What Does a Car's Black Book Value Mean?

What Does a Car's Black Book Value Mean?
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When you're looking to buy, sell or trade in a car, it's important to have a good idea of what your vehicle is worth so you don't get ripped off. The value of a used car can be difficult to estimate because many factors, such as year, make, model, condition and upgrades can all affect how much it’s worth. The Black Book is a car valuation guide that can be used to help determine the value of used cars.


  • The Black Book, like Kelley Blue Book, provides a value for different used car makes and models so car dealers will know how much a vehicle is worth. Estimates are available for used cars in extra clean, clean, average and rough conditions.

The History of Black Book

The Black Book was established in 1955 by three businessmen in Gainesville, Georgia, who regularly attended auto auctions. The men realized that keeping track of the auction data could help them make better decisions when buying and selling cars, so they started writing down auction results. Other dealers started asking for copies of their information, which eventually led to the development of a weekly publication with estimates of car values based on the most current auction data.

How Black Book Works

Today, the Black Book gathers data from more than 60 auctions around the country each week to produce weekly valuation estimates. The guide provides value estimates of different makes and models based on four car conditions: extra clean, clean, average and rough. Unlike other popular car value guides, such as the Kelley Blue Book and National Automobile Dealers Association guide, the Black Book doesn't provide car value estimation tools through its website, but it is possible to get Black Book-powered estimates through third-party websites.

Black Book's Significance

The Black Book is one of the main sources of data car dealers use to set prices for used cars and trade-ins. It specializes in estimating the wholesale value of vehicles, which dealers can use to ensure that they make a profit when buying and selling used cars. As a result, the values published in the Black Book may affect the price you pay when buying a used car or selling one to a dealer.

Blue Book vs. Black Book

The Kelley Blue Book is another car valuation guide that attempts to estimate the value of used cars. The KBB also creates its estimates based on auction data, but it focuses more on the retail and private party resale value of cars than the Black Book. Dealers may use the KBB to help set prices on cars, but it is also commonly used by individual consumers to figure out how much their cars are worth when trading in or selling to other people. Thus, the Black Book focuses on helping dealers set prices rather than helping consumers figure out how much their cars are worth.