In the world of best car colors, you can count on the old standbys that never go out of style.
White, Black, Gray, and Silver continue to top the list of best colors for cars. Based on consumer choice, these car colors jockey back and forth for position like a bunch of thoroughbreds. But does color really matter?
Kelley Blue Book takes a look. We ask the experts about the best car colors and take a deeper look at resale value. We also look at what futurists say about car colors in the next three to five years.
Car Colors and Resale Value
So, you might ask, “Does color really matter?” Like many vehicle features, color plays a role in determining the residual value of your car.
Put simply, today’s popular car color will probably make your vehicle more popular to a buyer five years from now. But as color trends change, there is a chance the color you chose five to seven years ago might not be so popular today.
Blame that on changing trends, the economy at that moment, and other factors. But by playing it safe when it comes to color choice, you could actually be helping out your bottom line when it comes time to sell your car.
Choosing the “wrong” color, in some cases, could cause depreciation of your vehicle as well. How much depreciation will your car see? That depends on several factors and can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
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For instance, Chevy’s Corvette Stingray C8 was introduced in a bright orange metallic color known as “Sebring Orange Tintcoat.” During the first year of this new C8 Corvette model, it would likely retain value because of its first-of-its-kind status.
On the other hand, the 2021 Hyundai Sonata featured “Glowing Yellow” as one of its colors. Brighter than bright, it may not find favor on the new and even the pre-owned market if you are not a “look at me” type of driver.
Sticking to neutral colors like white, black, gray, and silver are your safest bets. But if you feel inclined to expand your palette, remember that bright yellow, orange, or purple vehicles could put you at a disadvantage when selling or trading in your vehicle.
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Top Car Colors
In BASF’s 2021-2022 Automotive Color Trends report, experts predict trends for the top car colors for the 2024 to 2026 models years. In North America, the experts “looked to the concept of balance that strikes a chord with human steadfastness,” to come up with:
“We found the equilibrium between the natural and the synthetic world to create calming, unwavering, and thought-provoking colors,” said Paul Czornij, head of Automotive Design for the Americas, when describing lambent earth, a coppery, dark brown color.
BASF experts pulled inspiration from industry, fashion, consumer products, nature, and more.
In another car color trend report by PPG, experts noted that gray has grown in popularity in recent years.
In another trend, PPG experts said two-tone paint treatments are coming into style. New finish techniques make them easier to mass-produce than in years past, and they lend a certain sophistication to vehicle design.
“It’s fitting that two-tone finishes would come back into favor during this time when we as a society are looking to the past,” said Misty Yeomans, color styling manager for PPG. “Along with special-order colors, tinted clearcoats, tri-coats, and matte finishes, two-tone finishes better reflect vehicle owners’ individual preferences and personalities.”
In addition to the rising popularity of grays, other colors from blues, greens, and violets seem to hit a high note with car shoppers. PPG experts said the vibrant new colors are more likely to debut on sporty models rather than SUVs and pickups.
Popular Colors for SUVs, Minivans, and Trucks
In the latest PPG study, gray overtook white (which includes pearl and metallic) as the most popular color for SUVs. White is still the first choice of most shoppers buying a minivan or light truck, as has been the case for more than 10 years. But gray is surging in all three categories.
- Gray (25%)
- White (24%)
- Black (18.5%)
- Silver (11%)
- Blue (10%)
- Red (7.5%)
- Green (2.5%)
- Gold/Beige, Orange, and Brown (tied at 0.5%)
- White (34%)
- Gray (23.5%)
- Silver (14.5%)
- Black (11%)
- Red (7.5%)
- Blue (7%)
- Green (2%)
- Brown (0.5%)
- White (27%)
- Gray (21.5%)
- Black (17%)
- Silver (12.5%)
- Red (9.5%)
- Blue (6%)
- Brown (1%)
- Orange (tied at 0.5%)
Popular Colors for Luxury Cars
White pearl and metallic overtook black as the color of choice for luxury vehicles two years ago, and that hasn’t changed this year. It’s so popular that white is seen on nearly one-third (or 31.5%) of the new luxury cars on the road today, according to PPG’s report. Brown and orange are now rare enough that they don’t even make the chart.
- White (31.5%)
- Black (25%)
- Gray (14%)
- Blue (11%)
- Silver (10.5%)
- Red (5%)
- Gold/Beige, Green (tied at 1%)
Popular Colors for Sedans, Wagons, and Hatchbacks
In midsize passenger vehicles, which include sedans, wagons, and hatchbacks, the same colors dominate. In this category, white, in both solid and metallic, accounts for the most buyers at 21.5%, according to PPG.
