Bring a Trailer vs PrivateAuto for Private-Party Car Sales

Bring a Trailer is a popular online auction website. PrivateAuto is a transactional marketplace that facilitates auction and standard private sales.
Let’s compare how the two sites stack up across different value propositions.

What Is Bring a Trailer?

Bring a Trailer is a vehicle auction website, similar to RM Sotheby’s, Avantgarde Collection, and Mecum Auction. It specializes in the sale of classic cars, collector cars, hot rods, and custom vehicles (such as Factory Five cars). A Bring a Trailer auction typically lasts for 7 days.
Image highlighting Buying/Selling Car Privately by PrivateAuto

What Is PrivateAuto?

PrivateAuto is an end-to-end platform for individuals to buy and sell vehicles of all types. The PrivateAuto app includes vehicle listings, a self-serve auction component, an integrated payment gateway, integrated third-party services, in-app messaging, a scheduling feature for arranging test drives, and e-signing of documentation.

Bring a Trailer Pros and Cons

Bring a Trailer has an intuitive website that’s simple enough to navigate. Their seller fees are fairly reasonable, while their buyer fees are on the higher end.

Bring a Trailer’s biggest issue is their lack of transactional infrastructure. Until recently, buyers and sellers were left to navigate all the logistics of the deal, including payments, on their own. In March 2024, Bring a Trailer announced their Verified Checkout feature.

Verified Checkout facilitates payment, title transfer, and more, and is included in Bring a Trailer’s standard buyer’s fee of 5% of the vehicle’s purchase price.

Bring a Trailer Pros

Wide selection of vehicles, including classic cars
Trusted brand (even if there are some horror stories—see below)
Vehicle advertising available
Vehicle history report available
Reasonable seller fees
Integrated vehicle financing option
Integrated car shipping option
White glove service to provide support, including auction specialists on staff
Payment processing feature
Integrated vehicle photography service

Bring a Trailer Cons

High cost to buyers
No integrated banking gateway
No integrated insurance option
No integrated warranty option
Auction is the only sale format available

PrivateAuto Pros and Cons

PrivateAuto is a vehicle marketplace combined with an integrated banking and payment gateway and a full array of other transactional features to get the deal done. It is fully tech-enabled, meaning that it doesn’t offer human assistance for transactions, but instead relies on well-crafted technology solutions at an affordable pricepoint.

PrivateAuto Pros

Tech-enabled transactionality for every stage of the deal
Seller can choose auction or standard listing
Self-serve, intuitive auction process
Low seller fees
No buyer fee
Start a deal on another platform, finish it on PrivateAuto with our DealNow bridge product
Vehicle advertising available
Vehicle history reports available
In-app messaging and test drive scheduling
Intuitive mobile app and website
Buyer and seller verification
Integrated car shipping
Integrated banking system enables instantaneous payments of any amount, 24/7/365
Instant payments provide escrow-like safeguards so you can drive the deal
In-app car insurance provider integration

PrivateAuto Cons

PrivateAuto doesn’t have a lot of downsides. We designed it that way after looking at the pain points associated with other platforms. If you find any flaws, let us know!

PrivateAuto vs Bring a Trailer: Pricing

Both PrivateAuto and Bring a Trailer have seller fees, which sellers pay when creating a vehicle listing. However, PrivateAuto doesn’t take a cut from the buyers, while Bring a Trailer charges a buyer transaction fee.

PrivateAuto Fees

PrivateAuto fees are among the lowest in the online car selling market. The seller pays a $150 listing fee with no additional costs thereafter. The buyer is responsible for paying for the vehicle only and has no transaction-related costs.

Bring a Trailer Fees

Bring a Trailer has fees for both buyer and seller. The seller pays a listing fee of $99. In addition to paying for the actual vehicle, the buyer has to pay a 5% transaction fee to Bring a Trailer, with a $250 minimum and $7,500 maximum.

PrivateAuto vs Bring a Trailer: Advertising

PrivateAuto and Bring a Trailer both offer vehicle advertising, with a detailed car history report on their websites. PrivateAuto offers an array of useful features Bring a Trailer lacks. For instance, PrivateAuto offers a window brochure with QR codes and an easy-to-use live chat so buyers and sellers can communicate in real time without ever exchanging contact information.

PrivateAuto also enables sellers and buyers to start a deal on another platform—whether Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay Motors, or Autotrader—and finish it on PrivateAuto with our transactional infrastructure. Our DealNow fast-track workflow bypasses the listing and negotiation steps and gets the deal done safely, quickly, and conveniently.

PrivateAuto vs Bring a Trailer: Transaction Features

Bring a Trailer’s Verified Checkout brings transactional functionality to what was previously a very non-transactional platform. Functionality includes payment processing, help with paperwork, and other conveniences. The platform has also integrated add-on services, such as vehicle photography, car transport, and financing.

PrivateAuto is a fully transactional marketplace, with technological solutions for every stage of the deal. Buyers and sellers can schedule test drives, do a step-by-step walkthrough of the entire transaction process, sign the bill of sale, and transfer funds–all through the PrivateAuto app. Because payments are instantaneous, a PrivateAuto deal can be done very quickly.

