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 the automotive trade for determining car value. 

By the 1960s, the company moved from a car dealership to a specialty publisher, focusing on the production of its automobile pricing guides.

The company details current market value 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 expert and consumer reviews, safety ratings, and detailed 5-year Cost-to-Own data, as well as the opportunity to sell their car with an on-site ad listing.

Read on for pros and cons, plus Kelley Blue Book reviews from real users. 

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The Good

  • Blue Book Values
  • Free Tools & Services
  • Expert Reviews & Lists
  • Pricing Package Options

Blue Book Values

Kelley Blue Book's most significant feature allows owners to determine what their vehicle is worth, called Blue Book Value. All it requires is the make, model, mileage, model year, and relative condition to find the car's value. Car pricing is fast, free and requires just a few clicks to get the results. 

Kelly Blue Book values are a go-to feature for both car buyers and sellers, whether going through a dealership or selling directly. The Blue Book values are the gold standard for determining vehicle valuation in the automotive market, allowing all parties, when buying or selling, to be informed and prepared to negotiate accordingly. 

For new automobiles, KBB also provides information about a car's suggested retail price (the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, or MSRP) and the dealer invoice price. 

For used cars, KBB provides retail value, certified pre-owned value, trade-in price, private party value, and an instant cash offer if you are looking to quickly sell your car to a local dealer. 

Instant cash offers are to be redeemed with a participating dealer, pending inspection and appraisal. 

Free Tools & Services

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 a few 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 economy, 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 Blue Book, helping prospective used 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.

Expert Reviews & Lists

Kelley Blue Book also offers expert and consumer vehicle reviews and ratings. Kbb.com also features numerous awards and top 10 lists.

Bonus services include credit checks, car insurance information, and vehicle history reports.

Pricing Package Options

If you are selling a car, there are four different packages for placing a used car ad on Kelley Blue Book. Available packages are dependent on your location, but basic options are:

  • 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.

The Bad

  • Listing Feature Could Be Better
  • Poor Mobile Apps
  • Customer Complaints

Listing Feature Could Be Better

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.

Poor Mobile Apps

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 redesigned 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.

Customer Complaints

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

Kelley Blue Book has been a trusted resource for car buyers, private sellers, and dealers for many decades and continues to be today. It is an easy, fast way to find out how much your current vehicle is worth if you are looking to sell your car, and how much any car is worth if you are buying and want to make sure that you are getting a fair purchase price. KBB's reputation speaks for itself in this regard. 

However, the company should 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.

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User Reviews

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Bob

June 29th, 2017 Brookfield, MO

I did the "guaranteed trade price" for my truck. Went to 3 dealerships none of which would honor the price even though they were part of the KBB program. All 3 said my declarations were accurate and nothing dishonest on my part in the questionnaire but there "is no market for that vehicle". Not only would they not honor the price, they weren't even close- 3 to 5 thousand less. This resulted in the worst car-buying experience I have ever had. I would rather just deal with the shady car salesman up front without the middle man giving me a totally (apparently) unrealistic expectation prior to going to the dealership.

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Kenneth Okerlund

June 8th, 2017

Can be a bit difficult to use their services but they usually have quite a bit of information to offer for you to get started.