Car Colour Popularity

The most popular car colours today are shades of grey: white, black, grey and silver, amounting to over 70% of the total world car production. Red, blue and brown/beige cars range between 6% and 9% each, while all other colours amount to less than 5%. Colour choice is subject to fluctuation and fashion, and historical trends shifted from dark neutral colours of early cars, through more vivid colours of 1950s and 1960s, back towards today’s neutral colours.

A 2013 poll for Forbes by iSeeCars.com discovered gender differences in preferred car colours. Slightly more men than women preferred red, while slightly more women than men favoured silver. This small but statistically real gender difference, rather than reflecting actual gendered colour preferences, instead appears to be the result of existing gender-based preferences for particular types of car, which are likewise associated with different colours. Each vehicle category, from electric cars to gigantic SUVs, exhibits a general “personality,” which tends to inspire different levels of interest for men and women.

The car colours silver, white, grey, black, gold, beige, and several shades of brown, while each having experienced the intermittent prominence typical of non-neutrals, are likewise subject to fashion’s more general fluctuations. However, perennial popularity for neutrals is assured based simply on their inherent plainness. Neutral colours are popular on cars for many reasons. The vast majority of drivers expect to get years of use from one car, and so take care in choosing its colour (among its many other attributes). Conventional wisdom has long considered neutral colours to be more tasteful, timeless, flattering, and fool-proof than bright colours; this wisdom also maintains that a neutral colour can be acceptably paired with any other conceivable colour. While many people disregard much of this advice when it comes to clothing, they are more likely to follow it where important purchases are concerned, as it is much easier and less expensive to change an unfortunate shirt than it is to have a car repainted a tolerable colour. Furthermore, unlike “faddish” colours, neutral colours do not run the risk of falling out of style. Lastly, some drivers, observing conventional beliefs about colours, choose neutral coloured cars because they fear that a non-neutral car could “clash” unpleasantly against their house, with other cars, with particular outfits while driving, or even with the particular driver’s skin tone.

Perhaps popularity itself helps propel certain colours’ continued ubiquity. Dominant car colours tend to remain dominant, as most new cars are bought straight from the car lot, where dealers preferentially stock the colours that sell so reliably. Rental car companies also prefer neutral coloured cars and stock their fleets accordingly, likely reasoning that their customers will approve of, or at least be able to ignore, neutral colours. Chris Webb, the exterior colour and trend designer for GM North America, suggests that silver is the most popular colour for the simple reason that relatively more light reflects off it, hiding dirt and attractively accentuating the architectural design. Cars that are silver retain their value better than any other colour, reselling for around 10% more than white cars; this superior resale value has caused many UK police agencies to replace their standard white patrol cars with silver models. However, these patrol cars could outlast the value of their paint colour, as there is some evidence that the colour’s popularity is decreasing.

A common belief is that red cars cost more to insure; in fact, insurers do not take colour into account. It is probably not coincidental that the top three male-preferred colours (red, orange and black, each with similar percentages) are all highly desirable colours for sports cars, cars which find more favour among men than women. Sports cars, in the popular imagination, are strongly associated with fun times and gorgeous women. For men who find this image alluring, red’s “sexy” connotations and high visibility, in addition to its status as the “traditional” colour for sports cars, add considerably to the vehicle’s flashiness and appeal. The top three colours preferred by more women than men were (the ever-popular) silver, followed by brown and gold; and the degree of gender disparity for all three was somewhat lower than for the above-mentioned male preferences. Silver, brown, and gold are all very popular colours for minivans and SUVs; which in the United States are both commonly associated with parenting. Because childcare burdens still fall more heavily on mothers than on fathers, it makes sense that women would be the ones shopping for an appropriate child-transporting vehicle, expecting to be its primary (if not exclusive) driver after purchase. A mother with several kids to drive around would not be tempted to buy a two-seater convertible for that purpose.

In summation, the poll showed that women favoured practical family-oriented cars in colours that would appear dignified and not stand out; whereas men wanted showier cars whose bright colours sought to attract specific kinds of attention. The article does not say whether there was a gender difference in who actually bought cars as opposed to just browsing and giving opinions.