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  • Erik JP Drobey

Cars & Bids: A Firsthand Account

I was working near Chicago, IL when I sold my 1990 Mazda Miata, which at the time was parked in my garage in San Francisco.

No prospective buyer saw the car in person; nor had I spoken with anyone on the phone. Everything took place online, through the relatively fledgling auction site Cars & Bids.

I was reticent to sell the Miata this way, as I hadn’t put anything up for auction before, let alone a wonderful car I didn’t want to let go of in the first place. But after months of research and tracking auctions on a few sites, as well as keeping tabs on listings through and Craigslist, I chose to list the little roadster on Cars & Bids. What happened, how was the experience, and would I recommend listing cars on this site to others, you might ask? Read on.

In my last post, I shared about why I chose to list my car via auction, which had just gone live at the time (auctions on the site are typically seven days long, and I posted my last article the day the auction went live). Though at the time I was impressed with the site’s customer service, helpful resources, and the ease with which I could upload necessary information, photos, and videos, I was nervous about the auction itself, and I already fretted about what final sale price I’d net. Would I get anywhere near what I wanted for the car?

Since I listed at no reserve (a common choice for sellers of cars like mine), I had no guarantee the Miata would sell for what I hoped. And early on, the bidding was quiet and sparse. One potential buyer who opened the bidding (at a whopping $100) inquired about seeing the car in person, as he lives in the Bay Area, but then backed out. A second bid at $1000 came in a couple of days later, but then bidding went quiet for another couple of days. Given some of the auctions I had tracked began similarly slowly and ramped up over the last couple of days, I rationally knew everything would likely pan out just fine. But this slow start was nerve-wracking. Prospective bidders did ask a few questions (which, because I was checking the auction obsessively, I answered right away), but otherwise, crickets.

On Day 4, while traveling for work, bidding finally heated up somewhat. A bid for $3000 posted. Then $3900. And by the end of the next day, bidding had reached $4100. Not yet in the range I’d like, but definitely heading in a promising direction (up).

Then, that night, someone with the handle MiataIsAlwaysTheAnswer posted the following comment:

“This is probably a decent Miata. Problem is the car is not even washed or cleaned (body). It has blemishes noted as this early paint tended to just fall off. That's a problem. But the unclean car in the photos does not allow a buyer to properly and definitively discern permanent blemishes from dirt or grime or whatever.

“The pictures in his "writer website" look like he cleaned the car. But how long ago was that ? Does the body still look like that? who knows?

“Hey, sorry for the long rant but I think any car deserves a (15 minutes for a MIATA! ! !) A simple bath/ wash before photos. ANY car guy knows this and seller is an auto WRITER? While I'm sure the seller is not trying to deceive or ANYTHING like that. I don't car HOW busy you are, It's really common courtesy to any buyer. Good luck to all.”

I had cleaned the car before posting most of the photos (had it detailed, in fact). But I still commuted 50 miles a day in the Miata at the time and had to take additional photos before the auction went live. I also had made it clear that the car’s main issue was paint-chipping, and it’s not like I could power-wash the thing every time I snapped a photo.

To me, this “feedback” from MiataIsAlwaysTheAnswer looked like an attempt to suppress the bidding. Perhaps he was looking to add a fifth Miata to his collection at a discount. Perhaps he was simply trying to provide constructive (if snarky) commentary. Whatever the case, I learned that even Miata enthusiasts can act like jerks. I responded promptly by thanking him for the feedback and explaining that the car was my daily driver. Another bidder called him out for the rant, and they exchanged a couple of messages, which were cordial. I stayed out of it and wondered whether the bidding would cease there.

Thankfully, it did not. The next day, two bids inched the price up to $4400. And on the final day, the no-reserve flurry of bids in the last hour actually happened.

In the end, my 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata sold for $9000, after 31 bids. I was pleased with the sale price, which was slightly higher than I expected but still a good value (in this market) for the buyer (juicyjosh), who, as it turns out, bought his first car. The buyer lives in Southern California, and after I congratulated him on the sale, I offered to deliver the Miata to him (and fly back home). He agreed, so my girlfriend and I made a final roadtrip in the convertible down 101 and, eventually, the famous Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Monica, where we stayed the night. I can’t think of a more fitting final drive in a 1990 Miata than that!

In San Luis Obispo, fueling up for the last time.

At the hotel after a long day's drive.

The next morning, I met juicyjosh (Josh) and his family, gave him a thorough overview of the car, and handed him the keys. He was delighted, and I was delighted to sell the car to someone who will enjoy and appreciate this car as much as I had.

A new (and happy) owner for the 1990 NA.

So would I recommend listing and/or buying vehicles through Cars & Bids? Absolutely. And I wouldn’t hesitate to sell and buy cars through the site myself. I’m sure folks out there have had similar experiences on other sites (like BringATrailer and Rad for Sale), but I am sold on Cars & Bids, which has a rapidly-growing audience, excellent customer service, and solid platform.

Erik JP Drobey lives in San Francisco. He chronicles some of his culinary and vehicular adventures on Instagram as @zjpd.

The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.


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Carol Lawrence
Carol Lawrence
01 feb

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