How do I interpret Kelley Blue Book?



When the FAIR condition indicates that the car “needs servicing,” and the car is currently due for a major tune-up, timing belt, and front brakes, what percentage of these maintenance costs can I subtract from the suggested book value? Would the seller expect me to pay the value named on KBB and then pay for all the services as well? Or is is quite acceptable to subtract some or all of those anticipated costs from my offer?


You can try any tactic you want…For reasons unknown to me, used Civics seem to be able to get unrealistic prices…There are too many willing buyers who do not know or care (yet) what a timing belt is…If you can get a Corolla for the same money, I would head in that direction…Start by offering 20% less than “Blue Book”, which today is more like a dream book…


No one (either car dealer or private seller) is obligated to use, go by, or even hover in the vicinity of a KKB value.

The seller does not have to subtract one iota from the asking price and the buyer does not have to offer one dime more than they’re willing to pay.

KBB is often not real-worldly anyway. If the vehicle needs this and that you can certainly ask for some to be deducted but the odds of having the full repair costs deducted from the asking price is slim and none.
If a 10k dollar car need 4k dollars worth of fixes the seller is not obligated at all to take 6 grand, or even 9 grand if they so choose.


I find that NADA and KBB are unrealistic as well. The best that can be said of them are that they are in the ballpark on most vehicles. Just remember that a ballpark is a very big place.


Well like most of life, reality is what you make it. The dealer’s reality is based almost entirely on mileage and cosmetics. There is no allowance made for routine maintenance needs. This makes a good inspection by a professional mechanic all the more important. The vast majority of cars that don’t have dings, dents, broken windshields or worn out tires will be considered in “Good” condition. As stated in a few ways above, the best strategy is always to determine what your maximum price is and stick to it. Don’t try and haggle with dealer sales personnel. They do it all day long.

All pricing gudes are a matter of opinion. KBB and NADA both sell a lot of services to dealers so it’s in their interest to make prices look good at the dealership. Where their data comes from is a little bit magical. Of the easily accessible pricing guides, the one kindest to buyers is always Edmunds.


Kelly Blue Book is, according to my buddy (a former car salesman) “totally bogus”. A “good deal” is 10% below LOW bluebook. But remember, dealers buy cars at auction, for THOUSANDS of dollars below low bluebook - in some cases, buying a “Lot” or group of, say, ten cars for $8,000! Here in our small town, I’ve had - consistently - offers that are HALF of what I am asking, irregardless of bluebook value - so, if I’m asking $1,200 for a car, the offers are $600 or less - oh well - again, KBB, Edmunds True Value, NADA - these are ALL phony values, with little bearing on what cars are worth - just my two cents.


Also, with EVERY used car I have ever bought, I have spent, at MINIMUM, $2,000 in repairs during the first year of ownership. And, when buying from a dealer, they have ALWAYS knocked-off $1,000 from the price, within the first five minutes of bargaining!


KBB values tend to be very high and you couldn’t sell a car at near the KBB value. I find “True Market Value” to be closer to reality.

Fair condition means the car needs some work, new tires, new brakes, and perhaps has some minor dings in the body and some imperfect paint. The tune up and timing belt are not issues addressed in KBB fair condition. Therefore you’ve got to figure you will need to spend about $1,000 to 1,500 on this car very soon after you buy it.

If the KBB fair condition value is $9,000, I’d take off $1,500 because KBB is unrealistically high, that leaves $7,500. Then take another $1,500 for repairs, so you’d offer $6,000. If the seller balks, offer $7,500 if the car comes to you with a new timing belt, new plugs, and new front brakes.

Since you didn’t mention the year of the car I’m guessing an '04 or '03, so you may need to adjust the numbers if you are looking at a newer Civic.