Kelley Blue Book Value for Junk Cars: Are They Accurate?

Picture of Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

Quick Tip

The Kelley Blue Book (KBB) can be a useful starting point for determining car values, but it often falls short for junk cars. KBB valuations primarily reflect vehicles in decent condition, not accounting for extensive damage or non-running status, leading to inflated expectations. For junk cars, it's better to adjust KBB's "fair" condition value downward by 25-50% and compare with local salvage yard prices to set a realistic asking price.

Do you have an old car that you want to sell? Are you looking to get the highest profit possible? 

Most people who are selling a used car turn to the good old Kelley Blue Book (KBB). It’s been around for quite awhile and has a reputation for being trustworthy and accurate when it comes to the value of cars. 

While the Kelly Blue Book can be a good starting point in determining your car’s valuation, it’s not always accurate. In fact, there are multiple factors you need to consider when finding the value, so let’s dig in and find out if the Kelley Blue Book value for junk cars is accurate. 

Understanding Blue Book Value

The Kelley Blue Book is an automobile valuation tool that can be found online. It provides a sort of soft appraisal, helping people determine the value of their car. People who are looking to sell their car and need to know what price to ask typically use the Kelley Blue Book.

Originally, there was just a physical blue book that was delivered to dealerships to help them price cars. Kelley Blue Book then went online as a wholesale pricing tool, offering prices for cars based on their condition; excellent, very good, good, and fair. In the past few years, the online blue book tools were opened to the public, making it possible for anyone to use and discover their car’s value. 

When visiting online, one only has to enter a few details, including their car’s make, model, year, mileage, color, condition, and mileage, to have a custom price range populated. The information can be helpful and accurate, if the car meets certain qualifications. 

However, many people make the error of exaggerating the condition of their car. This isn’t done intentionally. In fact, many people really think that their car is in better condition than it is. If they’re not putting in accurate information when using the Kelley Blue Book online tools, then they’re not going to get an accurate estimate. This means they may try to sell their car for a lot more than it’s worth. 

Accuracy of The Kelley Blue Book

Understanding the purpose of the Kelley Blue Book, including what it works for and what it doesn’t work for, is essential. While the Kelley Blue Book value may be accurate for cars that are in great condition, they’re not very accurate for junk cars. 

There are a number of things that make a difference in value based on the book and the market. While the Kelley Blue Book may have a certain price range for a “fair” car, there are other factors that play into the price the owner can sell it for. These factors include the model, the location, the condition, and other determining aspects. 

This means that you may have a car that sells for a certain price in most cities, while in your city, it goes for a whole lot less. These types of details are not things that the Kelley Blue Book will get into or specify. Even if your car fits many of the defining details, it may end up with a different value. If you’re not aware of the potential for this difference, it can really be disappointing when your car doesn’t sell for the price you were expecting. 

What you need to know is that 90% of used cars today sell for under their Kelley Blue Book value. 90%! So many people are led to believe that they are going to get more for their car than they actually do. Being aware of this fact can help you keep realistic expectations as you enter the sales process for your car. 

The Reality of Car Valuation

The Kelley Blue Book has a “fair market valuation” that is claimed to provide an accurate representation of what one can expect to make for a specific type of car in a certain condition. However, because every car and every location are different, that valuation doesn’t hold up for everyone, or even for most. 

A car could sell for “x” amount in one location and for “x-” in another. The difference in price could be due to condition, or it could be that the specific location is better for certain cars. For whatever reason, two people with the same car, in the same condition, could end up selling their cars for drastically different amounts. 

Another reason for the discrepancy in Kelley Blue Book value and the actual amount a car is sold for is repairs or damage costs. If a car needs repairs, the Kelley Blue Book won’t account for them in their valuation. 

When selling the car, you will need to either have repairs taken care of or be clear about the need for repairs in your ad and when you price your car. The KBB only looks at the basics of the car when making a valuation. If you have repairs that you need to take care of before selling, you should factor the costs of the repairs into your pricing. 

The Value of a Junk Car

If you are looking to sell a junk car that isn’t running, has extensive damage, or has been salvaged, you are probably wondering about its value. Checking the Kelley Blue Book isn’t necessarily helpful, as it doesn’t take all of your car’s extenuating factors into consideration – giving you a true junk car value

In fact, if you check the KBB, you may actually be given unrealistic expectations that your car is worth a whole lot more than it actually is. Kelley Blue Book gives pretty accurate pricing for cars that are in fairly good shape and can actually be driven. Junk cars don’t fall into that category and can be worth quite a bit less. 

In order to price your junk car, you can use the Kelley Blue Book as a starting point. 

  • Check the Kelley Blue Book’s lowest pricing category, “fair,” for your particular car. 
  • Assess the state of your car. 
  • Reduce the valuation by 25 to 50% based on the specific damage to your car. 

Once you do this, you will have a good asking price. Make sure you are level-headed and aware ahead of time that you won’t be getting a lot for your junk car. 

Another way to determine potential valuation is to look at the local salvage yards to see what junk cars similar to yours are selling for. The price for salvaged vehicles will be similar to your asking price. 

Making Sure to Get the Best Price for Your Junk Car

It’s true, you’re not going to make as much money selling your car to a junkyard as you would selling it directly to someone. While the Kelley Blue Book may show you a higher price, you need to keep in mind that those prices aren’t for cars that are considered junk or are on the verge of being junk. 

Your junk car is on its last leg and has been lucky to make it this far. Now, it’s time to sell it. One of the best ways to get a larger and fair price for your car is to request an online offer. There are multiple car sales sites where you can post your listing and have your car sold for a decent price that day. 

Instead of being disgruntled about the lower price of your car, find a great site and choose the offer you want. Keep in mind that the Kelley Blue Book is a good resource and tool, but isn’t effective for junk cars. By keeping your eye out and your car listed, you can ensure that you’ll get the best price. 

Want to get the best offer for your junk car? Use our online form and get an offer instantly!

Share this!


About the Author

Picture of Marc

Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

maximize cash offer on car

We'll buy your vehicle!

Wait! We REALLY Want Your Vehicle!

We pay up to $20,000 for cars, trucks, & SUV’s – no matter the condition. Get paid on the spot + free towing!

Or Call... 1-855-922-3095

There is no obligation to accept an offer.

Unable to verify mileage

Selecting “unable to verify” may decrease your offer and should only be selected if you cannot visually confirm the mileage of the vehicle upon inspection of the odometer.