What if the money on BaT is really...real?


One claim we hear an awful lot about these days is the prospect of money laundering on Bring a Trailer, especially in the case of auctions wherein a car or truck sells for far more than expected. Like any entity that becomes the top dog in a given market, it's not long before the lines in the sand are drawn and the knives are sharpened. It's part of the human condition; we must go after the people or things sitting in the position we wish to occupy. 

I am not an expert on how the truly wealthy spend or hide their money. I am confident there's some aspect of money shuffling or money hiding that helps them escape some level of tax burdens the rest of us sack up and pay each year. But a commenter on a recent auction wherein a W124-chassis Mercedes-Benz E320 sold for an eye-watering amount (north of $150,000) made a prolific point I'll not soon forget:

"I’m happy for the result and for all parties involved and viewing. It helps to provide any casual observer that passion is not dead for these cars! Well done by all. A few points to consider… There are several banks paying 5% on CDs today. There are 3300+ billionaires in the world now. 10 times more than in the year 2000. $1,000,000,000 x 5% = $136,986 interest income for ONE DAY! Do you think none of these individuals have and drive cars? Everyone reading this post could have wood or linoleum countertops in their kitchens. But you don’t, do you? It’s all relative. Don’t be quick to judge others under your own circumstances."

I don't think I live under a rock but I'll be honest - I never considered just how much money a billionaire makes while their money sits in the bank. Collecting enough interest in one day that easily outpaces many annual salaries is a truly impressive spectacle, but it also happens far more than we think - and that says nothing about the "mere" millionaires who still clear a very respectable amount in interest, certainly enough to warrant more than the occasional fun money purchase on Bring a Trailer. 

For years, two things happened: we only saw car auctions through the lens of Mecum and Barrett-Jackson, and we never gave non-collector cars in outstanding condition an opportunity to shine in an auction-style format. Bring a Trailer made the large auction house result possible for non-collector cars and trucks and opened up the specialty vehicle marketplace to anyone, any time, anywhere. 

While it's tempting, and perhaps, comforting to think that these auction results are the stuff of financial hijinks, there's an equal possibility that we're simply peeking behind the curtain for the first time of how the world's elite spend their money.