She Sold Her Mother-in-Law’s Cherished Audi TT on Bring A Trailer Online Auto Auction

I Sold My Car On Bring A Trailer Featured Image

And ended up with 3x what the local dealer offered her.

My friend and former neighbor Jody messaged me not long ago with a question: What’s the best way to sell her mother-in-law’s 2005 Audi TT? 

Her mother-in-law bought this car as a last blast of freedom, looking for a sporty, fun-to-drive car before the inevitable downsizing of her life. She tooled around town in her eyelash-clad Audi and garaged it in bad weather. Despite owning it for 17 years in the Northeast, it was in great condition and had driven only 21,000 miles in its lifetime. Jody’s mother-in-law loved the car so much she cried when she had to get rid of it. 

So, Jody wanted to be sure she was doing the right thing in selling it. She took it to her trusted local BMW dealer who offered her $5,000. That seemed low for a fancy sports car in near perfect condition. Even CarMax’s offer of $7,000 seemed low. And, it didn’t seem the right thing to do to find the Audi’s next owner. 

But there are options, including two digital auction sites that make selling a car easy and, hopefully, fruitful.

Related: Dear A Girls Guide to Cars: I Need to Sell A Car, My MIL’s Classic Audi TT

The Underside Of The Car Is Important To Vintage And Enthisiast Buyers, So Be Sure To Have Good Photos Of All The Hidden Areas

The underside of the car is important to vintage and enthisiast buyers, so be sure to have good photos of all the hidden areas. Photo: Bring a Trailer

Bring a Trailer and Cars & Bids: Digital Disruptors in the Auto Auction World

For a car that is collectible or of some note—an unusually outfitted model, one that is hard to find or culturally significant—auto auctions can be a great way to buy or sell a car. While most auctions are in-person affairs attended mostly by seasoned buyers and sellers, two auctions have become popular online and frankly, have changed the game. Now, anyone can buy or sell a used car of significance. 

I recommended two of the best to her: Bring a Trailer and Cars & Bids, both of which focus on cars that are as drivable as they are interesting and hard to find. 

Cars & Bids, founded by automotive journalist and enthusiast Doug DeMuro, tends more toward newer enthusiast cars — you’ll find that rare early 1990’s Toyota Land Cruiser or newish Porsche — lots of Porsches. Bring a Trailer focuses more on classics and collectibles; this is where you’ll find race cars from the 1950’s, eye-popping Ferraris and also, lots of Porsches. 

Bring a Trailer is a larger, more corporate auction site; started by Randy Nonnenberg and Gentry Underwood in 2010, the company was bought by media giant Hearst, publisher of Car and Driver, and also Road & Track in 2020. BaT was the first major online auto auction to democratize the auction process with access, information and transparency.

Related: Meet the Hot and Spicy Audi TT RS Quattro

The Engine Compartment Of The Audi Tt Was Detailed Before The Car Was Presented For Auction

The engine compartment of the Audi TT was detailed before the car was presented for auction. Photo: Bring a Trailer

How BaT and C&B Work

Both have a similar process: owners can list their cars for sale, set a reserve price (if the site allows, which depends on the model and market) and read over the site’s advice to sellers for the best outcomes. The auction listing starts the countdown to the sale, about a week later. Prospective buyers can ask questions in the auction thread, look at photos and arrange for an inspection if they would like. Sometimes, there are bargains to be had. Other times, not. It’s really a matter of the appetite the seller is able to cultivate for their car and the marketplace at the time. 

C&B allows owners to sell for free and collects a fee from the buyer (4% of the selling price). Bring a Trailer charges a nominal listing fee of $99, or for $349 for the listing and a professional set of photos (C&B offers photo services, too). Both recommend additional services, including detailing, shipping and more.

Related: Sell Your Car Yourself? Yes! 11 Easy Tips For a Great Sale

Deciding on BaT over C&B for Her Auction 

“I decided to make this a hobby,” Jody said; she wanted her sale to be as successful as possible. She looked into both C&B and BaT and both sites were interested in her Audi. But neither would let her set a reserve price—if bids don’t reach this minimum a winner will not be declared, though the top bidder will be connected with the seller in case the seller decides they want to move forward. 

