UK's top car colours: buyers turn away from brightly painted cars again

Almost a quarter of new cars registered last year were grey; are buyers scared of vivid car colours?

  • SMMT report shows 24.4% of new cars were grey
  • Black cars next most popular, then white cars
  • More orange, green and yellow cars sold in 2020

You’ll quite often hear British people moaning about grey skies, but it seems many are happy to drive gloomy-coloured cars. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that almost one in four new cars registered in 2020 were grey and in total 61.7% were painted in a monochrome colour.

Blue is a popular colour with almost 17% of buyers choosing it. That’s nearly 5% up year-on-year, while bright colours like orange, green and yellow have also been picked more frequently than they were in 2019. Sales of yellow cars are actually up 50% year-on-year but they still equate to just 0.4% of the market.

Meanwhile, red, silver and bronze-coloured cars are becoming less common. Red and silver were fifth and sixth most popular respectively, while 14% fewer silver cars were registered last year, and grey cars still outnumber silver ones by three to one.

Here are some of the reasons why Britain’s favourite car colours have been black, silver, grey or white every year since 2000:

These car colours may lead to better resale values

Would you buy a brightly coloured used car? If you answered yes, you’re in the minority. A common reason for buying a grey, black or silver car is that it’ll be easier to sell on, as more people are likely to want it. The car may also lose less in depreciation, although that’s hard to prove definitively.

Car colour availability

You can only buy a car in the colours the manufacturer offers, and many cars only come with a limited selection of paint choices. Many of these are black, silver, grey or white, or variations of these colours, especially if you buy a German car. Are these the most popular colours, or simply the ones that are available?

Smart appearance

It’s worth remembering that many new cars are destined for the fleet market to be used as company cars. Many company-car users see their cars as part of their business attire, so it’s no surprise that so many are painted in rather understated colours. Private buyers also like grey, black, white and silver cars because they look smart.

Dirt is less visible

We doubt that many buyers choose their cars based on how often they’ll need to be cleaned, but it’s true that grey and silver cars hide dirt and road grime better than any other colour.

Members of the Carbuyer team put their heads together and came up with several other reason why black, grey, silver and white are the UK’s favourite car colours:

UK car buyers secretly like bad weather

Sunshine must be overrated. Sure, it’s a useful source of Vitamin D and keeps ice-cream sellers in their jobs, but sunshine also tends to bring heat. And, as soon as it’s a little bit warm, you’ll hear people complaining about the temperature. Perhaps grey, black and white cars remind buyers of winter, when they can complain about it being too cold and wet instead.

UK car buyers like black-and-white photos

Every time you scroll through social media you’re likely to see a photo edited to look ‘moody’ by putting it through a monochrome filter. Black-and-white photos tend to look quite arty, so maybe UK car buyers think a grey or black car looks better than one in a vibrant colour.

UK car buyers don’t want to stand out

Most of your neighbours will probably have grey, black, silver or white cars. If you add a bright orange or pink car to the street, your neighbours may look at it as if you’ve put a PVC conservatory onto a grade 2-listed castle.

Once you’ve bought your car, read our car cleaning guide to keep the paint in tip-top condition.

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