Kelley Blue Book vs. NADA Guides

For almost eighty years, NADA Guides and Kelley Blue Book have served as a guide for establishing price points, helping buyers and sellers fairly negotiate the value of new and used cars. Often recognized as the premiere publications in their industry, both guides can be counted on to provide unbiased facts and serve as an essential tool during the car buying process.

The trouble is that while both guide books are meant to help consumers and dealers establish value, there is often some discrepancy between the two sources. For instance, when used to calculate the value of the same vehicle with all the same specs, Kelley Blue Book and Nada Guides will often come up with two completely different numbers – Leading many to wonder, “Which one is accurate?”

Comparing NADA and Kelley Blue Book

The discrepancy can be attributed to the simple fact that Kelley Blue Book and NADA Guides use two different methods for calculating value. In the most basic sense, Kelley places a large amount of emphasis on mileage, condition, features and popularity, while NADA tends to focus on the vehicle’s wholesale price (i.e. what the dealer paid for the vehicle).

But before we go too far into examining how the guides are different, let’s take a look at what the two guides have in common.

Similarities between Kelley Blue Book and NADA include:

  • Used by consumers and dealers
  • Include  values for cars, trucks, SUVs, and RVs
  • Updated regularly
  • Consumer focused

Despite these documented similarities, there any number of differences between the two sources, and determining which one to use can depend on your specific needs.

The Advantages of Kelley Blue Book

The origins of Kelley Blue Book date back more than eighty years, when a young car salesman from California, Les Kelley, began compiling a list of car prices as a tool for helping him evaluate vehicle value. Since those early beginnings, Kelley Blue book has become the go-to-choice among both dealers and consumers.

For the most part, Kelley Blue Book uses a standard set of criteria to calculate value:

  • Condition
  • Popularity
  • Warranty
  • Local market conditions

Using these criteria in conjunction with determining the condition of the actual vehicle (Excellent, Good, Fair and Poor), a barometer is established, allowing consumers to compare vehicles across dealerships or between private party sellers.

The advantage to using Kelley Blue is its consistency across markets, meaning you can compare the pricing of a dealer in Florida with one in Nevada.

The Advantages of NADA Guides

The history of NADA Guides dates back almost as far as Kelley Blue Book. First published in 1933, these guide books continue to be relied upon by hundreds of thousands of consumers and trade professionals across the country each year.

The criteria NADA uses to calculate the value of a vehicle includes:

  • Wholesale price
  • Local market demand
  • Real-time retail market prices

Keep in mind that NADA usually calculates a value that is higher than Kelley Blue Book. The reason for this is that NADA assumes the vehicle to be in relatively good condition – which in turn has earned Kelley Blue Book the reputation for more accurately reflecting the buyer’s objective.

The truth, however, is somewhere in the middle. Both guides can serve as a great starting point for negotiations. But, neither should be taken as the sole source of information. Instead, when used in conjunction with one another, NADA Guides and Kelley Blue Book can both be invaluable during the car buying and selling process.

12 thoughts on “Kelley Blue Book vs. NADA Guides

  1. Bob Samsel

    You say that NADA is usually higher than KBB. This is not true. I have been unable to find a single instance where NADA is not lower than KBB.
    This is why dealers only use NADA for trade-in values.

    Reply
    1. John Dibala

      2002 Chevy Suburban came up as $7,131 on KBB and $8,475 on NADA. My experience has been that NADA is higher most of the time.

      Reply
      1. Daonne

        NADA is definately higher. My wife and I went to a dealer we’ve bought vehicles from before. The blue book price on a 2004 nissan maxima with 137,800 miles on it was priced at 7988.00 using nada. This same vehicle using kelly bluebook came up 6819.00 retail. As you can see this is quite higher. That’s over an $1100.00 difference.

        Reply
    2. Jess

      Not sure what you have looked up, but I have bought and sold MANY cars, trucks, and motorcycles and in every (and I mean every) instance NADA was higher than KBB. Regardless, what I’ve found is the condition of the vehicle and the current market will determine it’s value. Sure, there will always be those who stick to the lowest number because they want the best deal; but for an example I just sold a car which I listed $600 under NADA value but $1000 over KBB and it sold within a day. Why? Because it was exactly what I advertised it as; a very clean and sound car. Big tip to anyone selling a vehicle…spend the time to clean the car!!! I mean wash, wax, buff, vacuum, and always remember to shine up the engine bay. Spending 4 hours to clean a car may sound like a lot but it could easily get you an extra $250 or more depending on the vehicle.

      Reply
  2. Britt

    NADA is higher. I just looked up the values for a 2001 mercedes-benz c320 with 136k miles. NADA price is $6,725. KBB price in excellent condition is $4,218. A difference of over $2,500

    Reply
  3. Michael

    I have a 2006 Subaru legacy gt with 81, 000 miles on it. KBB values trade in at 13,000. Nada values it at about 8,000. How ridiculous!

    Reply
  4. Dave

    what happened to the sight that compares high and low price differential for mileage and condition of used
    pick ups? have they all gone from a use full internet tool to advertiser sites? or am just unable to find the site?
    I don’t want dealer involvement to price a truck (pick up) I found. I want to look it up myself and determine
    what a fair market value might be depending on my own common sense. I know the miles and condition, so could someone please point me to an easy access site where I can get the info for free. I don’t want to buy a book for a one time purchase.
    Thanks consumer Dave.

    Reply
    1. Jess

      I’m not aware of such a site, though if one exists I want it!!! What I do is search 3 or 4 sites for the exact vehicle I’m either buying or selling and use the prices I find to get an average and then from there I can create an accurate value for the vehicle I’m dealing with. I use CraigsList, Auto Trader, and Car Soup most of the time for my research. Like I said, it does take more time, but if you do your “homework” you’ll have better success in the process because you’ll be well informed. Most people now days scour the internet for days or weeks looking at vehicles, so they usually have a good idea of what the market looks like and dealers do the same or at least something similar. If you do it as well you won’t be blind sided but pricing because you’ll know what to expect or you’ll be able to justify your price because you know what the market will yield.

      P.S. and if you find that site you were talking about post it in a reply so I can use it too!!!

      Reply

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