PrivateAuto vs Bring a Trailer: Payments

Bring a Trailer’s new Verified Checkout includes payment processing. Essentially, the platform acts as an escrow service to receive payment from the buyer and deliver it to the seller after the transaction is done. The entire process takes days.

PrivateAuto allows for instantaneous payments of any amount, 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. Its integrated banking system, PrivateAuto Pay, functions as an internal bank transfer when funds move from the buyer to the seller. PrivateAuto also allows buyers to pay with a card (credit or debit), crypto, or cash. Buyers can also split the vehicle payment across multiple channels, and even apply for financing within the PrivateAuto app.

The instantaneous nature of PrivateAuto Pay allows real-time deals and even remote transactions.

PrivateAuto vs Bring a Trailer: User Experience

PrivateAuto and Bring a Trailer both have websites. PrivateAuto has a mobile application, while Bring a Trailer does not.

PrivateAuto Website

PrivateAuto has an intuitive website. It’s easy to shop used cars for sale and filter by make, model, geographical proximity, and other criteria. Sellers can quickly list a vehicle for sale and choose from standard listing or auction format, with a step-by-step guide helping them through the process.

Bring a Trailer Website

The Bring a Trailer website is easy to use, for the most part. The process of listing your vehicle is quite simple. For the potential buyer, Bring a Trailer’s search and browsing features could be improved upon; finding particular vehicles can be time-consuming. Users can add vehicles to a watchlist, which can be helpful.

PrivateAuto App

PrivateAuto offers an app that’s available on both iOS and Android. You can list your car for sale, look through available vehicles, contact sellers, e-sign the bill of sale, and pay for your vehicle, all from your phone.

Bring a Trailer App

Bring a Trailer does not have an app, so all aspects of the vehicle buying and selling process are done through their website.

Choosing the Best Online Car Selling Platform

The verdict on Bring a Trailer vs PrivateAuto?

PrivateAuto if you want fast, easy transactions with low costs.

Bring a Trailer if you want white glove service and don’t mind a drawn-out transaction and higher costs.
Image highlighting Buying Car Privately by PrivateAuto

Bring a Trailer Horror Stories

Bring a Trailer has its share of dissatisfied customers, with online complaints falling into the following seven categories:

1. Reserve prices and auction handling: some sellers have expressed frustration with BaT's approach to setting reserve prices, feeling pressured to lower them against their wishes. In extreme cases, disagreements over reserve prices have led sellers to abandon BaT altogether and opt for private sales.
2. Moderation and comments: BaT's moderation of comments has come under fire, with sellers claiming that negative or misleading comments have unfairly impacted their auctions. Some have also reported instances where BaT failed to post sellers' comments after auctions ended, denying them the opportunity to address concerns or clarify misconceptions.
3. Shill bidding and market manipulation: allegations of shill bidding and market manipulation have surfaced, with stories of sellers or their associates bidding on their own auctions to artificially inflate prices. Such practices raise serious concerns about the integrity and fairness of the platform.
4. Customer service and communication: users have reported unsatisfactory experiences with BaT's customer service, citing issues such as lost emails, delayed responses, and inconsistent guidance on the auction process. Some sellers have described the process as inefficient and prolonged, with conflicting information from different BaT representatives.
5. Vehicle presentation and auction timing: Complaints have arisen regarding the selection of photos used in listings and the timing of auctions. In one case, a seller expressed disappointment that BaT chose what they considered to be the worst photos provided and scheduled the auction over a holiday weekend without prior notice.
6. Technical issues: some users have encountered technical problems that disrupted the auction process, such as discrepancies in auction timing displayed on bidders' screens. These issues can lead to confusion and disputes over the legitimacy of the auction results.
7. Transparency and business practices: as BaT has grown and evolved, particularly since its acquisition by Hearst Communications in 2020, some users have expressed concerns that the platform has strayed from its enthusiast roots and become more commercially oriented. This shift has raised questions about transparency and the platform's overall business practices.

These complaints represent a subset of experiences on Bring a Trailer. Many transactions on the platform are successful and satisfactory for all parties involved.

Bring a Trailer vs PrivateAuto FAQ

How much does Bring a Trailer cost?

As a seller, a Bring a Trailer listing will cost you anywhere from $99 to $349, depending on how long you want the listing to be up for. Buyers also have to pay a hefty fee: 5% of the price, up to $7,500.

Is Bring a Trailer worth it?

How much does PrivateAuto cost?

How secure is the PrivateAuto Pay feature?

Can you cancel a bid on Bring a Trailer?

Can you pay with a credit card on Bring a Trailer?

How does PrivateAuto vet buyers and sellers?

How does the PrivateAuto loan process work?

Are there reserves on Bring a Trailer?

What is the best website for buying and selling cars privately?

Is it better to buy a used car from a private seller or a dealer?

Will PrivateAuto sell my personal information?

How long does a BaT auction last?