A regular reader recently contacted MyStar about a nasty experience he had with an online auction–he was stunned by the buyer’s fees, and he felt like he was ambushed in the process.

Online auctions are the wave of the future in today’s world because technology is at the point where you can bid on a collector car anywhere in the world but there are things you need to know.

Jerry Sutherland

Bob Knutson is the General Sales Manager for Michener-Allen Auctioneering (Edmonton and Northern Alberta) and he was happy to explain how their online auctions work.

Michener-Allen runs regular auctions all year round and they host an annual collector car auction in July, so they are very familiar with the auction world. Bob explained when and why Michener-Allen got into the new world of online bidding: “Online bidding has been part of our auction for more than 10 years now, growing every year even prior to Covid. First, of course, was to keep up with the times and our competition and also because our client base simply expected it. It certainly is and always has been a huge asset to the auction business”.

Online auctions are an asset, but they also expand the risk factor because if you bid on a vehicle you don’t see in person, you’re taking more of a gamble. Bob had definite thoughts on bidding without a visual inspection: “This is a tough one. I likely would not do it. I work too hard for my money to let it go without knowing as much as I can. The two things to know is that you will be held to the deal because you made that choice to participate on your own, no one at the auction is coercing you to do so and that whatever price it sells for, it did not get there alone. At least one other bidder felt that that was the ballpark for value. We do not let people bump their own bids. So really it seldom is a bad scenario but there is risk that needs to be accepted to participate this way. My advice would be to make every effort to view the item to satisfy your value level”.

The buyer’s fee was a big deal for our reader, so Bob explained exactly how Michener-Allen sets up a bidder: “You would go to and at the top of the home page there is a button “ INTERNET BIDDING “– clicking that will get you a drop down menu. New bidders will click “ Create/Access Online Bidding Account“, and keep following the prompts. Six steps in total to become and activate bidder. Our fees are likely the lowest in the industry–$350.00 is the maximum buyer’s fee on our auto sales, so nothing is hidden. Your purchase price plus your buyer’s fee ($90.00 or $195.00 or $255.00 or $325.00 or $350.00) plus GST”.

The online bidding process is critical, so Bob explained the technical side of the process at Michener-Allen: “We do operate two bidding systems. The more traditional one is “Simulcast” with an auctioneer yodeling. All of our Simulcast sales are UNRESERVED. For Collector Vehicles the preferred format is the “TIMED” auction with the countdown clock. On this format the bidders have much more time to react to being outbid and we do allow for high bid to be subject to seller’s approval (reserves). Often times at the end we get down to a gunfight with bidders waiting until the last possible second to hit the bid button hoping to get their bid in and not giving the opponent time to come back (sniping). We will extend the clock each time (30 sec) until one runs the other’s off. This of course is to make it as fair as possible for all participants”.

The big question. Has online bidding been an asset to the annual Michener-Allen collector car auction? Bob was clear on that: “I could simply say YES.  From that July sale date and a few in every “TIMED” sale since we have successfully completed about 120 sold out of about 155 vehicles run for a sale rate of 77%–with many going over reserve. I believe we do have a strong marketing program and a reputation of looking out for both the sellers and buyers. 77% sale rate takes a lot of work and requires a lot of assistance from our advertising partners. Another factor is having motivated buyers and sellers–that’s asset to any auction”.

Bob’s final thoughts.

Let me finish by saying thank you to everyone who has participated with us. We have met and dealt with some really fantastic people this year.

Bob Knutson

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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