The Dealer's Guide to Black Book

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Black Book is a more than just a pricing book. Since its founding in 1955, Black Book has grown into a fleet of powerful tools for the data-driven auto professionals. It can be overwhelming to navigate the features for the first time, but once mastered, Black Book will become an invaluable resource.

In this Dealer’s Guide, we’re going to take you through the in’s and out’s of Black Book and show you how to get the most out of it.

What is Black Book?

Unlike Kelley Blue Book and NADA, Black Book is almost exclusively an industry resource, not a consumer tool. Black Book creates data-driven tools for dealers, lenders, OEMs, and other automotive professionals. Their products include historical, current, and projected pricing values, industry analytics, and a data visualizer tool for easy reporting.

Here’s how Black Book describes itself in its own words:

"Black Book® is best known in the automotive industry for providing timely, independent and accurate vehicle pricing information, and is available to industry-qualified users through online subscription products, mobile applications and licensing agreements. A leading provider since 1955, Black Book has continuously evolved to ensure that it achieves its goal of delivering mission-critical information to its customers, along with the data analytics necessary to successfully buy, sell, and lend. Black Book data is published daily by National Auto Research, a division of Hearst Business media, and the company maintains offices in Georgia, Florida, and Maryland as well as the Canadian Black Book in Toronto."

Black Book data goes below the surface to give auto professionals a deeper understanding of the market. While it’s used for day-to-day vehicle valuations, Black Book is capable of so much more.

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Black Book Use Cases for Dealers

Professionals from around the auto industry rely on Black Book for a variety of data-driven activities. For example, financial institutions use Black Book data as the basis for loan originations. But what can Black Book do for dealers, specifically?

Vehicle Valuations

Black Book vehicle valuations are the most popular use case for dealers. Dealers who have a Black Book subscription can access the pricing book online, on mobile, or in the original print edition, published weekly.

The Black Book Digital subscription comes with history adjusted valuations that account for a vehicle’s accident history, past owners, and other historical factors. Since no two vehicles are exactly the same, history adjusted valuations give dealers a more precise appraisal value.

Black Book API

Say you want to add Black Book valuations to your dealership’s website. With Black Book’s API, you can. The API integrates with websites and backend software solutions to add the power of Black Book to your existing tools.

The Black Book API allows dealers to access:

    • Wholesale values – (four conditions) extra clean, clean, average, rough.
    • Trade-in values – (three conditions) clean, average, rough.
    • Retail values – (four conditions) extra clean, clean, average, rough.
    • History Adjusted Valuations – an adjustment made for events present on the Experian AutoCheck® report. Available on
    • Wholesale, Trade-In, and Retail values – (Available for US only)
    • Private Party values – (three conditions) clean, average, rough. (Available for US only)
    • Residual values – 1 to 72 month residual values. (For Canada, only selected months are available)
    • Finance advance value – market driven value for loan originations
    • Specification PDF – Provides options and equipment that were available on the vehicle when it was new. (Available for US only)
    • Colors – a list by category of interior and exterior colors.
    • Standard equipment – a list by category of equipment, for example: dimensions.
    • Lookup by Chrome ID – Use a Chrome Style ID and option codes to retrieve vehicle values. (Available for US only)
    • VIN Decoding
    • New Vehicle Pricing Valuations

The Black Book API does more than just provide vehicle valuations. It gives dealers powerful insights to run more successful businesses.

Visual Analytics

For dealers who want to go even deeper into the data, Black Book offers Visual Analytics, a subscription-based tool that provides Tableau-like data visualization. With Visual Analytics, dealers can identify market trends and opportunities and share them with beautiful graphics.

Capabilities include:

  • Detailed Segment and Model Analysis to Understand Market Trends
  • Fine Tune Loss Forecasting
  • Identify New and Emerging Opportunities
  • Recognize & Forecast Depreciation Trends
  • Vehicle Segment Model Explorer

Visual Analytics is probably overkill for most dealers. However, if you are in a highly competitive market and want to gain an edge, Visual Analytics is worth exploring.

Drawbacks of Black Book

Black Book is a powerful tool for dealers, but it is not perfect.

One major drawback is that most customers are not familiar with it. Car buyers heavily prefer NADAguides and KBB. They may not accept an appraisal valuation from an unknown source. Unfamiliarity breeds distrust, which can work against dealers relying on Black Book.

Another drawback is cost. Black Book does not have a free version like KBB and NADAguides, and the most basic subscription starts at $65/month. Other capabilities like the Black Book API and Visual Analytics cost extra.

Finally, the full capabilities of Black Book are too much for most dealers. Unless you’re a real data wonk, you won’t care about fine-tuned loss forecasting or depreciation trends.

Is Black Book Right for You?

Despite the drawbacks, Black Book is considered highly accurate, and the digital subscription is worth the price for most dealers. Should dealers rely on Black Book exclusively? Probably not, but that holds true for all pricing books.

Dealers don’t have to choose just one pricing book. Since Black Book is an industry guide, dealers should also review KBB and NADAguides like their customers do. Newer pricing and appraisal tools collect data directly from dealership websites to provide another angle on valuations.

Remember, it’s not just about what tools you use, but your appraisal strategy as well. Whether you want deep industry insights or just simple vehicle valuations, Black Book is worth trying for any dealer.

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