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What is Kelley Blue Book?

By Stephanie Partridge
Updated May 23, 2024
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If you have ever shopped around for a new or used car, motorcycle or boat, you have likely utilized the Kelley Blue Book (KBB). This handy little reference guide lists the values for cars, trucks and other vehicles. Often, you will hear sellers or buyers referring to a car’s “blue book value” to which they are referencing the KBB. This is the “going” price for the vehicle, although the asking price may be higher or even lower.

While the Kelley Blue Book is useful when purchasing new cars or other vehicles, it is particularly useful when purchasing used cars. In the used car KBB, the car book value is divided into several categories that are determined by the vehicle’s condition. A car that is deemed to be in excellent condition will have a higher value than a car that is good, fair or poor condition. This is vital when considering the purchase of a used car because you want to make sure that you are getting a fair shake and not overpaying for a vehicle. So, it certainly helps to know the book value of the car you are considering. The Kelley Blue Book can also be used to get values in the categories of trade in value, private party value and suggested retail value. This makes the blue book pretty much indispensable.

The Kelley Blue Book also lists trade values on vehicles. You can look up your used car or truck and access the trade value on that vehicle. If you are planning on trading your vehicle in, this can give you a good idea of that the value of your vehicle is, and what you are looking at in terms of the trade-in offer from the dealer. The used car blue book is quite popular and can be a huge help when considering the purchase of a used vehicle. It can mean the difference between paying the asking price and being able to negotiate down the price by a few hundred dollars or more.

The Kelley Blue Book is available both online and in hard copy. The online version of the blue book is an easily navigable tool that allows you to check used car values or new car pricing. There is also one for several other vehicle categories, including boats, motorcycles and classic cars.

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Discussion Comments
By miriam98 — On May 29, 2011

@MrMoody - One area where I’ve gotten next to nothing for what I thought was the real used car value was in trade-ins. Dealers don’t offer what you would expect to get from a private party, and the Kelley’s blue book will also show you what the dealer might give you.

However in my experience the dealer has offered me less than what I thought. They pointed out problems with the car, and new car dealers realize you’re more concerned with getting that new car than in getting top dollar for your trade-in, so they offer as little as possible for the trade-in. At least that was my experience.

By MrMoody — On May 26, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - I recently sold my old, beat up Honda. It wouldn’t start. I thought maybe I could get $1,000 for it, but the buyer proved to be more knowledgeable. He looked up the Kelley’s blue book value online and for a car in that make and model that had mechanical or other issues, $700 was the other upper limit.

He was right so I had to let it go for less. Both buyers and sellers are becoming smarter about the Kelly blue book value of used car vehicles.

By David09 — On May 25, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - If you’re not sure what a car is really worth, you could take it to a mechanic first. That will give you an accurate idea of its condition at least and you can bargain with the dealer.

By SkyWhisperer — On May 24, 2011

I always look up the Kelley Blue Book value of a used car before I go to a used car dealer. I usually combine this with other research tools, like a Car Fax report, to make a fair estimate of what a car is really worth.

The car dealer knows the history of that car better than I do, so I need as much help as I can get. Sometimes the dealer will brag that the car is “below blue book” but you really need to know the condition of the car and its history to determine if it is really being priced below market or whether it’s the fair market price for that given car.

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