the cost doesn’t matter.
One recent auction involved a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing that had only 32,276 miles on it. The online auction house called BringaTrailer.com sold the vehicle for an amusing final price of $1,234,567 following an auction that lasted 21 days, garnered 17 bids and led to more than 1,100 online comments. It was also a marketing tool for their new “White Glove” online auction service.
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While $1.2 million is a lot to pay for any car, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing had been completely overhauled, with its engine rebuilt to factory specs and new fuel and oil lines added. It also closely resembles the #417 Graphite Gray Gullwing car that John Fitch drove to fifth place overall and first in class at the 1955 Mille Miglia – a sentimental appeal to folks who appreciate the late great American race car driver.
But still, $1.2 million clearly illustrates the irrational exuberance that can drive prices up during an auction. The sale also demonstrates the growing popularity of internet auction houses that cater to high-end car collectors who have deep pockets and are willing to go to extremes to get their hands on a coveted vehicle. Other popular online auction houses that specialize in car sales include eBay Motors, Dashub, and Salvage Bid. The house known as RM Auctions, a division of Sotheby’s, is the world’s largest high-end collector car auction house.
The appeal of online auction houses is related to both fees and service. In the case of BringaTrailer, they used the auction of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing to promote their new White Glove service that provides professional photography of a vehicle, an accompanying video, advertisement copy writing services, and a direct line of communication with Bring A Trailer staff. Auctions held to sell cars through the White Glove service last 21 days instead of the standard seven days and offer a more in-depth look at the cars on offer.
The fees at online auction houses are also typically much lower than at traditional auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Barrett Jackson. BringaTrailer’s buyer fee is currently capped at a maximum of $5,000 compared to the typical fees of 10% for the buyer and 8% for the seller that are charged at traditional auction houses. Even their “Plus” service is a bargain for anyone selling a high-end car, with a flat rate of just $349 that is sure to disrupt the traditional auto auction market. The low fees could be a game changer in the world of car auctions.
BringaTrailer is hoping that its White Glove service and the recent high price at which the 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing car sold will attract other wealthy clients who are looking to offload rare and unique vehicles to collectors. BringaTrailer has been in the auction business for a while now, and specializes in classic and unique cars.
It currently lists a number of rare vehichles for auction, including a 1967 Ford T5 GT Fastback 390 4-Speed (bidding price: $42,250) and a 1982 DMC Delorean with only 5,600 miles on it (bidding price: $29,750). The company hopes to gain new market share for vehicles that sell for six (or even seven) figures.
People looking for rare vehicles should, by all means, checkout BringaTrailer. Just be sure to have a maximum price that you’re willing to pay and stick to it, because even online auctions can get heated fast!