The History of Kelley Blue Book

The Kelley Blue Book has been around since 1926 serving consumers in the automobile industry. This informative guide means ensuring a fair price when buying and selling a vehicle for millions of people. If you’ve ever wondered how Kelley Blue Book came to be, here’s a little bit about its history.

The Beginning
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the groundwork for this company was laid by Les Kelley in 1918. There were originally 3 vehicles (all Model T’s) that earned his seal of approval. A few years later, in 1926, Kelley produced his first book made up of cars he wanted to buy and the price he was willing to pay for them. In a stroke of good fortune, Les Kelley’s brother was named the General Manager of the family dealership and agreed to publish the Blue Book. Business boomed for these two brothers and their small family business became the largest used auto dealership in the world.

Later Years
The affects of World War II hit our nation and the Kelley Car Company was among the first to offer special financing to Veterans. Additionally, throughout the war, the government used the numbers listed in Kelley Blue Book to set pricing for used cars. This helped skyrocket the authority and popularity of virtually all of the Kelley businesses. During the 60’s and 70’s, big changes took place. According to, “Now the largest Ford and used car dealership in the world, Kelley Kar Company is sold to devote full time to Kelley Blue Book. It becomes the first publication to use mileage to determine a car’s value.” For this family to sell their extremely successful business in order to focus on the KBB full time says a great deal about how popular the auto guide was. Their website also states that as part of their expansion, “Kelley Blue Book developed guides for everything from travel trailers to campers to ATVs to snowmobiles to motorcycles and manufactured housing.” This was a massive jump from singularly covering automobiles.

More Recently
Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, Kelley Blue Book began their preparations to enter the online world. They developed a software that was marketing to dealers, insurance companies and and financial institutions. It helped set an industry standard on pricing for vehicles across the board. Along with continuously publishing their books, KBB launched a website in 1995. In the 2000’s, according to their website, “ introduces new car previews, side-by-side comparisons, Blue Book Classifieds, and editors’ market commentary.” Continuous innovation has helped keep this company at the forefront of their field. Additionally, the last 10 years have yielded a lucrative partnership with AutoTrader as well as new features like mobile apps.

The Kelley legacy is one that has held strong for almost 100 years. The hard work, dedication and faith that have gone into building this brand has been tremendous. They have built a company that consumers have trusted and continue to trust decades later.