What Is the Most Popular Car Color?

Shades of gray dominate the world of car colors

Genesis New York Concept at the 2016 New York Auto Show

Aaron Gold

Pay attention when you drive past any new car dealership and you may be struck by a certain sameness. Indeed, for the past two decades, white, silver, black, and gray have been the most popular car colors and 8 in every 10 cars is one of those colors.

How Car Colors Rank in Popularity

Based on an authoritative annual survey of car color trends, white is the clear global winner in the 2019 color race—for the ninth consecutive year—with 38% of vehicles manufactured in that color, followed in second place by black at 19%, gray at 13%, and silver at 10%.

The order in North America is slightly different, with 29% white, 19% black, 17% gray, and 11% silver. Only in Europe is white in second place with 24% of all cars gray, and 23% white.

Nearly 50 years ago, in 1961, blue reigned supreme with 26% of all cars in North America manufactured in that hue.

Why Are Car Colors So Similar?

The reasons behind car color choices are hard to pin down.

One automotive paint executive speculates that silver and gray hues reflect our fascination with technology. It's the brushed chrome hue on a laptop cover or the gloss of smartphones and other devices.

Silvery and techno-gray hues also seem to accentuate the angular, edgy design of luxury sports vehicles. They may even lend a dab of sportiness to a family sedan.

It could also be that people see cars in neutral hues as easier to clean, and less likely to be noticeably dirty when marred by the (usually gray) stuff our car picks up as a result of driving through congested cities, hurtling down the highway or kicking up mud on the backroads.

Color Tastes Change

In the earliest days of the automobile, cars were called horseless carriages—and that's exactly what they looked like. Horse-drawn carriages were usually painted a dignified black. The quality of the paint was poor, and automobile owners found that their shiny new toys quickly faded to a sickly yellow color. Not exactly the peak of refinement.

When the Ford Motor Company began producing the iconic Model T, contrary to the legend, it was available in different colors. After 1913, the company turned to all black and created a new process of car painting using a hard-wearing asphalt-based paint that dried quickly.

By the early 1920s, Ford teamed up with the DuPont Company, which created an improved "Duco" process that could be used to paint vehicles in any color of the rainbow. The paint dried in a few hours rather than days.

The Depression Effect

The Depression of the 1930s did not put consumers in a mood for bright colors. Cars, like fashion, took on dull green and gray hues, according to German automotive color historian Gundula Tutt. They would stay that way through the Depression years and the World War that followed.

With peacetime came an explosion of candy-colored vehicles, but the trend of monotone vehicles was hard to break. 

Although the shades toned down a bit over the years that followed, a liking for color in cars didn't entirely disappear. In 1976, the year of America's bicentennial, the most popular car colors were red, white, and blue.

Color's Impact on Insurance Price

The idea that certain colors of car cost more to insure is a myth. Insurance companies don't even ask what color your car is. Your red car will be more expensive to insure if it's a sports car and if it is a model that is more costly to repair.

Bottom Line

Color has relatively little impact on resale value, compared with a car's condition and age. Still, people generally prefer to purchase cars that are white, black, gray, or silver. If you paint your vehicle bright purple, you might have a harder time selling it. It’s best to stick to the standard palette.