Color matters. The color you choose for your new car can affect both the cost of ownership and its resale value. This is due to a variety of reasons, including changing tastes in color, where you live, and whether manufacturers have retired your vehicle’s color.
Paint supplier PPG Industries reports that white is the most popular color in the USA (35 percent), followed by black (17 percent), silver (12 percent), and gray (12 percent). White is also the most popular color in Europe, Asia, and South America, so you are in good company if that’s your color choice.
But it’s not just common colors that sell well; off-beat colors like orange and lemon yellow and neutral colors like beige and gold do well on the used car market, although they have less than three percent of the new sales market.
It’s a matter of supply and demand, says Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars.com. Offbeat colors are less available, so if you have your heart set on a Lexus CT 200h in what Lexus calls “Daybreak Yellow,” but the rest of us call taxicab yellow, you’ll pay a premium over what the same vehicle would cost in a more popular color.
Surprisingly, iSeeCars reports that vehicles in orange and yellow depreciated the least of any color in the first three years of ownership (21.6 percent for orange and 22 percent for yellow). Average vehicle depreciation is 29.8 percent, with gold the biggest loser.
Also surprisingly, vehicles in rare colors don’t take much longer to sell than those in popular colors. iSeeCars reports it takes just one day longer for the average three-year-old car in a popular color like black or white to sell than it does for a similar model in less popular colors like orange, yellow, green, or brown.
Don't Go for the Gold
The same report showed that gold vehicles depreciate more than any color, by more than one-third in the first three years. Perhaps that’s because most gold vehicles are sedans, and there’s a glut of those, affecting prices.
Red, White, and Blue
“Cop-catcher red” is the preferred color for sports cars and performance sedans, but not for family-oriented minivans. Red is an aggressive color, and sport cars tend to be driven faster and more aggressively when compared to family-friendly vehicles. The other most popular colors for sports models are blue and silver.
White, which we’ve already said is the most popular car color, is easier to clean and less likely to show scratches and marks. Also, you are more likely to find touch-up colors for dings, even if the best match is a manufacturer other than your vehicle. The availability of white and pearl-white touch-up paint can help you get “Ol’ Faithful” looking good before resale.
PPG reports that most luxury vehicles, including high-end SUVs, are more likely to feature so-called “effect finishes” such as metallic or pearl tri-coat paint. Land Rover reported recently that just over one-third of all its models sold are white.
Where you live affects both the operating costs and the resale value of the vehicle you buy or sell. White and silver vehicles are more efficient in warmer and sunnier areas because white reflects light, so the vehicle’s air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard. When the air conditioner doesn’t work as hard, the vehicle earns better fuel economy.
Conversely, black and dark blue vehicles are a better choice where winters are long and cold. Darker colors absorb heat, so the car's heater doesn't have to work as hard, producing better fuel economy.
Ask the Dealer
Manufacturers update colors all the time. Although sometimes it can just be a name change or the addition of a metallic version. When leasing or buying, ask the dealer if the color of the vehicle you are choosing is new or whether it’s been in the palette for several model years. An older color may be dropped soon, which raises the the price of retouching dings and dents.
A study published by the British Medical Journal indicates that drivers of silver cars are 50 percent less likely to get in accident than those driving other colors. Researchers speculated that silver reflects light better and therefore makes cars more visible to other vehicles.
The 2003 study showed that the least safe car colors are brown and green, perhaps because they blend into colors of the terrain alongside roads, especially country roads at dusk. Perhaps that’s why we don’t see many brown or green cars these days, except for the almost neon lime green color offered on the Ford Fiesta.
A six-year study by Australia’s Monash University Accident Research Centre, released in 2007, determined that white was safer than any other car color, citing a statistically significant relationship between vehicle color and crash risk. Simply, a white vehicle is easier to see in daylight and when illuminated by headlights at night.