Difference Between Black Book & Blue Book Value

by Morgan Crouch
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When it comes to buying or selling a car, it's important to take advantage of the tools available for you. Kelley Blue Book and the Black Book are two major resources available which can help you assess the price of a vehicle you wish to buy or sell. But is one book superior to the other? What are the differences between them?


In 1918, Les Kelley, a businessman from Arkansas, founded a car dealership with no more than three Model T Fords. His only employee was his 13-year-old brother. In 1926, Les Kelley created the signature Kelley Blue Book. The name itself originates from an old registry which lists those of high society and was named the "blue book." In 1955, three businessmen founded Black Book in Georgia. These men regularly attended dealer-only, local car auctions. Taking note of the price irregularities between auctions, the men set out to keep accurate market values to aid in auto buying and selling decisions. Within a few years, the men turned their records into a national magazine listing current used vehicle prices.

Kelley Blue Book

According to the Kelley Blue Book, one out of three people use the Kelley Blue Book when looking to buy or sell a car within the United States. Kelley Blue Book collects its information by consistently attending and analyzing results and prices from car auctions. From these auctions, they evaluate the vehicles and rate them based on four grades: Excellent, Good, Fair and Poor. From these qualifications, Kelly Blue Book sets a wholesale price. These prices include fees associated with auction fees, reconditioning and transportation.

Black Book

The Black Book is a source restricted to dealers and financing sources. The website does not provide users with data, rather it links and connects you with dealers. This value guide, as oppose to the others, is only guide that is published weekly instead of monthly. The prices are collected through online or direct vehicle dealers. Other value books dissect value based on trade-in, private party, or retail numbers, Black Book centers their attention on wholesale values with the use of these categories: extra clean, clean, average or rough. Occasionally, the Black Book will release special issues with a focus on rare or classic cars, known as the Black Book's Cars of Particular Interest (CPI). The CPI contains over 14,000 vehicles from the years 1946 to 2007.


Though seemingly similar, the Black Book and Kelley Blue Book serve slightly different purposes. Lynn Faeth, owner of The Scout Connection dealership in Iowa, had this to say on the two uses: "I use the Kelley Blue Book and the Black Book for used car valuation. But the Black Book CPI is my mainstay in determining the true value of any rare or unusual vehicle which I buy or sell." Both the Black Book and the Kelley Blue Book can help in finding wholesale prices for new or used vehicles, but if you wish to evaluate the price of a classical car, stick with Black Book.


Both Kelley Blue Book and the Black Book claim they offer the most accurate information to best suit their buyers and sellers. Both resources are ultimately dependable, and similar, though search results could depend on specific vehicles or specific markets. When in doubt, look through them both to see what fits your needs. The Kelley Blue Book and the Black Book are both available for free online.

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