Study: Cars Less Colorful Than 20 Years Ago


Grayscale colors made up to 80% of cars in 2023 as white, black, gray and silver coatings become more popular, according to a recent study from car research company

The colors of over 20 million used cars from model years 2004 to 2023 sold from January 2023 to April 2024 were analyzed for the research. The share of each color within each model year was also 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.”

Study Findings

In the 2004 model year, grayscale reportedly cars made up 60.3% of the market. Now, however, their share has reportedly moved to 80%, cutting the percentage of non-grayscale cars in half. Gray shades increased the most at 81.9%, while silver dropped 52.2%.

“Will grayscale shades drive out all other car colors over the next 20 years? A flattening of the curve in the past few years indicates a possible maximum market tolerance for these four colors,” said Brauer.

“Whether driven by dealers ‘playing it safe’ by ordering only popular colors, or consumers wanting to ensure maximum interest when it’s time to sell or trade in their vehicle, grayscale colors play the dominant role in the car world.”

The research found that white is currently the most dominant car paint color, after passing black about 10 years ago and continuing to climb. That said, black has also reportedly increased its market share by more than half.

The remaining car colors combined have lost almost half of their market share since 2004, iSeeCars reports, with colors like gold, purple, brown and beige losing more than 80% of their share. More “mainstream” colors like green, red and blue also gave up some share.

However, the report points out that green has made a small comeback in the last few years as the only non-grayscale color to gain market share since 2020.

“If drivers think they’re seeing less color on the roads these days, they are,” said Brauer. “Every non-grayscale color lost ground over the past 20 years, leading to the undeniable dilution of our car color spectrum.”

When broken down by vehicle type, the market share numbers reportedly remain fairly consistent across trucks, SUVs and passenger cars. Grayscale colors make up around 80% share for each of these three segments, with the exception of sports cars at 62.4%.

“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% in the truck segment, while blue lost less than 1%.

“Gray’s popularity across the SUV segment had it more than doubling in market share. White and black also saw big gains among SUV shoppers, with those three colors’ gains coming at the expense of silver, green, blue, and red.”

Brauer added that cars have “lost appeal in the consumer market,” but continue to serve in rental car fleets and other commercial uses.

“This likely explains the more than doubling of share for white in the car segment, a color popular with fleet managers due to its relatively high durability and low maintenance costs,” he said.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Asia Pacific; Automotive coatings; Coating Materials; Coatings; Color; Color + Design; Color forecasts; Color trends; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; North America; Paint; Program/Project Management; Z-Continents

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