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Choosing Car Color: What You Need to Know Before You Buy

Written By, NowCar Team

Though it might seem like a bubblegum topic, experts say the color of a car can make or break the sale. You might love the model, but hate the color, in which case you'll wait on getting behind the wheel. 

Reflective of personality and image, those ones you actually have and those you wish to project, the color of your car is more than just a shade. It's strategic. Chosen to convey some aspect of your identity, or based in beliefs about the hue's significance, car colors give consumers a lot to think about. 

The beauty of being able to buy a new car online is that you can access all the colors of the rainbow right at your fingertips.  

The Most Popular Colors of 2014

2016 Bentley Mulsanne - White

Generally, with the exception of high-end customization options, when it comes to selecting a color for your new car, you're pretty much at the mercy of whatever the manufacturer wants to offer for that model year. 

Since 2006, white has been the most popular color in the United States, with a global appreciation on the rise.  It's interesting that this shade has secured the top spot and held onto it for so long, when you consider the wildly opposing views many people have of it.

While some see white as signifying purity, peace, and an overall cleanliness, others would never choose a white car because it too closely resembles a vehicle from a rental fleet. 

Those in the automotive and design industry chalk up some of the color’s popularity to the proliferation of all-white Apple products, known as the "Apple effect."

White is subconsciously associated with luxury, high-tech products, like the iPhone, iPad, any and all things Apple, which represents all things cool and cutting-edge. A more practical consideration when it comes to choosing white over any other color comes down to climate. Depending on your geographic location, you might find that a white car stays cooler, compared to the heat-attracting darker shades of black, gray, or dark blue.

While there isn't a ton of data backing up this claim, one study released in 2011 by Applied Energy compared a silver and black Honda Civic, parked side-by-side in the sun. A temperature check of both cars one hour later revealed that the silver car was ten degrees cooler than the black car.

Although this is not extensive data, it is a scientifically-based finding nonetheless.

Staying Neutral

Neutrals keep the pace behind white when it comes to popular car colors. 

In 2012, DuPont released its Automotive Color Popularity report, based on volumes reported by manufacturers.

According to that report, the colors ranked as follows: 

  • White
  • Black
  • Silver
  • Gray
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Brown/Beige
  • Yellow/Gold
  • Green
  • Others or miscellaneous 

Those top four spots accounted for 76 percent of the automotive market at home and abroad. But, for those consumers who still consider white cars reminiscent of rentals only, the trend is starting to shift away from neutrals.

The reasons behind this emerging color trend towards brighter shades might surprise you.

Apples and Oranges - A Brightening Trend

2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

Similar to a hunter wearing a screaming neon orange vest, so as not to be confused for a deer and subsequently shot, many drivers believe that driving a bright-colored car keeps them safer on the road, because the color makes them more visible to other drivers.

However, this is an unfounded claim, one based in assumption rather than actual research. 

Another theory supporting bright car colors is security. Some car owners believe that purchasing a brightly colored car will safeguard them from theft. Research supporting this claim does exist.

Dutch economist, Ben Vollaard, studied vehicle theft in the Netherlands between 2004 and 2008, ultimately concluding that those cars painted blue and silver-gray, the two most popular in the Netherlands, were stolen a whopping forty percent more frequently than those less popular colors. 

It's certainly something to think about; however, at this point  the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration only tracks vehicle theft according to the car's model and year. Color information is not available.

But, it certainly does make sense.

If I was a car thief, I think I'd feel less conspicuous driving off in a car painted a drab gray compared to an electric blue. But, let's leave hypothetical crime out of this. 

What really drives this trend is self-expression, suggesting something about who you are by choosing a color that best represents you.

Make Like Madonna and "Express Yourself"

Many consumers are choosing to be bold, and make a statement with their car color by expressing themselves through their car's exterior. 

According to Jane Harrington, the color styling manager for PPG Industries, expect to see an increase in orange and brown shades on the road, and even the resurgence of the bottom-ranked green.

For 2014, PPG reported an increase in the appreciation of the color blue, particularly as a shade for sports models. 

Anticipating the future and responding to the demand for additional innovation across the spectrum, PPG just delivered more than 60 new exterior shades to major automotive manufacturers for their review. 

The "Colorography" collection features five palettes: Hi-Breed, Mosaic, New Spirit, Magnifigance, and Theorem. 

The Yellow Flag for Red Cars?

So you want to go bright and break free of the neutral ho-hum saturating the roads. Let's say you decided to drive the 2015 Toyota Prius in the shiny and stunning "Absolutely Red." Does that mean you should expect a surge in your insurance or a tendency to get pulled over?

Rest easy, Scarlett. These are automotive urban myths that have gained traction over the years, but should be impounded by now. A commitment to safe driving habits will keep you safe from jacked up premiums, as well as hefty or frequent speeding tickets.

Slow it down…after all, you want to show off that paint job, don't you?

Lighter Colors Better for Lazy People?

2015 Mustang GT - Black

Probably. Darker colored-cars tend to show more wear and tear, especially dark reds and metallics. 

Depending on your commitment to your car's maintenance, you might still opt for a darker shade because those tend to look the best when all shined up and polished. But, if you know you tend to let the ole' upkeep slide, then choose a lighter colored car, which tends to better cover and conceal all manner of maintenance sins.


At the end of the day, choose the color that speaks to you. Think about how much time you spend behind the wheel and let the weight of that time lead you to the right tint.