Dec 8, 2020

What's My Motorcycle Worth? The Truth Behind KBB

RumbleOn Road Captain

Are Kelley Blue Book values and prices accurate and reliable?

Not accurate, or at least, not as accurate as it’s given credit for. KBB values and pricing rely on seller data which often does not reflect live up to date market demands for a motorcycle, atv, utv, car, or truck.

The Internet has proliferated the number of resources we have access to, which is great because this allows us to be better informed about the world around us, as well as the things we own. A resource many people have flocked to when it comes to selling all things automotive is Kelley Blue Book (KBB). It’s also become a staple resource for anyone looking to sell a motorcycle, atv, or utv online. KBB's 20-million average visitors a month will attest to the site's popularity.

Since when did "popular" mean "reliable?"

As consumers, we create our own "fictional truths." We know there's an endless amount of information and resources at our fingertips, but do we ever stop to critically look at these resources? Are they as sound as we think?

Perhaps the two biggest questions consumers of the automotive industry have to ponder are 1) "Is Kelley Blue Book motorcycle prices accurate?" and 2) "Is Kelley Blue Book realistic?" Whether you love or hate the number KBB quotes for your ride, you have to make peace with the fact that Kelley Blue Book is not a flawless system because it funnels its research through its users, and therefore should not be treated as a fail-proof resource.

Source: Steve Richards YouTube

kelley blue book motorcycle

How accurate and reliable are Kelley Blue Book Values?

Factors used to determine your Kelley Blue Book motorcycle value:

  • Private Party Value
  • Suggested Retail Value
  • Trade-in Value
  • Certified Pre-Owned Value

While all of these components should create reasonable expectations, each one comes with its own set of flaws. For instance, the motorcycle trade-in value is based on how much a dealership would offer you for your bike; but, every dealership will provide a different price based on a) their location, b) the amount of customer traffic that dealership has, c) the popularity of a particular bike in an area as well as its ability to sell in that area, and d) the quantity of a certain model that already exists within a dealership's inventory. All of these variables will impact your offer, so Kelley Blue Book's quote will likely fluctuate and hardly ever be spot-on.

There are other downsides to Kelley Blue Book as well. For example, KBB gathers its information primarily from the people who use the site and then accesses user information to craft its own database. This system is not entirely sound, and here’s why:

People can be biased.

Believe it or not, you might be a bit biased towards your motorcycle, and for good reason. You have fond memories and emotions tied to your bike, and even if you’re selling it, you still recognize its value. There's nothing wrong with that.

Check out this video to see how bias can exist in different forms:

Source: Big Think YouTube

kelley blue book motorcycle

However, personal bias often distorts reality and, in this case, the perception you have of your bike. You won't view your motorcycle the same way as someone without your personal experience will view it. Instead, you'll see a motorcycle in nearly perfect condition because it’s your bike and you put in the time and effort to maintain it. We know this isn't intentional; it's human nature to think highly of our personal belongings, and our motorcycles are no exception. But, by the same token, others who aren't emotionally tied to your bike will assess it fairly and objectively.

For instance, when you take your bike to a dealership, it's likely they won't show bias because they can physically see the motorcycle and assess it properly. In a sense, what you see is what you get, and dealership's prices will reflect that. However, when Kelley Blue Book has you (a.k.a. the current owner) determine the condition of your bike, the quote you generate will likely be inaccurate due to personal bias. A system that relies on the personal judgments of its consumer base is not a suitable system.

Outdated information.

While Kelley Blue Book tries to ensure all the information on their site is up to date, this system is anything but perfect. For example, you might receive an unrealistic quote for your motorcycle because the site has yet to adjust to the live demands of the marketplace.

So, while you might've received what you believe to be a reasonable quote for your bike from KBB, it remains in everyone's best interest that you approach an interested dealership with more realistic (which sometimes means 'lower') expectations. After all, it's their job to stay in-the-know when it comes to industry shifts and changes.  

Dealerships and buyers don't take KBB seriously.

No, dealerships don't refrain from using Kelley Blue Book simply because it tends to offer a higher price than they are willing to pay for your motorcycle. The fact is, these entities are running a business, and businesses aim to make a profit. To make a profit, dealerships offer the seller a price representative of the live market value; and, as we previously touched on, KBB doesn't always present prices that reflect live market value. RumbleOn, on the other hand, uses resources with more accurate data.

Those who understand data collection are aware of the weaknesses inherent in Kelley Blue Book's value system. Dealerships, for example, use data from the National Auto Research Black Book, and Manheim Market Report (both of which the public cannot access,) and NADA guides. These resources, unlike Kelley Blue Book, do not rely on the potentially biased input of consumers; instead, they rely on the actual, comparable sales and purchases of all motorcycles, along with the details and costs associated with it.

All of this is to say that how and where you get your numbers is just as important as the numbers themselves.

Kelley Blue Book does not accurately reflect demand.

Kelley Blue Book is not reflected in real-time. It doesn't adjust its information every second changes occur. This means that while the market and industry is a roller coaster ride of changes as time passes (and time is essential when selling), Kelley Blue Book does not reflect live market changes. When KBB finally does update, by the time the changes are implemented, the market has already shifted and the vehicle's value has likely changed, again.

If Kelley Blue Book had a system in which real-time dealerships were able to visually take a look at your bike, the site would likely quote values that are consistent with the live marketplace at any given time. However, since KBB relies entirely on sellers to gather its information, it's inevitable this system be subject to error.

Flawed systems like Kelley Blue Book's are what make sellers feel disappointed in the offers they receive. How accurate is Kelley Blue Book? Not accurate, or at least, not as accurate as it’s given credit for. Why is it so hard to sell my motorcycle? Only as difficult as you let it be, because there’s always an individual, or dealership, out there who’s interested in buying your bike. Check out our guide on how to sell your motorcycle for the most cash.

Note: RumbleOn is an Amazon Affiliate, dedicated to reviewing the best and safest gear and more, for riders everywhere. We may receive commissions if products are purchased from them.

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