What is a Blue Book of Car Values? NADA Guide vs. Black Book vs. KBB

There are three different tools that dealerships and you, the potential buyer or seller, can use to figure out the right price to pay or ask. You’ll hear dealer reviews like “Blue Book Prices!” or “We sell below the Blue Book!” or “Get real Blue Book value for your trade-in!” But what does Blue Book even mean, and how do these tools cost or save you money?

Kelley’s Blue Book is one of the essential guides to buying and selling vehicles. But there are two more such guides. The three previously offered vehicle pricing information in print, but have long been available primarily via the Internet, and their ratings can be accessed from a diverse assortment of online communicators, including – of course – Autoblog.

What exactly is a Blue Book? Who creates these price bibles? What are the car value guides other than Kelley? How accurate are they and how do they arrive at their values? Does the Blue Book really provide valuable information to help you get the best deal, whether you’re buying or selling new or used? And how do you know which one to choose? Read on.

Kelly’s Blue Book

As suggested by a KBB.com spokesperson, “With 90 years of trust in providing data to the automotive industry and several decades of providing valuable information to car buyers, Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com empowers consumers to become experts in their purchase , helping fuel the ultimate smart car choice with editorial reviews, pricing tools, user ratings and more.”

Also notable is the intuitive nature of the value search and the exchange range, which seems more optimistic than that offered by Black Book. Kelley Blue Book, with more than 20 million unique visitors each month, advertises itself as offering “the largest new and used car audience online.”

Kelley Blue Book has historically gathered its information by visiting auctions around the country—the places where wholesalers and dealerships trade in used vehicles. It also collects data from independent dealers representing car manufacturers. It ranks its used car ratings as excellent, good, fair and poor. From these, Kelley Blue Book then determines value ranges for cars sold privately, dealer suggested retail, trade-in values, and values ​​for certified pre-owned vehicles. Within these value ranges, KBB will determine a fair purchase price.

NADA Guide: The Yellow Book

The NADA Guide is the property of JD Power & Associates. It uses many of the same sources of information as KBB, but each has its own formula for setting values. A NADA Guide spokesperson provided us with this review:

“The NADA Used Car Guide begins its evaluation process by collecting data grouped broadly into two categories: transaction data and market data. Transaction data gives us an indication of what vehicles are currently worth through several different sales channels. Market data also comes through multiple sources and relates to economic factors that include fuel price, employment data, interest rates and stimulus data, among others. Market data analysis gives us an idea of ​​what the automotive market will look like in the future.

“Like other vehicle value providers, the NADA Used Car Guide publishes different types of values ​​that represent values ​​through different sales channels. Our retail values ​​are intended to represent the sale price of a clean vehicle at a car dealer. Our Rough, Average and Clean Trade -Values ​​are intended to represent typical exchange prices under various conditions. We also publish a loan-to-value to help lenders establish a base loan amount to extend when purchasing a vehicle. All these types of values ​​are published on a monthly basis and along with them it makes every effort to reflect the actual price movement of the market without including the inherent random market volatility.”

Black book

Now under the Hearst publishing umbrella, a spokesperson for Black Book offered the following:

“Black Book® is best known in the automotive industry for providing timely, independent and accurate vehicle pricing information and is available to qualified industry users through online subscription products, mobile applications and licensing agreements. A leading provider since 1955, Black Book has continuously evolved to ensure it achieves its goal of delivering mission-critical information to its clients, along with the data analytics needed to successfully buy, sell and borrow Black Book Data are published daily by National Auto Research, a division of Hearst Business Media, and the company maintains offices in Georgia, Florida and Maryland, as well as Canada’s Black Book in Toronto.

The key thing to remember is that this is a subscription service used by dealerships, so as an individual car buyer or seller you probably don’t have access to it.

Which is the most commonly used?

According to Lynn Feit, referring to the used car work at his nationally known dealership The Scout Connection in Fort Madison, Iowa, “I use Kelly’s Blue Book and Black Book for used car appraisals. But the Black Book CPI (guide to older vehicles of special interest – ed.) is my mainstay in determining the true value of any rare or unusual vehicle I buy or sell.”

Faith’s comments are echoed by John Gorton, manager of Gerton Auto Sales, a large, successful used car dealership in Mount Vernon, Indiana, “I use the Black Book – the electronic version – exclusively in my business because used car prices seem to be more accurate and up-to-date.”

“The system I use,” added longtime Southern California car dealer Roger Himmel, “is a combination of checking the value of a trade-in or used car in Kelley’s Blue Book and the NADA guide, then calling wholesalers or other dealers , to see what the value is to them. After all, for everything I buy, I have to find a buyer.”

Example of comparison between KBB, NADA Guide and Black Book

We looked at two cars, the 2013 Subaru Crosstrek and the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee, to see how the manuals compare.

At Subaru, Black Book provided the low ball, suggesting a trade-in range between $12,800 and $15,600. Kelley Blue Book gave a range between $17,777 and $19,100, while NADA was essentially identical, between $17,150 and nearly $19K.

The Jeep’s range of ratings was narrower. Black Book suggested an exchange range of $5,500-$8,215, NADA suggested $7,600-$8,450, and KBB – using “Excellent” on the condition report – was $5,500-$7,685.

Depending on the details of whatever vehicle you’re looking for, the book values ​​can come out in a completely different order.

So which Blue Book gets you the best deal?

There is no single source of vehicle sales information. All three books are good, reliable, honest sources of information, some better than others for specific vehicles or markets or needs or purposes.

Therefore, when it comes to buying and/or selling a new or used vehicle, it is important to cross-reference, triangulate sources of information. Use a search for used car ads Autoblog or other sites to collect comparable vehicles currently on the market, check and compare book values ​​and use your judgment to inform your negotiation and purchase – and remember that the Blue Books are just guides .

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