Why Color Matters When Buying New Cars

Written by Sheryll Alexander, 04/24/2010

Did you know most new car buyers make an almost instantaneous decision when it comes to color? Yes, color matters when it comes to buying new cars.

But what are the latest color trends and technologies on the market today? And, what does your car color say about you and your personality?

America's highest-paid journalist, Malcolm Gladwell, wrote a best-selling book called "The Power of Thinking Without Thinking." The book shows how consumers make split-second decisions after companies have spent millions of dollars in research and advertising. I'm not sure if you need to write a whole book about intuition, which is the definition of thinking without thinking, but intuition does play a huge role when you buy a new car and especially when considering color.

Susan Sage, a color and materials design manager at Ford, says exterior colors are going high tech with special coats, are reflecting more of the owner's personality and are becoming more and more harmonious with the interior design.

As for paint technology, Sage says Ford is adding depth and gloss with high tech tri-coats (a finishing yellow glaze coat on Ford's white platinum gives extra luster) and tinted clear coats (makes color pop like the juicy candy apple red on Ford's 2010 Taurus SHO).

Ford is also appealing to the younger generation by painting super bright colors on new models like the much-lauded 2011 Ford Fiesta. Yes, Ford's award-winning Fiesta compact car comes in trendy colors like lime squeeze, bright magenta, red candy and yellow blaze. Sage says these bright modern colors were developed for the Ford Fiesta in Europe. "Bright colors enhance the architecture (of the Ford Fiesta)," she says.

She also says bright colors "create excitement" and exude a "psychological brightness about having fun and having a positive outlook to the future."

As for color trends, Sage says silver was the most popular color for new car buyers a couple of years back, but silver was recently eclipsed by white as the most preferred new car color.

Still, color is emotional and very personal, especially when it comes to your new car. Which colors match your personality and which colors are trendy today?

Classic Black, White and Silver

Black, white and silver car paint colors have been popular for more than a decade now and about half of all new cars sold in the United States are manufactured in these three classic car colors.

Silver is timeless, practical and solid. Those who drive silver cars are looking for quality, high resale value and practicality.

Silver has long been a popular favorite on the car paint color chart with a 15-year run as one of the most popular vehicle colors. Over the years, silver hues have become darker like gun metal grays.

"Silver is still very popular," says Sage, who points out that Ford's liquid silver paint color is one of the best on the market today.

Black cars are mysteriously sophisticated and denote authority, so maybe that's why cars driven by top officials around the world are almost always black.

Black makes up about 10 percent of all new car purchases, says Ford's Sage. "Right now in our lineup, we have a tuxedo black pigment that reflects a spectrum of colors in the sun light," she says.

White is for purists who love the color for its cleansing feeling. These days, white is the new orange (see below), says Sage. As stated earlier, Ford's new white platinum with yellow glaze tri coat paint comes standard on many new Ford vehicles.

What Happened to Orange?

Remember a few years back when orange and its hues from earthy pumpkin to metallic copper were all the rage? Now, as Project Runway creator Heidi Klum would say, orange is "out."

Orange is for those who are fun, flamboyant and warm. "Orange was a very successful trend at the time," says Sage, but it has recently gone out of favor with the American public.

Blues & Greens

Blue is a classic car color while green can be either funky (as in Ford's new lime squeeze green color) or traditional (as in forest green on a tiny sports car or a country-minded SUV).

Blue is a calming color and is also seen as trustworthy and committed. Blue also has a wide range of hues from electric blue turquoise to serene sky blue to sparkling dark navy blue.

"Blue is a color that is going to be more successful in the future," says Sage. "I think it is because new paint technologies can enhance blues and give them a lot of life."

Green is tranquil, refreshing, soothing and promotes harmony. Ironically, green has been declining in popularity as a new car color since the 1980s.

Ford's Sage says lime green colors are making a comeback and forest green has always been a classic color on sport cars, trucks and SUVs. "Green is a nice introduction back into that green earthy feeling," she says.

Brown on the Inside

Brown is the color of reliability as well as approachability. The wholesomeness of browns and tans has become a trend inside the car.

With brown and lighter-colored interiors, Sage says the driving experience is "more airy." One trend is for all-black interiors to come with light wood accents and light-colored seats that are in total contrast to the black dash.

Still can't decide which color to choose for your new car? Close your eyes and imagine what color you want to see several times a day when you walk up to your car. Do you want to be excited, calmed or feel more powerful?

It's time to color your world with a new car, America!

Sheryll Alexander is a lifestyles writer based in Costa Mesa, Calif. Follow me! @sheryllalexande