- White (21.5%)
- Gray (20.5%)
- Black, Blue (17%)
- Silver (16.5%)
- Red (5%)
- Beige/Gold (2%)
- Orange (0.5%)
Popular Colors for Compact Cars
Buyers tend to get more playful with the least-expensive cars on the market. White still wins this category, but candy-colored blues and reds are more common among small cars than any other segment.
- White (25%)
- Blue (21.5%)
- Gray (18.5%)
- Black (13%)
- Red, Silver (tied at 10%)
- Brown, Orange (tied at 1%)
Popular Colors for Convertibles and Coupes
Convertibles, coupes, and sports cars encompass everything from Camaros, Mustangs, and Challengers to European luxury models and more. According to PPG statistics, the color black takes the lead in this category. White, so dominant in other categories, slips to fourth among sportier cars. And while a brown sports car may sound strange, the Chevy Corvette Stingray’s Caffeine hue has won over some buyers.
- Black (21%)
- Gray (tied at 19.5%)
- Blue (16%)
- White (14.5%)
- Red (12%)
- Silver (7%)
- Orange (4.5%)
- Green (3%)
- Brown (2%)
- Beige/Gold (0.5%)
As in fashion, some colors work better on certain vehicles than others. A small orange or yellow convertible is much more desirable than a bright yellow or orange minivan.
Car Colors That are Hard and Easy to Maintain
Some cars look amazing in certain colors. However, this is the list to pay attention to and the reasons why some colors stay cleaner longer than others.
- Black: Sleek black looks amazing on almost any car. But the color is a double-edged sword. It looks best when fresh from the car wash. Just give it a few minutes and it will likely be covered with pollen, dirt, and dust.
- Gray: This color is easiest to clean, according to various studies. Dirt and dust can hide nicely on these surfaces and look cleaner for longer.
- Silver: Like gray, silver hides dust and dirt longer. They also tend to hide mud buildup near the rocker panels of cars.
- White: Also in the easy-to-care-for group is white. But this color tends to show mud and splashes easier than gray and silver. White, however, does hide swirl marks that result from automatic car washes and this car color tends to look newer, longer.
- Green: Who knew that green is easy to keep cleaner longer. But the color shows imperfections easier than gray, silver, and white.
- Orange: This bright color not only commands attention but it’s easy to clean.
- Yellow: This car color definitely stands out on highways and other roadways but not dust and pollen. Yellows easily hide those elements. However, yellows do emphasize mud splashes when you find yourself driving in the rain.
- Red: This flashy car color tends to hide mud easier than other colors but becomes dull if dirty.
- Blue: This color may be rising in popularity. It’s just harder to keep clean. Blues tend to show water spots easily. Scratches and swirl marks also appear easily with this color.
Safest Car Colors
Some colors may be safer than others. Australia’s Monash University Research Centre once studied the relationship between color and crash risk. Its data come from Australian crashes, so they may not translate perfectly to the conditions of American roads. But their conclusions make sense. Their most recent report says white is the safest color.
Consider these safe car colors when buying your next car.
1. White: In a white vehicle, you would have a 12% lesser chance of accident involvement than a black vehicle in all types of weather and lighting.
2. Yellow: Drive in a yellow vehicle and the car makes it easier for other drivers to spot them quickly. Yellow, though, doesn’t look good on all vehicles.
3. Orange: Driving in an orange vehicle reduces your accident risk. Since the color is not used on many cars, it stands out for its rarity as much as its high visibility.
4. Gold: Go for the gold because these vehicles keep you safer as well. They tend to stand out for the same reason as orange.
Top 8 Colors for 2022
Each year, Pantone puts out a list of popular colors. For 2022, Pantone’s Color of the Year is “Very Peri,” a soft blue with a violet-red undertone. Pantone says it “displays a sprightly, joyous attitude and dynamic presence that encourages courageous creativity and imaginative expressions.”
There’s no trend report for 2022 just yet. However, check out PPG’s PPG’s 2021 list of the top car colors in North America for all vehicle categories shows a few changes compared to 2020 data:
- Silver/Gray (34% – up 3%)
- White (24% – down 2%)
- Black (18% – down 1%)
- Blue (12% – up 2%)
- Red (7.5% – down 1.5%)
- Red (9%)
- Green (2%)
- Natural (1.5% – down 1%)
- Other, Two-Tone (1% – up 0.5%)
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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since it was originally published.