BaT Blunder: Bring a Trailer Caused Overbidding On A Porsche

by | Apr 2023 | Auction Observations, Classifinds, Did You Know?, Free For All Friday

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Ahhh, the “The Bring a Trailer Effect.” Visit your local Cars & Coffee or car club meeting these days, and chances are you’ll hear a fellow enthusiast say, “Hey did you see that <insert your favorite classic car here> on Bring a Trailer?” Many people talk about the great prices achieved on Bring a Trailer (“BaT”). However, few ever mention the problems with Bring a Trailer.  The first is how the prices achieved on that site are rarely repeated. The second is their lack of customer service.

Our latest Bring A Trailer horror story is this 82K-mile Diamond Blue 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo for sale on Craigslist in April 2023 in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), where the seller casually mentions they purchased the car in September 2021 on Bring A Trailer.  Sure enough, a quick check confirmed this car changed hands on September 3, 2021, as Lot Number 54429 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo Bring a Trailer Auction with a winning high bid of $31,500. Oddly, the current listing documents the car as a Diamond Blue Metallic example, while the Bring a Trailer listing showed it as featuring Silver Rose paint; more on that later.

Knowing BaT charges each winning bidder five percent, the seller paid $1,575 to that site plus the $31,500 to the seller for a total of $33,075. We’re assuming, for now, the buyer did not pay for shipping. Read their latest description, between the “extensive service” completed and a second set of wheels and tires added, we’re estimating the seller spent an additional eight thousand dollars but only added one thousand miles during their eighteen months of ownership.  Consequently, with an estimated $41,075 invested, the seller is now asking $29,000 for the car, or an estimated loss of just over twelve thousand dollars.

Here are our estimated costs during the seller’s eight months of ownership:

BaT Blunder: Bring a Trailer Caused Overbidding On A Porsche

We contacted the seller, who verbally confirmed he has “around $40,000” invested in the car.  When we asked whether they tried to relist their 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo for sale on Bring A Trailer, the seller’s response was, “We’re mad at BaT and won’t use them again as they misrepresented the car my wife got caught in a bidding war with.”  Not expecting to hear the seller had a miserable experience with Bring a Trailer, we questioned him more about it.  If you click the link for the original Bring a Trailer auction, you’ll note the description listing the car’s factory color as Silver Rose Metallic. Inspect the listing and its pictures, and you’ll note the seller never provided a photograph of the 944 Turbo’s trim label.  The current seller provides a shot of that label (a critical data source in any modern Porsche), confirming the 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo they bought came from the factory (and now features a repaint in it) in Diamond Blue metallic.

Luckily, the Porsche Club of America’s Rennbow Color Wiki Database is a great resource for comparing every color ever offered on Porsche vehicles as well as the years and models that used them. We used it to get this comparison of the two colors:

BaT Blunder: Bring a Trailer Caused Overbidding On A Porsche

Source: Porsche Club of America Rennbow Wiki

Dig into the history, and you learn that Porsche only offered Silver Rose on 1988 944 Turbo S models, giving it a “Four Bucket” rarity rating on the Rennbow database’s Five Bucket scale. Interestingly, Diamond Blue Metallic was a slightly more common color (it gets a “Three Bucket” rating) that can display “a strong hint of purple or lilac,” depending on the light.  If you know these two Porsche colors, looking at the pictures submitted for the BaT auction in September 2021, one could be misled into believing the car is painted Silver Rose, one of the rarest Porsche colors.

Bring a Trailer prides itself on its large community of knowledgeable enthusiasts who pick apart each lot offered on the website. Where were they in this instance?  Sift through the countless comments not meaningful to assessing the car’s condition, and you do find several people commented about the car’s color. In addition to Nordschleife asking for a picture of the Porsche Option sticker, not shown is a comment from Zombo, who said, “The car’s color seems off in the pictures.” Trailer_Less even called out the fact Silver Rose was only offered in 1988:

BaT Blunder: Bring a Trailer Caused Overbidding On A Porsche

The seller’s response was this lone statement with no copy of the Porsche option sticker ever posted.

BaT Blunder: Bring a Trailer Caused Overbidding On A PorscheSadly, none of BaT’s community of “experts” ever pressed much more beyond those comments, and the bidding continued under the assumption this high quality 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo featured a rare color. Bidding on the car appears to have been scheduled to end around 2:30 PM Eastern time on September 3, 2021.  However, Bring a Trailer’s auction system employs an end-of-auction “anti-sniping” function where any bids received in the last two minutes extend the auction clock for another two minutes.  With no way to enter bids other than one at a time, bidding extended for nearly thirty more minutes, rising from $20,944 at just before the scheduled end of the auction to the winning bid of $31,500. Unfortunately, the winning couple’s joy was soured when they took delivery of the car and learned what they had bought was, in fact, a Diamond Blue 944 Turbo.

Even more disappointing to learn is that when the current owner complained to Bring a Trailer for some sort of resolution for the misrepresentation, BaT said there was nothing they could do.  The right thing for Bring a Trailer to do in that situation would be to refund the buyer their $1,575 bid premium. Sadly, Bring a Trailer didn’t even offer that as an option.  This is yet another example of Bring a Trailer hiding behind “Caveat Emptor” (Latin for “Let The Buyer Beware“).  So, in addition to not offering a phone number to deal directly with their Customer Service team, BaT proves they do not take responsibility for not properly vetting a vehicle before being posted on their website for auction.

