These are the car colors that depreciate the least

These are the car colors that depreciate the least

This may not be the first time you’ve heard this tidbit as it’s been appearing in sales data for years, but the folks at iSeeCars just came up with their latest analysis of car colors as a factor in vehicle depreciation. Some 650,000 vehicle transactions were calculated to determine that the best color for trade-in value is… drum roll, please…


Followed by orange.

Followed by purple, red and green.

Wait, you say, those are all real, vibrant colors. this finding runs counter to consumer behavior, as the vast majority of Americans buy cars that are white, black, gray and silver – or as we like to call it here Autoblog, the ‘German rainbow’, because those are the paint jobs you probably see on a BMW or Mercedes. Together, those four non-colors accounted for 78% of car sales in 2021.

Here is the general depreciation of iSeeCars. Obviously the wrong car color can cost you thousands of dollars on resale:

So how come the shades of gray that are popular with new car buyers aren’t the colors valued in resale? Well, that question kind of answers itself – it’s basic supply and demand.

Bright colors are not popular for new cars – or rather, they may just not be available. Dealers tend to carry inventory in colors that seem “safer” to sell. It is a situation with the lowest common denominator. Gray will sell if gray is mostly what you are offering.

“Many consumers choose these shades of gray not because they like them, but because they assume everyone else does,” said iSeeCars executive analyst Karl Brauer. “Because these are the most common colors, they are not in short supply, and choosing these colors won’t help or hurt resale value much.”

It follows that in the used car market yellow, orange and the rest of the Skittles bag are rare – and therefore more valuable. You want a gray used car? That’s easy, there are a million of them. Do you want a yellow car? Stocks are limited.

Or as Brauer put it: “Yellow and orange are not necessarily popular colors with a wide spectrum of car buyers. But they are very popular in some vehicle segments, and there is more demand for these colors than supply because relatively few new car buyers choose yellow and orange Like everything in a free market, the price is determined by the intersection of supply and demand, and the supply of yellow and orange cars is too low to meet the demand for them, giving those colors an advantage in terms of of resale value.”

As Brauer points out, yellow and orange are more popular in certain vehicle segments, especially the sportier ones, as can be seen from the chart above. Ikazuchi Yellow will be the “it” color for a Nissan Z, and Ford Mustangs have been offered in orange for decades. You can go to the iSeeCars report to view the segments in more detail. But to summarize:

  • Yellow holds its value best among SUVs. (To the point about scarcity, you don’t see many yellow SUVs.) This segment’s buyers are lower on brown, which also finished last in the overall depreciation rankings.
  • In pickups, beige is top, which is interesting because beige does poorly in other segments. But colors like Toyota’s Quicksand Beige have a rugged appeal. Orange is also good. Green is the worst here, perhaps because you look too much like a park department work truck.
  • Purple is the color of royalty, and it reigns supreme and super rare among sedans. Black is the worst.
  • Convertibles are best in yellow, green, orange, red, blue. Black is again the bottom inhabitant.
  • Orange is best in coupes. White is blah.
  • Green minibuses retain their value best. Interestingly, this is the only category where red scores poorly. Dead last, actually.

Personally speaking, as someone who owns an orange Mustang, these are completely understandable findings – people are interested in it and start conversations about it everywhere, which certainly would never happen if the car was gray.

One aspect that is not often discussed is the safety benefit of a highly visible color: a gray or silver car can easily be overlooked on gray pavement, on a cloudy day or in bad weather. Thank goodness for daytime running lights.

Finally, iSeeCars emphasizes that many of the low-profile colors don’t necessarily hurt you on resale, with an overall average depreciation rate. On the other hand, they don’t help.

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