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The colour of money: The connection between car colour and resale value

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

Darren McGee/The Globe and Mail

Colour can make or break a car. A red Ferrari, a blue Subaru WRX, an orange Ford Mustang … sweet.

But a baby-blue Fiat 500, a bright green Audi RS7 or a hot-pink Porsche 911 … well, what were they thinking?

"It's really about, what is the appropriate colour for that vehicle? When we put an orange fury colour on the Mustang that is hot, sexy," says Barb Whalen, colour and materials design manager at Ford. "It is not just a colour you're going to remember. It is unforgettable. But if you put that colour on a [Ford] Transit or Expedition that is large and boxy, you may have an unforgettable moment that you would not feel so good about."

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And the hottest colour today? It's white.

"White is a really popular colour," Whalen says. "White has been a trend for quite some time – white was an inspiration from the iPhone a few years ago."

Car-colour trends often follow fashion and draw inspiration from nature, technology and architecture.

"We've seen blues on trend and an increasing blue exterior colour take-rate for about a year or two now," Whalen says. "The next evolution could be green – blue-greens and brighter redder-blues. We definitely see a trend in the blues and greens emerging."

Whatever colour you fancy, skip the matte finish. "Volume-wise, matte paint is small. The trend itself is shrinking," says Keisuke Inoue, colour and material design manager at Nissan Design America. "The new trend is a liquid-type finish that makes the car surface look like it's wet."

Inoue refers to the colour of Nissan's new Vmotion 2.0 concept sedan, which will make its Canadian debut at the 2017 Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS) in Toronto. "We picked up a silver, but with some copper hues to show Nissan's future colour vision based on upcoming trends. I think copper with a liquid finish is one of the trends for exteriors and interiors – it's well-accepted, over all," says Inoue, whose Vmotion 2.0 won the 2017 EyesOn Design Award for Best Concept Vehicle and Best Innovative Use of Colour, Graphics and Materials at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit last month.

Staying on trend with colours can also have other benefits. Search engine autolist.com analyzed 3.3 million used vehicles, dating back to 2005, in its first ever "Cars by Colour" study to determine if there's a connection between colour and resale value.

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"Statistically speaking, there is a significant difference in colour and price," says Alex Klein, vice-president for data science at autolist.com. "We're not talking about thousands and thousands of dollars, but we are talking in the neighborhood of hundreds of dollars. In some particular vehicles, there can be up to a $1,000 spread between the most expensive colour and the least expensive colour.

"Colour is a huge part of the vehicle. The average person looks at a car and goes, 'Oh God, I hate that colour! I'd never buy that!' Having that strong of a reaction to a colour is going to affect the resale value."

Based on the findings, white was the most expensive colour in several categories, including sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs – averaging $198 above expectations.

And colour could impact the price at dealerships. "When dealers feel they have something that people want – in this case a white car – they know white is a popular colour so they're able to price it more and get more for it," Klein says.

"You want to buy a white car because, if a white car is more popular, and dealers are going to ask more for it later, you can argue maybe the depreciation is a little bit less on a white car versus another car because it's a more popular colour and will be in more demand when it's used."

Convertibles have the largest colour-based price difference: $727 from the most expensive to the least expensive colour. Red is the most expensive colour, worth an extra $338; grey is the cheapest, worth $389 less than the convertible average. For trucks, black is the most valuable colour, worth an extra $221; blue is the cheapest, averaging $237 less than a typical pickup.

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"Here's the catch," Klein says. "If you're buying new, you want to buy a red convertible or a black pickup because they're going to depreciate less, but if you're buying used, look for grey convertibles and blue pickups because you might actually be able to save money."

Odd colours, such as gold, didn't fare well in the study. It was the cheapest colour – averaging $244 below expectations.

"When people are buying a vehicle, they want some sort of predictability in this very expensive asset they're investing in," Klein says. "You want to know, 'When I'm selling this vehicle in three to five years, will I be able to get this much money for it?'

"You want to be able to predict your depreciation – and when you buy these other colours, they have a tendency to be volatile."

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More

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