The "Blue Book value" of a used car is a reference to Kelley Blue Book (KBB). Published since the 1920s, the KBB has long been the go-to source to determine the value of a used car. Whether you're interested in selling or buying a car, you can use the vehicle identification number (VIN) of a car to determine the Blue Book value. These numbers were standardized to keep people from trying to sell a car as one make and model when, in actuality, it was another.
Locate the VIN Number
Before you can find the car value by VIN, you'll need to find the number for the vehicle you're trying to appraise. The VIN is located on a number of different surfaces of the car, but the easiest place to look for it is stamped to metal tag fastened to the inside of the dashboard, right where the windshield meets the hood. You can also find the VIN on the engine block and sometimes on the inside of the driver's side door.
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According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, you can find the VIN on paperwork for the car too. Try looking at your vehicle title, registration papers or your insurance card.
Determine the Make and Model
Vehicle History and other free VIN services allow you to find the model and make of the car from the VIN. Note that this will not work for pre-1980 model cars, as that was before the VIN system was standardized throughout the world. Many auto manufacturers will also encode more specific information into the VIN, such as the engine type, any kind of safety features and where the car was manufactured.
Examine the Car
In order to accurately get the KBB value by VIN, you'll need to ascertain the condition of the car. The Blue Book rates cars on a scale ranging from poor, fair, good and excellent. The better the rating, the more the car is worth.
One way you can do this is by checking the accident history of the vehicle. There are a number of online vendors that will tell you if the car has ever been in an accident by running a check on the VIN.
Find Blue Book Value by VIN
Once you have the make and model number, you're ready to find the Kelley Blue Book value by VIN. The KBB website has a special form you'll use for this purpose. You'll want to select "VIN" as the lookup option, versus a license plate number or make/model information. Next, you can type the VIN in the designated field, optionally provide your email address and click "Go."
The KBB website will provide some basic information about the car such as its category, style, drivetrain, engine and transmission and then ask you to provide your zip code and current mileage. You can then either enter custom options to describe your vehicle's equipment or get a price with the standardized build, as well as select the vehicle's color.
You'll get to choose between seeing a price range for private party and trade-in offers or getting the instant cash offer amount for a typical dealership. After providing more details such as the car's condition, you'll see the KBB Blue Book value calculated and be able to run comparisons for types of sales.