As a thrifty car shopper, you may have heard dealers refer to a car's Blue Book value or learned of a reference guide called the Black Book as you hunted for used car deals. Both can be valuable sources of price data as you approach the bargaining table on your next used car. The Kelley Blue Book is more widely accessed by consumers than is the Black Book, which is subscription-based. But each provides a sense of how much you can expect to get for trading in or selling an existing vehicle, or what it would cost to buy one.
Consumer vs. Dealer
The Kelley Blue Book is a car valuation guide for new and used cars from the consumer's side, supplying prices of cars based on the specifications of the particular vehicle. The Black Book also supplies price quotes, but its main customers are car dealers who use the listed wholesale prices as a guideline for pricing their used cars. However, this doesn't mean that the used car buyer couldn't make use of the Black Book. In fact, taking a copy of the Black Book valuation could help establish credibility to the buyer in the bargaining process, says automotive shopping site NewCars.com.
Ratings & Car Condition
Both the Kelley Blue Book and the Black Book provide trade-in and retail values on used cars. However, the Blue Book also provides figures on new cars and private-party sales and its rating system on used car conditions is different from the Black Book's. The Blue Book rates the condition of a used car as "Excellent," "Good," "Fair" or "Poor," whereas the Black Book grades used car condition as "Clean," "Average" or "Rough."
Source of Data
The Black Book claims that it visits 60 auctions nationwide every week to gather the most up-to-date information on used car values. It collects data from wholesale auctions it attends in person or online, applies mathematical adjustments and compares them against dealer-advertised prices. The Blue Book also gathers price data from auctions, as well as from new and used car dealers, according to the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
Accessibility and Accuracy
The Kelley Blue Book allows people to check out new and used car prices directly on its website. You plug in the details of your car and a dollar value will be generated. The Black Book is more restrictive about its content because it requires subscriptions. However, you can access its price search feature through third-party quoting sites such as Carquotes.com and Newcars.com. Online car buying service Cars Direct suggests that Black Book's valuations are more specific because it offers several versions of Black Book, such as Black Book First Values and the Black Book Daily.
Timothea Xi has been writing business and finance articles since 2013. She has worked as an alternative investment adviser in Miami, specializing in managed futures. Xi has also worked as a stockbroker in New York City.