What are the best car colours for resale value?

One in five new cars sold in 2018 were painted grey, but how does your car's colour affect its value? We explain all...

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Lombardyexperience? team
21 February 2019

Mercedes-Benz A-Class side

New car buyers chose grey more than any other paint colour in 2018, topping black to become the UK's favourite car colour.

In total, more than 495,000 new cars were painted grey in the last twelve months – one in five of all sold. Black was the second favourite choice, followed by white, blue and red.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the UK's best-selling car was also the car to be most commonly specified in grey: the Ford Fiesta. However, the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Corsa, Mini hatchback and Ford Kuga were also most commonly painted grey in 2018.

Prior to 2018, black paint was the top choice for car buyers, followed by white, which held the top spot from 2013-2017.

The last primary colour to be the UK's favourite was blue, in 1999. But how much importance should you place on choosing your car's colour? As we explain below, it could make a big difference.

How should I choose my car's colour?

It’s easy to forget in the excitement of buying a buying a new car, but the colour has a huge impact on how much it will be worth when you come to sell.

Generally speaking, sober colours are best when it comes to long-term value retention, because they have the broadest appeal. Black, grey, silver, blue and white are among the most popular shades for new cars and the ones most likely to generate strong second-hand prices. Although it usually costs more up front, metallic paint is often sought after by second-hand buyers and therefore normally adds value later on, too.  

Brighter and more unusual colours such as yellow, orange and green make up a much smaller portion of new car sales. Used car buyers are less likely to seek these out, so vivid colours are generally best avoided if you want the best resale value.

Red divides opinion; it was the sixth most popular colour for new cars registered in 2017. Dark, metallic red suits many different types of car, so it often leads to good resale values, whereas flat, non-metallic red has a more limited appeal but works with some models.

The exact influence of colour varies according to the type of car, so there’s no one rule for all and certain body styles suit particular shades better than others. Residual value experts agree that the better the pairing, the greater the likelihood of a strong price later on, so it pays to understand which colours suit which models.   

Small cars

Smaller cars actually tend to suit brighter colours, and it’s not uncommon to see city cars such as the Kia Picanto or Skoda Citigo in shades of green or red. Their tiny proportions complement vibrant paintwork and they are often marketed at young drivers, who are more likely to favour such colours.

It isn’t uncommon to expect similar buyers and tastes in the second-hand market, so city cars, especially, can pull off such colours without a severe impact on their resale values.

However, larger hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus are a little too big to get away with leftfield paint schemes, so it’s best to go with the mainstream shades if you want the best price second-hand.  

Large cars

The general rule of sober shades and metallic paint absolutely applies to large cars. Used saloons, SUVs, estates and luxury cars almost always fetch stronger prices if they’re sold in widely popular black, grey, silver, blue or white. It’s very rare to see a large SUV such as a Peugeot 5008 or an executive car such as a BMW 3 Series in orange or yellow.

Bright and bold colour schemes really don’t work well on big cars and are almost guaranteed to affect the residual value for the worse. It’s simply best to avoid them and stick with the popular, tried and tested shades, coupled with metallic paint if possible.

Other body styles

Like small cars, sporty models are an exception to the rule. Convertibles, coupés and hot hatches can get away with brighter colours because of their sleeker exteriors and high-performance nature.

An Audi TT or Mazda MX-5 could still attract used buyers in orange or bright red, whereas other, more conventional models would not. That’s not to say that they don’t also suit more popular shades, though, and again the safest options to guarantee good resale value are the likes of grey, silver, blue, black and white.

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