What is known today as Kelley Blue Book (KBB)—first started in 1926—has origins dating back to 1918. The company gets its name from founder Les Kelley, who launched the initial enterprise under the name Kelley Kar Company. The enterprise was a car dealership with Model T Ford vehicles for sale. Kelley collected raw data from his business operations with other dealers and banks, publishing the information for public consumption in the first Kelley Blue Book in 1926. This book became a standard guide in automotive trade in determining car value. By the 1960s, the company moved from a car dealership to a specialty publisher, focusing on the production of its automobile price guide. The company details current market value prices and ranges for every type of new or used vehicle available on the market. Kelley Blue Book also provides dealer invoice pricing for new cars and trade-in values for used cars. Website visitors to kbb.com can also find consumer and expert reviews and safety ratings, as well as 5 year Cost-to-Own data.
- Free pricing tools and services
- Free dealer price quote
- Vehicle history report
When the Kelley Blue Book website was launched in 1995, it charged consumers $3.95 for a pricing report. The backlash was almost instantaneous. Customers insisted that online information should be free.
In response, KBB did just that, offering a list of free pricing tools and services for both car shoppers and dealers.
Here are the three of the company's no-cost features/tools that stand out:
- Free Dealer Price Quote. With the car make, model and zip code, users can find out the going sales price for any vehicle offered by car dealers.
- Five year cost-to-own. Helps prospective buyers to prepare for new car ownership by configuring the hidden costs over a five year period. These hidden costs are fuel, state fees, financing, maintenance, repairs and insurance. Once the hidden costs have been calculated, it then allows buyers to compare and contrast those costs between different vehicles. Next it calculates the loss in value-what the car is worth in five years, adding the two together to determine the cost to own. This especially comes in handy when comparing cars of the same market price, since the cost to own can be the deciding factor of which car is more expensive.
- Autocheck vehicle history report. Kelley Blue Book is best known for this feature along with the ability to determine the going rate of a car's market value. Autocheck is a partner with Kelley's Blue Book, helping prospective car buyers do background research on a used or pre-owned vehicle to determine the vehicle's history. This feature helps buyers avoid pitfalls by finding any accident reports, criminal activity or unreported title brands.
As mentioned above, Kelley Blue Book's most signature feature allows owners to determine what their vehicle is worth, called Blue Book Value. All it requires is the make, model and mileage to find the car's value. It is fast, free and requires less than three clicks to get the results. This is a go-to feature for both car buyers and sellers, whether going through a dealership or selling directly. The blue book value is the gold standard for determining car values in the automotive market, keeping all parties informed and prepared to negotiate accordingly.
For new automobiles, KBB also provides information about a car's suggested retail price (or MSRP) and the dealer invoice price. For used cars, KBB provides retail value, certified pre-owned value, trade-in value and private party value. Kelley Blue Book also offers expert and consumer vehicle reviews and ratings.
Kbb.com also features numerous awards and top 10 lists. Other services include credit checks, car insurance information, and vehicle history reports. There are 4 different packages for placing an ad to sell a car on Kelley Blue Book. The packages you can choose from depend on where you live locally.
The basic package runs for 4 weeks with 5 photos for $20. The upgraded advertising package runs for 8 weeks with 10 photos for $30. A combo package that includes an ad listed on Autotrader.com with 15 photos costs $60. Another combo package without the listing on Autotrader.com may be available depending on where you live for $40-$50.
- Listing feature could be better
- Poor mobile apps
- Customer complaints
Looking up car listings on KBB.com has one feature that could be improved: the cars should be listed separately, as both are currently mixed together. This occurs throughout the site and can be tedious at best and confusing at worst.
As highly regarded as the KBB website is, the iphone and ipad apps fall way short of its expectations. With only a one star rating, customers have more than their share of negative feedback.
A few harsh critiques:
- The app is extremely slow and can lag or jump around. For instance, when selecting the choice of car, it will jump back to various different prompt screens (what make of car, body style, etc.) and then return to the screen you're supposed to be on.
- Since they re-designed the app, the ease of use has become intolerable compared to the previous version. It now takes longer to view your desired car due to the additional steps to get to the car.
The Android app isn't much better. With only three stars, it is riddled with the same issues as the Apple version. Customers complain that it takes way too long to find what they are looking for-along with a myriad of technical issues.
Regarding these app issues, being that many car dealers use this app, it would behoove KBB to fix any bugs or technical issues to maintain good relationships and continued trust in their brand.
The standard Blue Book Value feature is fast and easy; however, clicking through to the results can be a bit confusing, as the page is very crowded and one has to scroll down to finally see the price chart for the specified vehicle. The page could be made cleaner with fewer components.
The Bottom Line
Kelly Blue Book has been a trusted resource for both car buyers and dealers for many decades and continues to be today. There remains little to say about the website's usefulness when it comes to an easy, fast way to find out how much your car is worth and how much any car is worth if someone is in the process of buying or selling. KBB's reputation speaks for itself in this regard. They should, however, work on improving their apps-especially since many car dealers use them along with making their blue book value results page cleaner for better visibility.