Bring a Trailer Launches App for $1.3 Billion Car Resale Business

The free app makes it easier to buy that classic car you’ve always wanted.

(Bloomberg) — Bring a Trailer, the popular online car auction platform, has released its first app.

“The majority of our users use BAT on a mobile device,” says co-founder Randy Nonnenberg, “and we are trending even more towards mobile, so that has been a signal for us for a long time.” 

He compared navigating the company’s current web page to drinking from a fire hose. “There’s a marketplace full of so much inventory now, and people’s needs differ. There’s going to be a lot more personalization.”

The free app will enable BAT’s user base to identify cars of interest and follow the auctions more easily. It will include new features that help organize ongoing sales and categorize searches for specific models, plus additional functions oriented toward touchscreen tapping and swiping, rather than the extensive vertical scrolling required on the website.

Read More: How to Buy a Cool Car Online

A test by a Bloomberg reporter on an early version of the app revealed options to pick and follow favorites, monitor auctions with push notifications, plus sort by “recently viewed” and “because you like” categories. The public app store release will initially be downloadable only in the US and Canada, with plans to open to other countries later. 

Nonnenberg started BAT in 2007 so that he and his friends could buy and sell vintage vehicles. Today the San Francisco-based company counts more than 1 million active users and 400,000 registered bidders. It finished 2022 with more than $1.35 billion in sales, up 63% from 2021. It ended the month of August with a 76% sale rate across 3,559 vehicles listed. 

Read More: Randy Nonnenberg, the Internet’s Coolest Car Guy 

“The app is something that, frankly, we weren’t really interested in doing when we were independent and young and scrappy,” Nonnenberg says. “Now that we’re established, it’s time to invest in meaningful ways.” Hearst Autos acquired BAT for an undisclosed amount in 2020.

Even without the app, BAT’s engagement cuts across a large swath of car enthusiasts, not just the ones bidding in any given auction. This element is what makes it so addictive: Anyone can watch as a clock ticks down on anything from a $1.9 million Porsche to old Ford trucks; meanwhile, bids are placed, and lively conversations take place in the comments section for all to see. The chatter often adds insightful information about the car. Even the peanut gallery remarks are diverting, if somewhat less astute. 

The other draw is BAT’s terms, which beat the commissions required by brick-and-mortar auction houses. Buyers pay a 5% service fee—half the standard sum at traditional auction houses—which is capped at $5,000. Sellers pay a one-time $99 listing fee. The format has been so successful that established auctioneers such as Bonhams, Gooding & Co. and RM Sotheby’s developed their own versions of real-time web sales to compete. 

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