Unfortunately, Bring a Trailer management, led by Randy Nonnenberg, doesn’t seem to care about customer satisfaction. Perform a search for reviews of the Bring a Trailer website, and you’ll find many more negative experiences than positive ones. For example, the Better Business Bureau® Summary For BaT confirms many Bring a Trailer complaints. If a potential buyer searches to confirm whether Bring a Trailer is legit will not be impressed with the majority of comments they find.

This is not a knock on the car offered for sale.  This 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo, now offered for sale on Craigslist, is a nicely maintained example in a more unique color than the typical Black, Guards Red, or Silver examples we typically come across. We’re also not knocking the private seller who listed the car on BaT. Based on his comments throughout the auction, it appears he was misinformed about the car’s color name. Unacceptable is that Bring a Trailer’s team did not vet this simple fact before starting the car’s auction, and the seller not posting the trim label when asked to do so.  Both BaT and its extensive community let the bidders down two ways. First is the fact that BaT’s curation team did not vet the car properly. Second is the community that did not press harder to get a resolution on the color.  Ultimately, this proves you cannot rely on a community of random people commenting on a car.  If you want to avoid a miserable experience on Bring a Trailer or other online auction sites, do your homework on any car before you bid.

Last offered for $27,500, Classic.com, the analytics and search engine for the collector car market, confirms the ask is nearly ten thousand dollars above the one-year rolling average of this guide’s summary for 1987 Porsche 944 Turbos sold at auction in the past twelve months.  By clicking on the green dots in the graph below, you can navigate to each comparable car sold as a way to help you evaluate the price of the truck featured here:

As a second data point, the  Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the seller’s ask falls between this guide’s #2 “Very Good” estimate of $16,500 and its #1 “Excellent” appraisal of $23,500.

Porsche offered its 944 sports car from 1982 through 1991 in both two-door hatchback and cabriolet versions. The 944 featured a front-mounted, water-cooled, and counter-balanced inline four-cylinder engine mated to a rear transaxle.  The combination features a 50/50 weight balance, making the 944 an excellent and predictably handling car. Prior to the 1997 launch of the Boxster, the Porsche 944 was the most successful model, with over 163,000 cars produced.  From 1982 through 1985, Porsche 944s were only available with a naturally aspirated 2.5 Liter inline four-cylinder engine.

For the 1986 model year, Porsche launched the 944 Turbo.  Featuring a turbocharged and intercooled version of the 2.5 Liter inline-four, US-bound versions produced 217 horsepower and 6,000 RPM.  The 944 Turbo was the first vehicle to produce an identical power output with or without a catalytic converter. The Turbo also featured several other changes, such as improved aerodynamics, a strengthened gearbox with a different final drive ratio, standard external oil coolers for both the engine and transmission, standard 16-inch wheels, and a slightly stiffer suspension equipped with progressive springs to handle the extra weight. To improve braking, Porsche engineers adapted the 911’s four-piston Brembo calipers and twelve-inch rotors for use on the 944 Turbo. To compensate for the 2.5 Liter turbo’s added heat output, Porsche engineers made over thirty engine compartment component upgrades.

In 1987, the North American version of the Porsche 944 Turbo became the first production car in the world to be equipped with driver and passenger-side airbags as standard equipment. A low oil level light was added to the dash as well as a 180 mph speedometer.   Engineers deleted the transmission oil cooler and changed the suspension control arms slightly to reduce the car’s scrub radius. Anti-lock brakes (“ABS”) became standard across all Porsche 944 models.

The great guys (we met them at the 2022 RADWood Philly show) who run the Everyday Driver YouTube Channel feature this modern-day perspective of what it’s like to drive a Porsche 944 Turbo:

With up-to-date maintenance and what appears to be ready-for-spring detailing complete, this 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo for sale represents a huge loss for the seller after only adding one thousand miles to the car.  Their loss is your gain at the current ask of $29,000.

If you are serious about buying this 944 Turbo, you can start the conversation by contacting the private seller using the information they provided in their Craigslist ad.  When you connect, please remember to mention you saw their Porsche featured here on GuysWithRides.com. Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“​1987 944 Turbo in Diamond Blue Metallic with a beige full-leather interior. Beautiful lines, 50/50 weight distribution, and a visceral driving experience make this one of Porsche’s most iconic production cars. It is perfect for a long road trip, as an addition to your car collection, or for a day at the track. When the turbo spools up, you’ll be stuck to the seat with a grin from ear to ear! The odometer reads 82,427 miles. The pictures show Forgeline ZX3 wheels and Firestone Indy 500 tires (new 2022). Original phone-dial wheels and Continental tires also come with the car.
The A/C blows cold, and the heat works well. The title is free and clear. I purchased this Turbo in September of 2021 on Bring a Trailer. A full inspection of the vehicle and extensive service was done by Performance Automotive in Malvern, PA. Vacuum lines, fuel lines, and radiator hoses were replaced as needed. Flywheel position sensors were replaced. The car was brought back to like-new condition. Timing, balance shaft belts, and water pump are new (3/28/23). It comes with original manuals and complete service records.” 

Show or go: What would you do with this 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo?  Please comment below and let us know!

2 Comments
  1. BaT Blunder: Bring a Trailer Caused Overbidding On A Porsche

    If the seller is asking $29k, that is almost exactly halfway between a #1 and a #2 condition car, not between a #3 and a #2.

    Reply
    • BaT Blunder: Bring a Trailer Caused Overbidding On A Porsche

      Josh, thank you for pointing out our error. We’ve corrected it as well as provided an update after speaking the seller.

      Reply

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