Home truths about monthly values

When I joined CAP 16 years ago this month, I never dreamed I would one day say this in public …

Black Book values are out of date.

There, I said it. Because it’s true.

You are welcome to check for yourself. Our sales team will be happy to sell you a subscription to the monthly paper edition of Black Book and then you can go into the marketplace and see what cars are really selling for.

You are almost guaranteed to find a difference because we produce the monthly Black Book by taking a snapshot of our research database sometime around the end of the 3rd week in the month. This means that by the time a monthly book hits the doormat it’s at least a week out of date. By the end of the month you’re therefore looking up car values that were last researched 5 weeks ago (and this is the most up-to-date monthly values book in the market).

Sometimes this isn’t a problem for the savvy trade professional. We aren’t so naïve or arrogant as to think traders and dealers rely entirely on us to tell them what’s happening to car prices. But there are certainly times when it can be impossible to keep up with the ebb and flow of market prices. Remember the end of 2008? Or the beginning of 2009? You may as well have thrown your book away without even unwrapping it when the credit crunch stopped the market in its tracks and then prices shot through the ceiling again, as people realised the used car retail market was still ticking over.

That is when CAP took the decision that monthly trade values were simply not good enough. It was a no-brainer to publish a genuine real-time trade pricing tool (although it took some very fine brains indeed to actually build it).

Black Book Live tells you what cars are selling for right now – not what they were selling for last time we pulled millions of pieces of monthly research data together to publish a book.

Actually, here’s a confession. Our sales team probably won’t be that happy to sell you a monthly printed Black Book. They will be much happier to sell you something that gives you the information you need all the time at the touch of a smartphone screen or a tablet or via a mouse click. They’ll probably try to sell you Valuation Anywhere v2.0 with Black Book Live enabled, so you can just enter a VRM and within seconds know the trade price you asked for in today’s market (not last month’s).

Of course they’d try to sell you a higher value product. They are salespeople. Of course I’d promote our latest product release. I’m the PR guy. But when I wrote this release about VA v2.0 it really brought home to me how critical properly up-to-date information is in our daily lives. The old encyclopaedias on my bookshelves just sit there gathering dust in the age of Wikipedia. I use apps and the web for looking up everything, from recipes to gigs. Apart from Private Eye, I never touch a physical newspaper. I still read the trade magazines but I find their online daily news updates far more useful. Like most people, I want everything instantly and I want to be confident the information is current. So if I was buying or selling cars, I’d definitely want to know what the market says they’re worth right now instead of thumbing through an out-of-date book.

I’m not suggesting you stop buying your book. It’s handy as a drinks mat or even a door stop. We also like to see people carrying them around at auction. The ‘little’ Black Book is an iconic brand in our industry and it would be a sad day if it ever ceased (there are certainly no plans to stop printing it).

But, as a business tool, it’s a long way behind the curve compared with Black Book Live. And in the end, aren’t we all here to be successful in business?


Note: CAP blog entries represent the personal viewpoints of CAP staff. Business decisions should only be made on the basis of information published in CAP’s commercial products and not on the basis of information or opinion published on the CAP blog. For further information about CAP products call us on 0113 223 2111.


Mike Hind