Kelley Blue Book Classic Car Values: Antique Cars Value Guide

Last week, I remembered going to a car show. From vintage models to modern ones, mechanics and engineering have come a long way. I recall having pictures taken with all of the cars displayed and leaving when they were almost about to kick me out!

Being a car enthusiast my whole life, I have always been fascinated by the aesthetics and work of this remarkable piece of engineering. As an avid collector, vintage cars have particularly interested me for their prized value. However, when shopping for classic cars, you must know their value, so you don’t throw a fortune away!

In the remainder of this article, I will cover questions related to this scenario. This will include a brief introduction to Kelley Blue Book for Classic Cars, if the Kelley Blue Book is accurate, and a value guide for your vintage cars.

Antique Cars:

By definition, a classic car is 25 years old, and an antique car is a vehicle aged at least 45 years. Such automobiles form a considerable part of the industry, most being kept in displays and storage. In short, vintage cars are a collectors’ goldmine!

Kelley Blue Book – Brief History:

Les Kelley founded the Kelley Blue Book as the Kelley Kar Company in 1918. Initially, the company started using three Fords Model T. Using the data collected from the dealership, Les Kelley published the first blue book in 1926.

With time, this book became the standard guide in determining the value of cars. Originally a trade publication, the Kelley name continued its business in the automobile dealership industry till the 1960s, before it gradually shifted to specializing in publishing its blue book.

The first user edition of this famous price guide was released to the public in 1993.

Kelly Kar Co
Kelly Kar Co, the most formidable dealership for used cars (

In the subsequent decades, the Kelley name grew and became the most trusted and reliable source for buying and selling used cars. In 1995, the Kelley Blue Book created its website, providing online tips and information, sourcing it to its hard book.

Today, the book is considered one of the most accurate valuation guides, assessing complicated factors before estimating a value for a used automobile.

The company released publications twice a year for antique car collectors called Kelley Blue Book: Early Model Guide. However, they no longer publish it, replacing it with an online tool for cars 25 years old.

Kelley Blue Book
Kelley Blue Book

Kelley Blue Book Classic Cars Value Guide:

According to experts, the Kelley Blue Book depends on a large vintage databank. It uses complicated technologies to calculate your vehicle’s most accurate estimate values.

The classic car version of KBB is known as the Kelley Blue Book: Early Model Guide. Judging by the name, it provides the retail values for cars manufactured between 1946 to 1988. Classic and antique vehicles are in the market in limited quantities; thus, it is difficult to source the value of the said vehicles.

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If you’re a buyer, you certainly want to ensure you’re not paying too much for an antique car. Similarly, undervaluing your vehicle is a common problem if you’re a seller. In this regard, the Kelley Blue Book provides both buyers and sellers a balance, satisfying both parties.

The Early Model Guide is an enthusiasts and vintage collectors’ dream book, listing muscle and luxurious cars from the ’40s and the ’80s. The book can be bought from the website and will help you rake in or save tons of money if you buy or sell.

Once you’ve logged onto the site, redirect to the page using the search function so you can order the book. On the page, select “Classic Cars” and enter search.

The results page will read “Official Kelley Blue Book Early Model Guides” select it. The following page will have three options: select “Learn More.”

You will be redirected to a form you must fill out to order the book. Once done, wait a couple of days before it arrives at your doorstep. You can also order it from Amazon!

How Does the Valuation Work?

The company receives user car prices from independent and franchise dealers, auctions, automobile manufacturers, and private party transactions. KBB then uses a mighty algorithm that makes use of:

  • Make and model of your car
  • Condition of your vehicle
  • Mileage
  • Location
  • Historical price trends
  • Changes in the industry
  • Time of the year
  • Current values
  • Other features in the car

Using these features, the software can make an accurate assessment of the price of your vehicle in 3 ways:

Private Party Value:

This refers to the amount you’ll have to pay when buying from a private seller.

Suggested Retail Value:

It is the value most dealerships are demanding or paying for.

Certified Pre-Owned Value:

The CPO value gives you an idea about how much the CPO program cost will cover a car.

Trade-in Value:

You’ll receive this amount if you decide to hand it to a dealer.

The Kelley Blue Book is believed to be an excellent resource; however, a few factors can affect the price’s accuracy. These are:

  1. Consumer Bias:

When selling our pre-loved cars, everyone tends to overprice. This is because, as a seller, we tend to believe that our car is in a better condition than it is. As a result, the value provided by Kelley Blue Book is significantly lower than what we were expecting.

  1. Data Variation:

Most businesses and dealerships tend to ignore KBB regarding wholesale or trade-in values. Instead, they prefer using different guides such as the Manheim Market Report and the National Auto Research’s Black Book. Both of these guides provide a lower value as compared to KBB.

So, if you’ve assessed your car using KBB, be prepared to receive a lower offer than you might expect.