Then, she looked at each site’s history with cars like the Audi TT, the types of comments people left on auctions and the guidance that they both offered. “They were both very helpful,” she said, offering a lot of advice on setting up her auction. However, she felt like BaT was the better fit. “C&B seemed very casual, BaT seemed more extensive” in advice and process. 

The Process For a Successful Auction

Once she decided on BaT and felt comfortable with the risk of not having a reserve price set, she dug in. Corresponding with a representative at BaT, she was asked if she wanted a professional photographer. “We decided to go all in on the gamble with the photographer, which was $250, and detailing for $1,200” to make the car look pristine in every photo. 

Advice she wish she’d heard more loudly was to take the car to a mechanic for a checkup and oil change—it ran fine so she didn’t think to do this—and to equip it with new tires. Both these details came up in questions on her auction but she was transparent: No it hadn’t had an oil change lately and yes, it needed new tires. 

Jody felt the photos and the detail were well worth the expense. The detailer “worked with classic cars and showed us the cars he worked on,” she said. “He knew about auctions and showed me things I never would have noticed, like dirt in crevices, the tailpipe, and of course the engine. He fully detailed it so every nook and cranny is immaculate.”

Related: 9 Red Flags to Watch for When Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller

Professional Photos Answer the Questions Potential Bidders Have

In looking at other auctions, it was clear that potential bidders look closely at the photos for things like rust, damage and more. A good set of photos was a must, and the photographer couldn’t have been more convenient. BaT allows sellers to opt for this service when setting up the auction. “Once I paid, I clicked to pick an appointment time and got a confirmation text from the photographer. He came to my house and took the car for an hour and a half. He “knew to photograph the under carriage and tailpipe, he reminded me to give him 2 keys to photograph, then he submitted all the photos to BaT so I didn’t have to do anything,” Jody said. 

Once she reviewed the photos and the listing details assembled on the BaT site, the listing was ready to go live.

“In general it was easy to answer questions,” Jody said. “It didn’t feel like I needed to research the answers,” but rather just be as transparent as possible. The questions left her feeling a bit intimidated  because it was clear there were enthusiasts participating in the auction. “And of course, there were rude comments.”

To battle that, she “wanted to be so careful, as honest as possible,” she said. “I didn’t want to appear like I was scamming anyone,” Jody said. 

The auction went live and quickly the bid went to $7,000. Jody felt in the clear; if bids didn’t go higher she was at least ahead of the BMW dealer’s offer and what she’d spent on the listing.

The 2005 Audi Tt That Was The Pride Of Jody'S Mother-In-Law

The 2005 Audi TT that was the pride of Jody’s mother-in-law. Photo: Bring a Trailer

Auction Day Nerves: Would the Hard Work Pay Off?

“I didn’t know how it would go,” Jody said. “I’ve done eBay,” but this was different. Soon the leading bid came in at $11,500. “I had to think that was the worse case scenario and we were totally satisfied. Still, we were worried that the comments would keep the bids down. 

Then, bids ticked up to $13,000 with 20 minutes left to go. “I became like a cheerleader a football game!” And then, another bid came in: $16,500! 

Jody texted her husband thinking ‘he’s not going to believe this!’ She took a screen shot and sent it to him.

And then the winning bit appeared on her screen: $17,500. 

Jody was stunned. And thrilled. 

The first thing she did was email the winner. “I just wanted to say congratulations to the buyer,” she said. BaT provided an email with the next steps to complete the sale. 

A Rear View Of The 2005 Audi Tt

A rear view of the 2005 Audi TT. Photo: Bring a Trailer

The Perfect Buyer for Her MIL’s Audi TT

And, it turns out the buyer of her mother-in-law’s Audi was the absolute perfect next owner. He bought it for a friend, a resident of a town just up the road, who wanted to give it to his wife for Christmas. This gentleman did the bidding for his friend and was just as thrilled as Jody was to have the winning bid.

The process of selling her mother-in-law’s car had intimated her at first, but ultimately Jody felt really good about it: She made $12,500 more than the dealer quoted her, ended with a profit of $10,951 and found the right buyer for a treasured, much loved Audi TT.

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss