What factors would you consider when buying a car? Most people look at how much it costs, what brand it is, what features it has, how much gas mileage it gets, and its safety rating – all of which are important – but appearance is also a major part of the decision-making process. In fact, according to a consumer survey by PPG Industries, 77% of car buyers said that color was a consideration when choosing a vehicle.
Well, let’s say you finally have a chance to buy your first car, and you don’t want to get a plain old boring color like your parents have. Unfortunately, however, your favorite color may be hard to find. Even though people pick the color of their cars based on their personal preferences, they can only choose from what’s available. The colors offered by car manufacturers are determined by economics, popular trends, and consumer taste. Most companies will only offer colors that they know will sell in large quantities because they’re not going to take the risk.
Henry Ford once said: “A customer may have a car painted in any color that he wants, so long as it’s black.” Car colors have shifted over the years from the dark colors of early cars, through the vivid colors of classic 1950s – 1970s cars, towards more neutral colors in modern cars. The most popular car colors today are greyscale, with 76% of cars produced globally being white, black, gray or silver. Blue and red cars each range between 8% and 10%, while all other colors amount to less than 5% of car sales.
What is the reasoning behind the selection of modern car colors? Consider the following…
According to studies, lighter color vehicles such as white, cream, and silver are more visible and therefore less likely to be involved in accidents. Auto mechanics see a higher number of dark colored cars, such as black, that have been in crashes – which makes sense, because these colors tend to blend in with the road, especially at night. In comparison, light-colored cars require less auto repairs due to their higher visibility. (Notice in the photo above, all the dark-colored cars are hard to see against the blacktop parking lot, while the lighter colors stand out.)
Psychologically, the color black represents elegance, affluence and power; therefore, it’s a popular color for luxury cars. However, there are many negative aspects to owning a black vehicle. The primary one being that black absorbs heat. Research has shown that under identical circumstances, the interior temperature in a black car will be approximately 6-10 degrees higher than that of a light colored vehicle. A car with a darker exterior color will also get hotter on the inside faster than a light colored vehicle. This is a critical factor for anyone living in the Southwest. In addition, the intense desert sun is very hard on black and other dark colors, often fading them so they look dull.
So if you live in a sunny state like Arizona, it’s best to avoid getting a black car and especially not one with leather seats. A vehicle with a leather interior that has been sitting in the desert summer sun will burn your thighs (even through pants) every time, no matter what color the leather seats are. Black leather can actually give you first/second degree burns at certain times of the year. Even with tinted windows, the appearance or darkness of the tint does not automatically mean it blocks heat. You can have your windows tinted to the legal limit with a charcoal black film and it still won’t give you any heat protection.
Dirt is the other problem. A black vehicle only looks its best after it’s been freshly washed, and it begins to look dirty much more quickly than lighter colors. Also, with dark colors, whatever drops on it (i.e., tree sap, bird blops) bakes on instantly in the sun. So you may have to wash your car once a week to keep it looking good. Not just a quick rise-off, either, but careful washing and waxing is important on a glossy black car because every water spot, fingerprint, scratch and blemish will show. So unless you really enjoy washing your car, you may want to look for a different color vehicle.
You might think a matte paint would be better than a high-gloss finish, but it’s not. Matte paint offers zero reflectivity, it’s the least durable, and it’s the hardest to clean. A single small scratch will stand out more on a matte surface than on a glossy one. And here’s a caveat that you must not ignore: scratches on matte paint will be permanent because rejuvenation methods like wet sanding, polishing and waxing won’t work on a matte finish. So beware of the matte look, which has gained popularity in luxury cars.
Red is the most intense color and it has been shown to increase the rate of heart beat and breathing. It’s a common myth that red cars are more costly to insure since the owner may be a more emotional person, and possibly an aggressive driver. It’s also believed that the eye-catching color makes red cars more likely to receive speeding tickets. However, insurance companies mainly look at the make and model so you won’t even be asked the color of your vehicle, and studies show that red vehicles receive no more speeding tickets than any other color. The main problem with red vehicles is that they show dust and water spots nearly as badly, and they fade just as easily, as black vehicles.
Modern clear coat finishes from the factory have just about eliminated the red paint color from fading on new vehicles. But depending on the environment to which the car is exposed, the clear coat can become dull. Also, if it is parked in the sun often, you will need to wax it regularly, or at the very least twice a year. Clear coat finishes can start to peal after about five years in the sun if you don’t protect them. If you are concerned about the longevity of your car’s paint, and you don’t have a garage, park under an awning or sun shade. Just keeping your car out of the sun as much as possible will help prolong the finish.
Blues and greens are naturally calming colors, which might help guard against road rage, and blue in particular has long been a popular vehicle color. How flashy these colors look and how easily they get dirty depends on the shade and intensity, and whether the paint is metallic or not. The aluminum flakes in metallic paint give cars a shiny sparkle. The mica particles in pearlescent paint give cars a soft glow. Yellow is a bright happy color, and it’s a safe color because it makes your car stand out and for that reason it’s less likely to be stolen, but you risk looking like a taxi cab.
The most popular vehicle color in America is white, followed by pearl and silver. Light color cars won’t absorb the heat like a dark color, and can also go much longer in between washings and still look good. Believe it or not, dust and scratches on a white car won’t be as noticeable as they are on a black car, which may seem counterintuitive but it has to do with the way the white color reflects and scatters all wavelengths of light. Since a white car reflects the most sunlight, it will remain cooler and require less use of the air conditioner. This in turn makes them more eco-friendly, allowing for better fuel economy and less emissions.
Cars are huge investments, so if you want to maintain your car’s resale value, be wary of purchasing vibrant or unusual colors such as orange, pink, or lime green. Although these colors can be attractive on a sports car, a VW beetle, or a cute little smart car, they are not recommended for the average car. More people will have strong opinions regarding these colors, while neutral colors elicit more neutral opinions. The bottom line is… cars that are white or silver retain their value better than any other color, they stay cool, and they look nice too.
Vehicle color can be a difficult choice when buying a car, especially if more than one person is weighing in on the decision, but knowing the facts can make the choice easier. In general, when it comes to selecting what clothing to buy, by all means feel free to wear showy colors that express your personality – but you might want to be a little more conservative when it comes to choosing a car color.