The 5 Most Famous Car Auctions in the USA

August 26, 2020

Did you know that more than nine million cars get sold at auction each year? Or that auctions can vary greatly when it comes to the number of employees, size of the auction, acreage, and services offered? Famous car auctions, collector car auctions, normal car auctions — all auctions are different based on the type of cars available and the type of clientele who frequent them.

If you’ve always dreamed of collecting cars or attending famous car auctions, you’re not alone. It’s a fantastic hobby that brings plenty of pleasure and rewards to its participants.

What’s more, some automobile auctions have achieved legendary status in the world. Participating in one of these comes with plenty of competition and gratification.

Keep reading to learn more about the top five biggest car auctions in the US. We’ll also clue you in on how to find the best car auctions online.

1. Classic Cars Auctions USA: RM Sotheby’s

When it comes to auctions for just about anything of value, Sotheby’s likely deals in it. In 2015, they added vehicles to their plate by formally partnering with RM Auctions on collector car auctions.

The result? RM Sotheby’s, which elevates classic and collector car auctions to the next level.

How? By only dealing in blue-chip, investment-quality merchandise.

And this hasn’t been hard for RM Sotheby’s to achieve. After all, they’re more than a place to buy vehicles. RM Sotheby’s acts as the official car auction house for big brands like Aston Martin, Porsche, and Ferrari.

RM Sotheby’s also deals in many other top-end manufacturers, and they contribute to essential automobile events such as Amelia Island.

Would you like to get in on the elegance of RM Sotheby’s collector car auctions USA? Check out one of the following events Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, Luftgekuhlt, Colorado Grand, Formula 1, Concours d’Elegance, or California Mile.

2. Classic Cars Auctions USA: Worldwide Auctioneers

Are you looking for truly unique collectibles? Such as rare prewar vehicles, vintage American muscle, or mint condition European racecars? Then, Worldwide Auctioneers‘ famous car auctions USA are the place for you.

What distinguishes this auction house from the competition? Its owners are also automobile specialists and chief auctioneers.

As a result, you can rest assured the inventory on offer has been thoroughly curated. As an investor, you can also go into the process knowing that your investment is a sound one.

When you start exploring Worldwide Auctioneers, you may be surprised to realize it’s smaller than some of the other auction houses mentioned in this article. And that’s by design.

You see, Worldwide Auctioneers places a premium on quality over volume. They also emphasize customer satisfaction, crafting a relaxed, fun, and personalized experience in the process.

These additional experiences include sophisticated preview receptions, personal inspections, and chances to test drive vehicles up for auction. If you’ve participated in car auctions before, you’ll realize how unique these features are.

3. Classic Cars Auctions USA: Bonhams

Bonhams, like Sotheby’s, is not an exclusive purveyor of vehicles. Nevertheless, the Bonhams Motoring department claims status as the biggest auction house hosting sales of classic cars, related memorabilia, and motorcycles.

Auctions often get held in association with other world-renowned automobile events. This means, their auctions prove exciting and vibrant experiences for car enthusiasts of all kinds.

What do auction participants appreciate most about Bonhams auctions? The company’s reputation for its reach and connoisseurship.

Headquartered in Great Britain, Bonhams has offices in the United States, facilitating its stateside auction events. Bonhams’ car experts can source auction inventory from all over the planet.

When you have trouble locating a specialty make, model, and/or year, Bonhams has you covered.

4. Biggest Car Auctions in USA: Gooding & Company

Gooding & Company stands apart for its dedication to placing only the finest automobiles on the auction block. As a result, expect vibrant events with many record-breaking sale prices.

Attending one of these events proves so worthwhile, you should tune in via the company’s live HD webcast if you can’t make it in person. But you should definitely give it every effort.

A leading auction house, Gooding & Company specializes in classic cars, antique automobiles, and racecars across the decades.

Every year, the company holds three distinguished auction events in the US. They include:

  • Pebble Beach, California
  • Amelia Island, Florida
  • Scottsdale, Arizona

Be prepared to see beautiful vehicles from estate sales, prestigious collections, and other sources placed on sale at each event.

5. Biggest Car Auctions in the USA: Barrett-Jackson

For nearly fifty years, Barrett-Jackson has attracted enthusiasts from all over America with its world-class collector car auctions.

These auctions give participants access to thousands of the most sought-after and stunning cars in history.

