Black Book vs. Kelley Blue Book: What’s the Difference?

When searching for the best prices for used cars, many consumers turn to Kelley Blue Book. For nearly 100 years, the company has used extensive research to determine the value of any given vehicle. Users can search the site for any car’s average asking price and estimated trade-in value.

KBB also offers in-depth reviews and comparisons to help shoppers narrow down which car is their perfect fit. However, depending upon their needs, prospective buyers might be better off knowing a car’s Black Book value. Let’s break down the difference between these two car sales services.

How does Kelley Blue Book determine a car’s value?

Kelley Blue Book president Jared Rowe stands next to the KBB logo on April 3, 2013, in Irvine, California
Kelley Blue Book president Jared Rowe | Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Kelley Blue Book is the older of the two resources, so it’s the better-known choice. KBB says it relies on industry trends, the latest field analysis findings, and analytics to determine vehicle values. The service also takes region-specific factors and the current national economic climate into account.

A car’s condition, age, and mileage also contribute to its Blue Book value. Higher trims with more features will also have better resale values than their lower-level counterparts. KBB even offers pricing reports for other types of vehicles, such as motorcycles.

Kelley Blue Book prices for new cars are usually displayed on many dealership websites. For used cars, shoppers can see both the trade-in value of their vehicle and the private party value. KBB also provides the estimated certified-preowned (CPO) price of a vehicle and the fair purchase price of used cars.

KBB has more tools to search for recalls and locate service providers in the user’s area. In addition to routine maintenance, the site can locate the lowest prices for common auto repairs. In total, KBB boasts 3 trillion data points sourced from over 250 information banks.

How do Black Book values work?

Black Book was founded nearly 40 years after Kelley Blue Book, its biggest rival. Like KBB, Black Book looks at a vehicle’s age and condition to gauge its value. The site also examines regional factors and current market fluctuations.

However, Black Book is a bit different from KBB because it uses VIN-specific appraisals. Black Book says it also uses data from vehicle history reports, which include accident damage and routine service history. Any new accident or service appointment will automatically flag the car for a review of its current Black Book value.

Black Book also relies on both current and projected market insights within the auto industry. KBB uses reasonable expectations to determine a vehicle’s worth, but Black Book uses data from actual purchases. Black Book also looks at a car’s average price from wholesale auctions.

In general, Black Book’s value assignments are slanted toward increased profits for reselling rather than buying. Additionally, higher values are assigned to vehicles with less risk of needing extensive repairs. Because of that, Black Book is more useful for dealerships. However, consumers can also use Black Book if they plan to sell their cars to private buyers.

What about NADAguides?

NADAguides posits itself as a value appraisal tool for dealerships first, but anyone can use it. Rather than rely on trends, NADAguides says it uses only concrete data to determine a vehicle’s worth. The service also offers pricing guides for RVs, ATVs, and boats.

If you want an idea of how much your vehicle should realistically cost, NADAguides is your best resource. Alternatively, Kelley Blue Book will tell you exactly what your vehicle is worth by examining the latest consumer trends. Black Book offers a good balance of both, but it doesn’t offer every service that KBB and NADAguides provide.

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