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Black And White Issues (And A Few Shades Of Grey)

If you take a look through the paint section of any home renovation store, you’re bound to come across those paint charts that leave you bewildered as to how many shades of white (and blue and grey and…) are possible.  So in some ways, it’s a bit puzzling as to why cars tend to come in fewer colours.  Look at the range of car colours available in any new model. Usually, there’ll be offerings in white, at least one grey and a red of some sort. If you’re lucky, there’ll be a few other shades: blue, green, yellow or even orange.


We tend to be more conservative with car colours when we buy, apparently. According to one source, this is because cars in a more conservative colour can be re-sold more easily.  White tradie vans will be snapped up quickly, but the same sort of van – say, a Toyota Hiace – that’s in some odd colour such as metallic purple won’t go as quickly, even though might be mechanically perfect and brilliantly practical. (However, as I’ve said in other posts, this can work the other way if you’re a buyer: you might be able to pick up said purple Hiace for a song because the seller is struggling to get rid of it.)

Other colours also seem to hold their value pretty well. Dark colours like black, deep charcoal grey and very dark blue tend to be popular with luxury vehicles – and don’t forget classic British racing green in Jaguars!  Think business suits and little black dresses and you’ll get the idea.

Safety plays a role in car colour choice, too.  Lighter colours tend to be easier to spot on the road.  This means white, yellow and possibly the lighter shades of silver are pretty good, but the luxury colours (black, dark blue and deep green) tend to be harder to pick.  From experience, cars in that medium shade of grey – about the colour of the average HB pencil line or the colour of clouds threatening rain – tend to be very hard to pick during when the light is fading.

It’s possible that technology also plays a role in what looks hot for cars.  Some analysts noticed that when silver computer bits and bobs were all the rage, silver cars were also sizzling, as the paint colour made the car look up to the minute.  When Apple brought out their tablets and other devices in white, silver took a back seat again and white surged even further ahead.  Some have also noted the increase in popularity of peacock blue and lime green, as these colours tend to be used a fair bit for lighting features and accent trims in high-tech gear.

According to Forbes magazine, the most popular colours for cars are:

  1. White (why are we not surprised?)
  2. Black
  3. Silver (that’s a lighter shade of metallic grey rather than completely reflective like real silver – only Justin Bieber is crass enough to have a mirror-finish car)
  4. Grey – everything from charcoal and pewter through to smoke and cloud
  5. Red. As every pre-teen boy knows, red cars go faster.
  6. Blue – peacock and cobalt for fun little hatchbacks, butcher’s blue for trade vans and indigo for luxury numbers.
  7. Brown and beige. This entry by Forbes magazine surprises me, as I haven’t seen a heap of brown cars about.
  8. Yellow (which also includes gold)
  9. Green

There is no #10, as every other colour is so rare it hardly rates, apparently.