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.

5 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

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