The company holds its “World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions” in the following locations:

  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Palm Beach, Florida
  • Scottsdale, Arizona

Check out their website for live stream broadcasts of these events. They’ll give you a feel for how their actions work and what it’s like to participate.

That said, don’t be satisfied with the online experience alone. Barrett-Jackson events encompass far more than merely vehicle auctions. They also offer symposiums, test rides, celebrity appearances, and much more.

Get one of Barrett-Jackson’s unique events on your bucket list now. You won’t regret it!

Find out more about classic car shipping and transportation.

What Is the Highest Auction Price for a Car?

Now that we’ve discussed the five most famous car auctions in the US, let’s talk about the highest price ever fetched at collector car auctions. It occurred at RM Sotheby’s Pebble Beach, California, Concours d’Elegance, in August 2018.

What was the winning vehicle? A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that sold for $48.4 million. The car’s owner, Greg Whitten, marveled at what a smart investment the racecar turned out to be.

Whitten, who’s been an employee with Microsoft since 1979, purchased it 2000 for just one-tenth of its jaw-dropping auction price. The Ferrari sales combined with the other auctions at the event brought in a whopping $368 million!

This revenue represented a 12 percent increase over the previous year and the first significant rise since the market peak in 2014.

What other high-ticket vehicles have wowed at the biggest car auctions in the USA? At Gooding & Company, a 1935 Dusenberg SSJ Roadster sold for $22 million in 2018.

What Are the Best Car Auction Sites?

At this point, you may be jonesing to bid on some vehicles. We’ve gone over the most notable classic cars auctions USA and biggest car auctions in the USA.

Of course, if you’d like to avoid putting on a suffocating face mask or taking a cross country trip to the next event, a variety of sites bring the action to your laptop.

What are some of the most trusted platforms in the automobile auction world? They include:

  • Salvage Bid
  • eBay Motors
  • Auto Auction Mall
  • Purple Wave
  • A Better Bid
  • IAAI
  • Cranky Ape

Each of these sites specializes in different types of vehicle transactions. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Internet Auction Sites

Salvage Bid specializes in fixer-uppers. The site can save you thousands of dollars but expect lots of restoration work along the way.

EBay motors has a trusted history as one of the best online car auction sites. Because of its wild popularity, the website boasts a massive collection of vehicles. If you’re looking for something specific, start here.

Auto Auction Mall lets those without a dealer’s license to bid on dealer-only auctions. Auctions often include cars at wholesale prices, which means thousands of dollars in savings.

Purple Wave offers a vast selection of vehicles, from automobiles to tractors, and they only charge a 10 percent buyer’s premium on a winning bid.

For individuals experienced in car auctions, nothing beats Insurance Auto Auction Incorporated (IAAI). It provides services to both non-licensed (for a $200 annual fee) and licensed buyers.

Dealers and non-dealers alike also swear by Cranky Ape. You’ll pay a $50 first-time user fee and an annual fee of $45, but the site’s services make it well worth it.

Services include “buy now” privileges for some vehicles as well as absentee bidding. You can set this up so that the website bids on your behalf.

Why Would a Car Go to Auction?

Now that you know the ins and outs of the biggest car auction in the USA, let’s talk about why cars get auctioned. Without this piece of the puzzle, you’ll prove ill-prepared to bid on vehicles.

There are a variety of reasons automobiles end up on the auction block. They include:

  • Being at a dealer’s lot for too long
  • Repossession due to insufficient payment from previous owners
  • Trade-ins for new vehicles
  • Damage caused by accidents and weather conditions (e.g., malfunctions, dents, scratches)

In the last case, remember that cars damaged by weather and accidents can only get sold at specialized auctions. Get our complete guide to buying cars at online auctions.

Famous Car Auctions

Whether you choose to hang out at one of the more famous car auctions in the USA or go the online route, you’ve got plenty of car-buying options. What do you do once you’ve bid on and won your dream car?

Unless you’re lucky enough to bid on a car in your immediate area, you’ll need to make auto transport arrangements. These arrangements will vary depending on the type of car that you purchased.

For example, a fixer-upper from Salvage Bid is perfectly fine transported on an open car carrier. Of course, you’ll have to factor in added expenses if the car doesn’t run.

However, if you’ve purchased a high-end collectible at one of the famous car auctions mentioned above, you’ll need to arrange for an enclosed car trailer. No matter your circumstance, get a free, no-obligation car transport quote now.