It seems we’ve become a nation of grayscale-colored cars, trucks, and SUVs. According to Kelley Blue Book, black, white, gray, and silver paint jobs have dominated new-vehicle exteriors in the U.S. for over a decade. Sure, there are exceptions—BASF’s 2020-2021 Automotive Color Trends Report predicts the next hot hues will be a grey-like Dark Seltzer, a muted reddish-brown Redolent Red, and with blues catching the eyes of more car buyers these days, Abstraction Blue.
Still the colors most likely to blend into a crowded parking lot are still the ones favored most by new-vehicle buyers. KBB says White is the color of choice among 24.5 percent of all SUV buyers, 34.5 percent of minivans, 28 percent of pickup trucks, 31.75 percent of luxury cars, and 28 percent of sedans wagons, and hatchbacks. At the other end of the spectrum, 22 percent of coupe and convertible buyers prefer black.
While new-vehicle buyers will likely never lose money at trade-in time by originally choosing models painted in monochromatic variants, a recent study of over six million new and used car transactions conducted between 2017 and 2020 by the used-vehicle site iSeeCars.com found that a buyer’s color choice that bucks the trend can actually help boost a new vehicle’s return down the road.
“There’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy going on here, with many consumers picking mainstream colors not because they like them, but because they assume everyone else does,” says iSeeCars executive analyst Karl Brauer. “This makes white, black, and silver appear to be in high demand, yet our analysis confirms that more obscure colors tend to hold their value better than common and popular colors.”
The study determined that yellow cars tend to bring back the most bucks, depreciating an average 45.6 percent less than conservative colors after three years. Other standout shades in terms of resale value include bright-and cheerful shades of orange, green, red, and blue. We’re featuring the list of the 13 most prevalent colors and their average three-year rates of depreciation below.
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Is this a case of brightly colored cars simply standing out in a crowded used-car lot or is there more than meets the proverbial eye?
“Yellow may not be a widely desired car color, but there are enough people who want yellow, versus the number of yellow new cars being ordered, to make yellow cars more desirable than others on the used market,” Brauer explains. Yellow is most often seen in the palettes of sports cars and muscle cars, along with orange, which is also commonly used for limited-edition models used to commemorate a particular vehicle’s milestone.
Yet some colors that deviate from the norm, particularly purple, brown, and gold, tend to depreciate quicker than duller paint treatments despite their relative scarcity in both the new and used markets. Perhaps taste matters here. “Rarity alone does not equal value. If a color doesn’t resonate with enough used car shoppers it will hurt resale value, even if it’s uncommon,” says Brauer.
Take note that the most and least desired colors tend to vary according to vehicle type. For example, yellow brings back the most green among SUVs at resale time with a 30.3 percent rate of depreciation after three years, while beige loses the most value at 46.0 percent. On the other hand, beige boosts pickup trucks’ resale value the most, losing on average just 18.1 of original value lost after three years. Brown trucks don’t make it, however, with a 33.4 percent dive in resale value over 36 months.
Here are new-vehicle colors ranked according to their rates of depreciation, according to iSeeCars.com:
- Yellow: 20.4% 3-year depreciation
- Beige: 22.8% 3-year depreciation
- Orange: 27.1% 3-year depreciation
- Green: 31.3% 3-year depreciation
- Gray: 36.4% 3-year depreciation
- Red: 36.9% 3-year depreciation
- Blue: 37.0% 3-year depreciation
- Silver: 37.6% 3-year depreciation
- White: 38.0% 3-year depreciation
- Black: 38.4% 3-year depreciation
- Purple: 41.2% 3-year depreciation
- Brown: 42.1% 3-year depreciation
- Gold: 45.6% 3-year depreciation
Overall Average: 37.6% 3-year depreciation
The full results of the iSeeCars.com study and its methodology can be found here.