What is Motorcycle Blue Book Value?

Motorcycles
Getty Images/Tyler Stableford

Motorcycle Blue Book Value is the generic term for all vehicle pricing resources. If you are in the market for a used motorcycle, how can you be sure you're getting a good deal? How about if you want to sell your bike and don't know what it's worth? If you are a seller, you could always start at a high price and incrementally bring it down until you find a buyer. But that could take a lot of time and effort, and you would probably prefer to get the whole thing over with as soon as possible.

And for you buyers out there, you just know that if you pay what the seller is asking, it's only a matter of days before someone tells you where you could have gotten a better bike for a lower price. Is there any way to avoid this hassle? Of course, there is and it's called the "blue book." 

What is a "Blue Book"?

Most of you probably know the answer to this already. If you answered "Kelley Blue Book," you are right, at least technically. But "blue book" has come to be thought of, fairly or unfairly, as the generic term for all vehicle pricing resources. And there are a few of them out there, the two most prominent being the Kelley Blue Book, and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Guides. Each of these resources provides prices based on different criteria and you are bound to get different, sometimes significantly different, estimates from each. So how do you know who to trust?

Here's the confusing answer: Trust them both and don't totally trust any one of them. To explain why here's a brief look at each.

Kelley Blue Book

The Kelley Blue Book is the best known of all the sources. It is, after all, where the "blue book" term comes from. Kelley determines its prices for used motorcycles by gathering information from dealer surveys and sales reports.

As a result, many people feel that estimates provided by Kelley favor dealers and are, therefore, on the higher end of the price spectrum. Dealers like these prices because they can low-ball them and claim to customers that their prices are "below Blue Book." Private sellers like them because they make them think their bikes are worth more than what they might really bring on the open market. This is where the old axiom of "buyer beware" comes into play. If you are a buyer, don't necessarily take a Kelley Blue Book estimate as the price you should pay for a used bike, but instead as a top price that you should negotiate down from.

NADA Guides

NADA guides, taken as a whole, have the highest circulation by far when compared to the other valuation sources. Some people believe that this makes them the source to go to. NADA claims to have access to millions of transactions, both wholesale and retail, that they use in calculating their prices. It's believed by many that NADA numbers are preferred by insurance companies. NADA estimates often come close to Kelley Blue Book. This is not always the case, however.

So, What Should Buyers and Sellers Do?

You were hoping for an easy answer here, weren't you?

Actually, the answer is pretty simple: If possible, check out all three pricing resources. Each one's prices can be accessed online. And, most importantly, remember that these guides are just that: guides that are meant to help buyers and sellers alike determine fair prices for bikes.

Motorcycles are often customized by their owners, so changes to a model's factory specs will have a modifying effect on price estimates. Other factors, such as condition, mileage, geographic location, even color, can play a significant role in ultimate price. A great negotiating tool is to gather as many price quotes as possible, from the big three resources discussed above, as well as any others you can find online, and show them to the other party. They may help bring an otherwise unrealistic buyer or seller back to Earth in terms of a fair price.