Modern cars are exciting, but nothing beats the charm and analog fun of wheeling a vintage 4×4 or sports car. Of course, purchasing a classic vehicle isn’t as easy as waltzing into a dealership and signing some paperwork. Even the most reliable old cars and trucks require careful upkeep, and finding one that isn’t a total lemon is tricky. That’s what makes car auction sites such a godsend—they take care of (most of) the detective work for you. Sites like Bring a Trailer have gained a big following in recent years, and aside from a constantly changing array of high-quality listings, they’re also online meeting forums where automotive enthusiasts can swap stories and share knowledge. That makes them a gold mine of information for buyers, whether you have a vehicle in mind or you’re just browsing for fun.
Sure, you can spend your nights scouring Craigslist and sleuthing for hidden gems on used car aggregators, but a new generation of car auction sites (as well as a few established players) make it easier than ever to find the ride you’ve always wanted. Start your search at the sites below, or browse our weekly roundup of car auctions for even more inspiration.
The Best Auction Sites for Finding Your Dream Car or Truck
1. Bring a Trailer
Bring a Trailer, or BaT as it’s known among insiders, sets the standard for car auction platforms. Born out of Randy Nonnenberg’s passion for digging through classified listings to find interesting cars for sale, the site launched in 2007, began hosting its own auctions in 2014, and has been growing steadily ever since.
Each listing comes with a detailed, professionally written description, a wealth of photos, and sometimes a driving video or two. You’ll find a wide range of vehicles on the site, from classic 4x4s to pristine European sports cars to oddities like a WWII-era half-track. The comment section is famously active—be sure to scroll down on each listing to see users chiming in with hyper-specific questions and sharing memories (good and bad) about similar vehicles they’ve owned. It’s always a fun, informative read.
2. Rad for Sale
RADwood, the car show devoted to cars and trucks of the ’80s and ’90s, has kindled a love for modern-classic vehicles, especially among the Millennial and Gen X enthusiasts who grew up with them. In spring 2021, the team behind the car show launched Rad for Sale, an auction platform focused on cars from these two decades.
Here you’ll find unique rad-era rides, like a tricked-out Mk1 Rabbit, and even hard-to-find parts, like a set of wheels for a ’94 Dodge Viper or a lip spoiler for a Porsche 944. If your vehicular tastes lean more toward Miami Vice than Bullitt, this site is definitely worth a look.
3. Cars & Bids
Another site that focuses on modern classics, Cars & Bids launched in 2019 and is the brainchild of automotive writer Doug DeMuro. It lists “pretty much anything that’s cool from the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, or 2020s,” which makes it a treasure trove of interesting and often-overlooked vehicles, like a 1991 Dodge Stealth with four-wheel steering, AWD, and a five-speed manual gearbox. Along with cars no one else in the neighborhood has ever heard of, you’ll find plenty of classics and even newer models as well.
4. Collecting Cars
Launched in 2018 in the U.K., Collecting Cars has grown rapidly and now handles car auctions across the globe. It’s an especially great place to look for classic cars and trucks that were never sold in the States, like this Peugeot 205 GTI hot hatch. Not interested in dealing with importation hassles? Collecting Cars has a dedicated page for U.S.-based listings—just look for the American flag toggle button at the top right.
Another new player in the car auction market, Shiftgate promises to be “all about the hobby, without all the snobby.” While it doesn’t have as many listings as more established sites like Bring a Trailer, there’s plenty of variety. We especially like Shiftgate’s listing format: Every auction features a detailed writeup penned by automotive experts, so you get plenty of context about the history and unique features of each vehicle (not just a list of specs).
The site features vehicles from Canada and the U.S. If bidding isn’t your thing, check out the site’s 2nd Gear section, which features cars for sale and vehicles that didn’t meet their reserve at auction—so you can make an offer to the seller.
Hemmings is the old hand in this group. Founded by Ernest Hemmings in 1954, it started out as a 50-cent magazine for car enthusiasts and has since grown into a series of publications and a website full of news on classic vehicles, information on car clubs, and for-sale listings. It also hosts its own auction platform. There you’ll find a wealth of eye-catching rides from nearly any decade. Hot rods, minibikes, this thing—no matter what you’re looking for, there’s a good chance you’ll find something you like on Hemmings.
7. eBay Motors
Maybe you’ve heard of eBay? Although the site has been around for decades, it’s still an important contender for vehicle auctions. Fair warning: You won’t find in-depth expert analysis on each vehicle. It’s filled with dealer listings for new inventory, and the quality of listings varies. But if you’re open to some digging, it can be a great resource, especially if you’re eyeing a specific make and model. The site’s search tools can help pinpoint exactly what you’re looking for. It’s also a great place to search for parts, too.
Just make sure to always check a seller’s feedback rating, which can help you avoid scams, and steer clear of sellers who have no rating. eBay also offers a Vehicle Protection Program that will cover up to $100,000 if you’re the victim of fraud.
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This story was originally published March 9, 2022 7:15 PM.