Car Colors: Which Should You Buy?

By Thomas Lee

Popular vs. Less Popular Colors: Which Best Hold Their Value?

The car color you choose could lead to more money in your pocket, which makes choosing a hue for your ride an important decision. While a car's color may seem irrelevant to its resale value, car search engine iSeeCars.com's new analysis of over 2.1 million used car sales found that retained value actually varies widely across the spectrum of car colors. While the average car depreciates 33.1 percent in the first three years of ownership, yellow cars hold their value the best and depreciate by only 27.0 percent. On the other hand, gold cars depreciate the most by 37.1 percent.

Car Color and its Effect on Value

When it comes to car color, which hues best retain their value? It turns out that bright colors, like yellow and orange hold their value better than popular neutral colors
Average 3-Year-Depreciation By Car Color
Car Color Average Depreciation Over 3 Years % Difference Compared to the Average Car
Yellow 27.0% -18.5%
Orange 30.6% -7.8%
Green 30.9% -6.9%
White 32.6% -1.6%
Red 32.7% -1.4%
Average Car 33.1% --
Blue 33.5% 1.0%
Brown 33.5% 1.1%
Gray 33.5% 1.2%
Black 33.6% 1.6%
Silver 34.0% 2.6%
Beige 36.6% 10.3%
Purple 36.7% 10.7%
Gold 37.1% 12.1%
“Along with being easily spotted in a parking lot, less common yellow cars are also in demand to help maintain their value,” said Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars.com. “Our analysis shows that yellow vehicles have the lowest depreciation of any color for lower-volume cars like sports cars. Interestingly, yellow is also the color with the least depreciation for popular body styles like SUVs and pickup trucks.” SUVs and pickup trucks overall depreciate 30.9 percent and 20.9 percent, respectively, while yellow SUVs and pickups depreciate only 25.8 percent and 10.8 percent. “Similarly, red cars are associated with sports cars, so these vehicles could retain their value well because there is a high demand for these vehicles.” 

Green and orange cars also retain their value well and are also less common—together, yellow, orange, and green cars make up only 1.2 percent of all three-year-old cars. However, rarity alone does not determine how much a vehicle depreciates. The three worst paint colors—beige, purple, and gold—have a 0.7 percent share, but depreciate more than 10 percent worse than average. “Again, we find that this isn't just due to the kinds of cars that tend to come in these colors,” explained Ly. For example, gold color cars make up only a 0.6 percent share of SUVs and a 0.5 percent share of sedans, but have the worst and second-worst depreciation within these segments, at 35.7 percent and 39.3 percent, respectively. “Across almost every bodystyle, gold color vehicles have some of the worst depreciation rates of any color,” noted Ly.

However, gold color cars are not just vehicles with high mileage. For example, coupes tend to have lower average mileage than the typical car, and depreciate 29.2 percent over the first three years. However, gold coupes depreciate 35.8 percent over the same period, a rate even greater than the overall average, despite averaging 25,023 miles while coupes overall average 29,337 miles. “We speculate that mileage alone can't explain the color depreciation pattern and that gold's near-universally poor depreciation may reflect lower consumer demand for the color — given the choice, consumers may just prefer the more common colors or flashier colors,” Ly suggested.

When examining color popularity, the most popular car colors—white, black, and gray—depreciated at a rate very close to average. “Because these colors are so common, buyers can shop around more easily if they're interested in these colors, reducing the amount of pricing power for dealers,” said Ly. “On the flip side, car buyers who are interested in more neutral colors like white cars, black cars, or gray cars, can likely find a deal on these vehicles in the used car marketplace.”

Other colors that are less common, but aren’t as flashy also depreciate at a rate slightly above average. These include blue cars, brown cars, and silver cars

Car Color and Average Days on Market 

Vehicle color and retained value does not seem to affect the time it takes to sell the car. The average three-year-old car sells in 36.5 days. While yellow cars, which may be more expensive due to their higher retained values, take longer to sell (41.5 days, 13.8 percent longer than average), green cars sell in just 36.2 days, slightly shorter than average. On the other end, gold cars, which may be cheaper due to their higher depreciation, sell in 34.3 days, but beige cars sell in 46.6 days. Overall, almost all colors sell within six days of average.
Average Days on Market for 3-Year-Old Cars by Color
Car Color Average Days on Market % Difference Compared to Average
Yellow 41.5 13.8%
Orange 38.1 4.3%
Green 36.2 -0.7%
White 35.0 -4.0%
Red 40.9 12.2%
Blue 36.8 1.0%
Brown 35.3 -3.2%
Gray 34.2 -6.2%
Black 36.0 -1.4%
Silver 38.8 6.4%
Beige 46.6 27.6%
Purple 33.2 -8.9%
Gold 34.3 -6.1%
Average Car 36.5 --

 What Color Car Should You Choose?

When it comes to deciding which color choices are the smartest buys, it all depends on your situation. “Consumers considering purchasing a new car may want to look for something in yellow, orange, or green, because they'll likely get more value if they sell their car after a few years,” advised Ly. “However, consumers looking for a used car may want to consider something in gold, purple, or beige, because those cars will have already taken a larger proportion of the depreciation hit.”

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 2.1 million used three-year-old cars. Depreciation over three years was calculated by comparing the average list price to the average MSRP (inflation-adjusted by 1.03, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics) for each car. The data were then aggregated for each color, as well as for each color and bodystyle. Colors with fewer than 1000 cars were excluded from the analysis.

About iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com is a car search engine that helps shoppers find the best car deals by providing key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check report. iSeeCars.com has saved users over $203 million so far by applying big data analytics powered by over 25 billion (and growing) data points and using proprietary algorithms to objectively analyze, score and rank millions of used and new vehicles and thousands of dealers. Based in the Boston area, iSeeCars.com was founded by TripAdvisor and SAP veterans determined to improve the car shopping experience for consumers.