Car color and resale value

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6 min read

From Bloomberg to Forbes, you can find dozens of articles on the web about car color and resale value. All the articles seem to come from the information found by a single 2016 research study. While there are a few percentage points that are interesting, the colors don't seem to correspond to the actual value of the vehicle itself. Let's take a look.

yellow wins for used car value

Evidently, if you have a used vehicle that's yellow, you made a great purchase. Coming in at 20.43%, yellow vehicles are touted as having the lowest depreciation rate at 46% below standard depreciation.

This is great, right? Well, sort of. When you dig a little deeper you find that yellow vehicles tend to be sportier vehicles, which are well known to have lower depreciation rates—we’re talking SUVs, Subarus, sports cars, and convertibles. Some vehicles don't even come in yellow.

gold cars are the biggest losers

All that glitters is not gold when it comes to used car value (we nailed that metaphor, right?). Coming in at a 45.6% depreciation rate (21% above standard), gold is the worst color of vehicle to resell, according to the 2016 study. Maybe gold loses its luster after a few seasons?

purple and brown are also a no

Not many vehicles are purple, and some people really love the color purple, so it’s kinda hard to judge this one too hard (right?). Like, have you ever seen a purple Dodge Charger? They’re pretty impressive. Anyway, purple still came in at 10% above standard depreciation. Brown came in with a 12% above standard depreciation. But brown has also had a bit of a resurgence in the last 5-10 years-ish, so maybe also take this one with a grain of salt.

other car colors don’t stand out

Most other vehicle colors come pretty close to the 35% mark for depreciation value in the study, which is about average for all used vehicles.

Whether you have a used red truck or a used blue sedan, you're pretty safe from serious depreciation due to the color. Gray or green? Safe. Buyers aren't going to run away from a purchase screaming because a used Avalanche or Mercedes isn't yellow.

popular car colors for 2021

General popularity is worth taking a look at as well. Pantone's top five most popular car colors for 2021 were:

  1. white (26%)
  2. black/gray (19%)
  3. silver (19%)
  4. blue (10%)
  5. red (9%)

With minimal deviation by category, White, then black were most popular for all—SUVs, minivans, pickups, luxury cars, and sedan/wagons (except for coupe/convertibles where black beat white). Gray followed (except for pickups where gray beat black). Silver came next (except for luxury/coupes where blue beat silver). Blue, then red followed (except for pickups where red beat blue). Next came green (except for luxury/minivans where gold beat green). The last three least popular colors in order were beige, brown, and orange.

car color considerations

Besides general color preference (“I just like blue”), when choosing a car color people typically first think about how easy it will be to care for (will it hide dirt well?). Gray is, of course, the easiest color to keep (the appearance of) clean. Silver also hides mud buildup on the rocker panels well. Orange and red hide mud well. Yellow hides pollen and dust but not mud so much. Black looks great right out of the wash but dulls quickly, as does red. Blue is the worst to care for, showing scratches and water spots pretty easily. Green also shows imperfections.

Visibility is another consideration. In faint light, dark, and other low visibility conditions, yellow and orange stand out best. White and gold are also highly visible. Just remember, that while these colors help you stand out when some red-light runner is thinking of running a light at an intersection, these colors also help you stand out when you are speeding past a state trooper on the highway, or potentially when someone is looking for the right car to break into.

what really matters in used car value

When you go to find your used car's value, you’ll typically be faced with questions like:

  • What is the make and model of your vehicle? This seems pretty important.
  • What type of vehicle is it? Not surprisingly, trucks and SUVs have consistently high resale values.
  • Does it have extra features like 4WD, a back-up camera, leather seats? When a buyer is on the fence, these types of features could seal the deal.
  • What's the condition of your vehicle? In other words, if it's sputtering and the brakes don't work, the last concern about the value of the vehicle is its color.
  • Does your vehicle have any body damage or areas of peeling paint? Perhaps peeling paint might be just a little more relevant than the color of the paint.
  • What's the mileage on your vehicle? High or low mileage is one of the most crucial determinants of your vehicle's resale value. Go figure!

At the end of the day, whether you’re looking for a private buyer, dealership trade-in, these questions will determine the resale value of your vehicle. After all, a yellow Mustang with 300,000 miles on it probably wouldn't impress anyone, and a gold Toyota Camry with low mileage would get snatched up by a buyer in a heartbeat.

There is, however, another way—a much easier way to sell your car. And the color of your car will not matter a lick.  Peddle will buy your car, no matter what—with a fair price, according to their fancy algorithm backed by real-time market value.

In the end, there are many important things to consider when buying a car. Color should not top the list unless you are choosing the color for a reason other than resale value, such as: safety/visibility or the fact that your work parking spot is under a tree favored by flocks of seagulls.

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