  1. Lag Time:

As mentioned, KBB relies on historical pricing trends and current market dynamics while estimating the value of the car you’re interested in. Hence, it takes time for such data to reach KBB. In short, the prices provided by KBB may not be the most accurate reflection of the current market dynamics.

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Despite these limited cons, KBB is still one of the best sources to determine the price of your car. However, while using Kelley Blue Book, make sure that you gather other opinions from other reliable and trusted sources and negotiate well before making a decision.

Other Antique Car Value Guides:

Suppose it may be difficult for you to get your hands on the Kelley Blue Book; Early Model Guide. In this case, other popular and accurate price guides and online platforms estimate the value of vintage and classic cars. These include:

National Automobile Dealers Association:

NADA guides are famous for delivering industry-leading valuations, information, and research on vehicles, motorcycles, boats, and RVs. The guide is a remarkable resource for anyone researching classic car values and models. The website provides a user-friendly experience with a detailed search engine, so the company has several guides for the make and model of different cars. For example, NADA has a separate guide for Ford, dating back to 1926.

In general, guides provided by NADA are a well-reputed source of classic car values. You can find them on Amazon!


Edmunds has a story similar to our beloved Kelley Blue Book, founded in 1966 as a valuable resource to assess antique car values. Initially, the company provided hard copies of its publication before shifting to publishing online price guides in 1995. The company published its last guide online in 2006. It replaced it with a more straightforward website search which you can use, similar to the Collector Car Market Review.

Similarly, the valuation technique used by Edmunds relies on pricing information gathered from manufacturers, dealerships, and other industry giants daily. The transaction data provides a comprehensive insight into the market and incentives surrounding your sale and purchasing. A group of experts uses these details to create tools such as “True Cost to Own” and “True Market Value,” which are used by consumers to their needs.

Now, the company offers online appraisals and intelligent tips & tricks by the name “’s Strategies for Smart Car Buyers”

Black Book Values:

By providing old, current, and predicting future values, Black Book is a front runner in valuation guides. The force behind the company’s valuation process is a vital analysis of the automobile market and the factors influencing it, including make, model, year, mileage, maintenance, and historical significance. Black book values are also affected by depreciation, industry changes, and the future.

This analysis method puts Black Book in a separate boat compared to its counterparts by providing answers to the future pricing and valuation of your classic cars. Their insight provides dealerships and users to calculate their inventories and obligations better.

CarFax Values:

CarFax utilizes the same attributes as other guides already mentioned to estimate an antique automobile’s value accurately. However, it differs from other guides by using a unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to form classic car valuation tools, the Carfax History-Based Value. The history report of an automobile provides the company with information, including service and accident history, maintenance, number of previous owners, and whether the car was part of a fleet or used for work. These variables are then used by the Carfax History-Based Value tool to determine a value specific to each vehicle.

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The history report helps the tool compare values between similar make, models, and years and their variations. This vehicle-specific History-Based Value puts both buyers and sellers at an ease of mind by considering factors that are typically ignored by other guides.


Hemmings boasts itself as the world’s largest collector car marketplace, providing data about vintage and classic vehicles. The company also publishes multiple guides and reviews, Hemmings Classic Car being a collectors’ dream.

The service is free and provides an online tool for estimating collector car values.

Collector Car Market Review:

The Collector Car Market Review features cars of specific styles, models, and eras and lists historical sale prices. The company releases guides in print, digital, or single issues so you can get information from any source viable. The values listed in the book are obtained via the company’s Value-track system, auctions, car inventory, and government database.

Hagerty Insurance:

The Hagerty Group started as an insurance network for classic and vintage cars, requiring a vehicle valuation before classic car insurance could be provided. This led to the publication of 4-yearly valuation guides the company gives to its paying subscribers.

Hagerty extends evaluation tools for those interested in vehicles manufactured after the 1940s. You can search using the make, model, or vehicle identification number.

Mecum Auctions:

Considered the world’s largest car auction company, Mecum provides its users with a database hoarding information about auctions dating back to 2007. The website offers current listings and antique cars of similar make and models sold in the preceding years. You can use this information to get an idea of how much your vintage piece might be worth!

While the website doesn’t provide an official figure of your antique vehicle’s value, it does give an extensive insight into what your car might be worth.

The classified section of the website lists classic and collectible cars currently available. You can also use it to help you analyze a vehicle’s value.

Other credible antique and classic car valuation guides include:

  • TrueCar
  • Car and Driver
  • CarMax
  • Road & Track
  • Carvana
  • Vroom
  • CarGurus
  • AutoGravity

You can use any of these to assess a vehicle’s worth accurately.

Final Thoughts:

If you’re a collector or planning to buy or sell an antique car, you must know your vehicle’s worth. Value guides can help you estimate your classic car’s value based on several factors already covered in this article. Whether you’re looking for a classic 60’s Ferrari or a 69′ Camaro, knowing your car provides you with vital information.

So, next time you go shopping for a muscle or luxury car, make sure you read well on the vehicle, so you don’t throw in a fortune or sell your piece for pennies!

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