Colorblind: “Grayscale Palette” Applies to Most Car Color Preferences, With Exceptions

Andrew Newton

If any car deserves a cheerful color palette, it’s the Mazda Miata, introduced in the U.S. for 1990 in your choice of bright red, white, or blue.

Now, muted variations on that original red, white, and blue are still offered, but so are four additional colors: black, two shades of gray, and Zircon Sand Metallic, which Mazda says is an “earthy tone.”

It’s kind of a funeral, this trend toward neutral car colors. That was not overlooked in our review last week of a 2024 Mazda Miata Club that Andrew Newton drove: The Miata’s color options are “bland as a bowl of sawdust,” he wrote. “If you’ve been praying for a handsome British Racing Green or a nice bright blue, keep praying, because Mazda has ignored you yet again. There is a new shade for 2024 but it’s… another shade of gray.” His test car was Zircon Sand, which he described as a “sort of muddy sand color, with some green in it.”

2024 Mazda Miata Club Greyscale Colors Side Profile
Andrew Newton

Turns out that it isn’t just the Miata—the entire industry has been steering away from colorful cars, according to a study by the website Grayscale colors (white, black, gray, and silver) made up 80 percent of cars in 2023 compared to 60.3 percent in 2004, the study said. This despite the fact that there were nearly the same number of colors offered in 2023 as there were in 2004, with an average of 6.7 colors per model today compared to 7.1 colors per model 20 years ago.

iSeeCars analyzed the colors of over 20 million used cars from model years 2004 to 2023 sold from January 2023 to April 2024. The share of each color within each model year was calculated, as was the difference in share between model years 2004 and 2023.

“Colorful cars appear to be an endangered species,” said Karl Brauer, iSeeCars executive analyst. “Despite a diverse palette being offered by automakers, there are far fewer non-grayscale cars sold today. They’ve lost half their market share over the past 20 years, and they could become even rarer in another 20 years.”

2023 BMW Z4 Roadster front three quarter action

Colors like gold, purple, brown, and beige have each lost more than 80 percent of their share over this period, and even mainstream colors like green, red, and blue gave up some ground. Interestingly, green has made a small comeback in the last few years as the only non-grayscale color to gain some market share back since 2020.

And it isn’t just cars. “Trucks followed the overall market trend, though some primary colors, like red, lost far more share than others, like blue,” said Brauer. Red is down 57 percent in the truck segment, while blue lost less than one percent.

“If drivers think they’re seeing less color on the roads these days, they are,” he said. “Every non-grayscale color lost ground over the past 20 years.”

2024 Silverado HD ZR2 Bison trail ride
Brandan Gillogly

It should not come as a surprise, then, that color affects resale value, but it doesn’t necessarily follow the grayscale-dominant formula. Hagerty Valuation Analytics Director John Wiley wrote a year ago that cars “slathered in eye-catching colors never fail to garner attention. The degree to which those colors impact value, however, can vary wildly from model to model.”

For vehicles with relatively few trim choices or minimal differences, color can be a much more important consideration, Wiley said. The 2012–13 Ford Mustang Boss 302 didn’t offer a lot of options, but it did allow buyers to select from 10 colors: Black, Competition Orange, Gotta Have It Green, Grabber Blue, High Performance White, Ingot Silver, Kona Blue, Race Red, School Bus Yellow, and Yellow Blaze.

Three of those colors—Black, Kona Blue, and Yellow Blaze—can mean a discount of up to 11 percent (sorry, Yellow Blaze) on the average value, while three other colors, High Performance White, Competition Orange, and Gotta Have It Green can provide owners a premium of about 17 percent.

Wiley wrote another story in 2021 about how color affects the value of Chevrolet Corvettes. Comparing apples to apples, the research was applied to 1700 sales. “The median premium for each major color group reveals white as the most valuable [adding 8.9 percent], followed by yellow, purple, and red. At the other extreme are earth tones like copper, green, bronze, and brown [down 10.2 percent].”

Porsche 911s of various colors

Still another story from that year explored what color does to Porsche 911 values. “The winner? Yellow. Porsches painted that color tended to sell for nearly $3000 more than average.” At the other end of the (color) spectrum, “black Porsches tended to earn $1385 below average.”

