Depends on whom you ask. Kogan wouldn’t mind. He cites two compelling reasons for his BAT splurge: the ease of the transaction, and that buyer’s premiums and fees are significantly less than buying cars at auction.

“Why would I as a seller or a buyer go to an auction house and have the auction house take 10%? That’s $50,000!” he says. “It’s something I have to consider. But when you bid on Bring a Trailer, you’re not factoring in the fee. At that point it’s a rounding error.”

A representative from Gooding & Co. declined to comment for this story. But Nonnenberg himself tends to agree: “I don’t know if we’ll put them out of business. Certainly not in the short term. But maybe later.”

Meyer, decades older and with a different perspective, is more circumspect. He uses BAT auctions and the glamorous real-world auctions of Bonham, Gooding & Co., and RM Sotheby’s in Paris, London, and Carmel, Calif., in very various ways.

“I think [BAT] is completely different,” he says. “The auctions are still entertaining. They give you a really good pulse to where the market is going. This gives people a comfort level so they can buy online. It does not preclude them; it includes them. They work well together.”

No More for the Little Guy?
Longtime BAT users have noticed the growing overlap between online car sales and real-world auction houses. Some say BAT’s increased public profile of late—a result of an apparent marketing push: videos with Jay Leno, a YouTube channel, Instagram stories, and big sales announced via a press release—has ironed flat the site’s formerly interesting life force. Those early users liked the feel of following magical rabbit trails frequented only by a secret society of treasure hunters.

“BAT has kind of destroyed the car market for the common guy,” a user called SilverMK2 wrote on a Reddit forum. “There are too many people with Ferrari money buying up common cars IMO. It used to be you could get lucky and find an odd gem on your local CL that was off the radar. Now either the seller wants 3- or 4x the market price or some reseller halfway across the country scoops it up 30 secs after it posted.”

One Instagram commenter named @missile_coop put it in simpler terms: “I always bid, but never win. Neither thrilling, surprising, nor insightful, but definitely painful.”

Nonnenberg doesn’t dispute the slight shift, noting the “feeding frenzy” he can remember in years past after he’d post an “unbelievable” car priced way under market value. Some of the critique is true, he says. There’s been a slight increase in prices on BAT in recent months. The average sale price for the first six months of 2019 is $29,700, up $1,700 from last year’s cumulative average. Following the rollout of BAT Premium Listings, the average sale price in June hit $32,000, the website’s highest single-month average. 

But that doesn’t devalue the state of the platform today, he adds. Some of that sentiment is nostalgia-driven—people tend to hark back to something that no longer exists. What BAT offers remains of high allure for a rapidly growing audience, himself (still) included. A quick flip through the site reveals cars with real personality and value: a 1977 Lancia Scorpion for $8,500; a 1991 Jeep Grand Wagoneer for $17,750; a 1969 BMW 1600 Coupe for $4,400.