Whether it’s a little red Corvette or a pink Cadillac, picking just the right color can be as important to car buyers as price and options, but letting emotions play a big role when it comes to car color can be costly down the line.
Those black, white and silver vehicles may sound boring, but they may stand a better chance of returning a little more at resale time than an oddball or fad color, like today’s brown, orange or, yes, pink cars, especially if the wild color gets dropped, experts say.
“You’re always taking a bit more of a risk with the fad colors,” says Eric Ibara, director of residual value consulting for Kelley Blue Book.
There are other considerations, too. Lighter-colored cars are less likely to show dirt and scratches. One study suggests that white cars are less likely to be involved in accidents. Car colors don’t appear to affect insurance rates, but the question is open about whether a flaming-red sports car is more likely to catch the eye of a traffic cop.
Most buyers hue to the banal when it comes to choosing their car’s finish.
White remains the world’s most popular car color, says PPG Industries. In North America, the preferred color for SUVs is roughly divided between white, black, blue, red and gray. Most sporty models are often red, green or blue.
Silver denoted luxury cars some 57% of the time in 2013, when PPG most recently surveyed car colors.
Ibara, who drives a sea-foam green Chevrolet Volt, says automakers mostly offer colors considered “safe bets” these days — they limit the wild choices. Often, it’s owners who get them repainted in a crazy color. “We occasionally see bad colors cross the auction lot,” he says. “It’s going to be a car with a lot of personality.”
In recent years, automakers have tried out some crazier looks. After a Chevrolet Spark arrived in Techno Pink, Cars.com took a look at car color resale value in 2012. The finding: Resale values of the more unusual colors, for the most part, didn’t suffer much unless the color was discontinued. The prime example was looking at prices of 2008 Chevrolet Equinox SUVs. Those in teal, the discontinued color, sold for an average of $14,578, about $300 less than silver and more than $500 less than black or white.
When a color gets popular, automakers are likely to offer many shades. For instance, three of the nine colors offered on a new Cadillac CTS are variations on silver or charcoal, but trends pop up, like orange and browns lately and lots of green cars more than a decade ago.
When it comes to safety, white cars may have an edge. A 2007 study by Monash University found that white was safer than every other color. The study was based on accident data in Australia and New Zealand between 1997 and 2004.
White or other light cars are also easier to keep looking nice, which also helps at trade-in time. When it comes to paint damage, “your eye is going to pick up more on those darker colors,” says Mike Pennington, director of training for Meguiar’s, a high-end automotive wax and cleaning products maker. A scratch, he says, often appears white on just about any car.
Though brighter colors may require more attention, he says car owners still crave them.
“Sometimes the car color just stops you in your tracks. It just pops,” he says. “It’s an emotional connection.”