If you’re talking about a pure, mainstream, just-transportation car like a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, the exclusively-grayscale palette may be a good rule of thumb to help bring solid resale values. But for sportier cars, the answer may lie somewhere over the rainbow.


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    I can say first hand Red is the prime Corvette color. Red is the best seller and often the hardest to find for sale as they move fast. Also they can add to cost while I have seen yellow go at a discount.

    Run this data with EU cars… its not the same cowardly dealer bulk purchasing restricting choice there so my understanding is the data is more colourful.

    Get a photoshop artist to do a nothing-special Impreza in the range of 1969-70 AMC colours (the big bad and regular). Probably looks good in many we have never seen anything close to Subaru having done at the factory for NA market.

    Ridgelines for sure would benefit from tasting the rainbow.

    A beige MX5 is a crime against all that is held holy in the Miata world. Brown and sportscar are two words that should never appear in the same sentence. I stand by my NC Club in True Red as an exemplar of what a sportscar should look like.

    Whenever a friend or relative asks about what color to buy for a car, i repeatedly have a hard time convincing them to buy sometime other than white, silver, or sometimes black. For some reason, most people seem to consider their car skin to a kitchen or bathroom appliance.

    I’m just glad Lexus offered such beautiful colors as Infrared or Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 to brighten up the color palette for the IS 500. The launch edition was a matte gray like color and I took a hard pass on that one.

    My 2002 NB is a beautiful blue. The current color chart for Miatas is so dull, it’s saving me a lot of money. And Mazda offers some real colors for the CX-90, like Deep Crystal Blue Mica,
    Jet Black Mica, Platinum Quartz Metallic, Rhodium White Premium, Machine Gray Metallic, Soul Red Crystal metallic, Sonic Silver Metallic, and Artisan Red Premium.

    Most of my newer cars have been white or grayscale, because I buy used and that is what is available. With vintage and sports cars, and the handful of cars I’ve bought new, I’ve had many blue, green, yellow, red, and purple even.

    When I sold BMWs in the early 2000’s, my manager had the round organs to order quite a few custom colors and interiors that were not even on the website. Those were the cars that sat on the lot the longest. The cars that sold were black, white, gray, silver, and dark blue, in that order.

    I will say, sometimes a lack of color is a good thing; my white blob Macan S is pure stealth that no-one even pays attention to because it is just another white jellybean on the road. It’s come in quite handy blasting through rural Washington, Idaho and Montana.

    Whenever I see one of these gray vehicles on the road I yell “Paint Your Car!” So far no one has taken my advice.

    Some cars just look ‘right’ in certain colors:
    Jag Mks 1 and 2 in old English White with red interiors.
    Lotus 7 in mustard, E-Types and Miatas in BRG or red.
    My daily driver 07 4Runner Sport in Shadow Mica (charcoal grey with multicolor sparkles.)
    And of course red Ferraris and silver 911s

    My MX-5 is Merlot Mica.

    Porsche colors of the 70s and 80s were great as were E36 M3s. Mine is green over tan.

    I tell my wife she needs a dirt colored car as it would never need washing.
    Fortunately she appreciates my sense of humor.

    Ford had a Focus in the early days that had a paint called Dirt. The molding looked like mountain bike tire treads.
    I have never seen one for sale on the used market.

    Strangers offer a “Wow, that’s bright!” when they see my Velocity Yellow Grand Sport. They mean, “Too bright” or “Too much” or too something negative.
    Have what you like, unless somebody else is paying for it.

    That’s how you interpret what those people are saying, not necessarily what they mean unless you clarified with them. Why take it as negative when it may not be?

    I am waiting to see what the color options for the 2025 Dark Horse Mustang will be as the 2024 colors are not the greatest. Yes there’s Grabber blue, but that’s about it. Would love the Yellow on the Heritage Bronco! A green would be nice too!

    Jeep Wrangler’s still seem to have a pretty wide choice of color’s.

    Overall the industry and the dealers could do better!

    I have three red vehicles, one that is dark red/white/dark blue, and one that is turquoise and white. No bland colors for me…

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