Study Says Yellow, Orange Cars Depreciate Less

Cars of more popular colors such as silver and black may sell faster on the used-car market but don’t always fetch the highest price.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

June 19, 2014

3 Min Read
Results indicate not always black and white
Results indicate not always black and white.

It smacks up against conventional wisdom, but a study indicates yellow and orange vehicles depreciate at lower rates than models of silver and black.

“That surprised us, too,” Phong Ly tells WardsAuto.

He is CEO and co-founder of iSeeCars, an online automotive search-engine firm that did the analysis using its collected data.

Yellow cars showed the least depreciation at an average of about 26% over five years from the original sticker price (adjusted for inflation), while black had the highest at 34.4%. The average was 33.6%.

For a vehicle with an original price of $20,000, that means a yellow vehicle could be worth $1,500 more at year five than another-color car with average depreciation.

“While a popular car color like black or silver may get more interest and sell faster, our analysis indicates it may not get as high a value as a car, say, in yellow,” Ly says.

Scarcity may account for the difference. Only 1.1% of all cars are yellow or orange. By including teal and green in the mix, the percentage only nudges up to 5%. 

“The dearth of supply of such colors may drive prices up,” Ly says. “A person who really wants a yellow car appears willing to pay extra for it.”

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 20 million used cars of all different colors from model year 1981 to 2010. Depreciation was calculated for each car and color based on its original MSRP (adjusted for inflation), its used-car listing price and the age of the vehicle. 

The company then aggregated cars of the same color to determine the average depreciation over five years for each color.

The lower depreciation of less-common colors is seen across all segment types including convertibles, coupes, sedans, SUVs, pickup trucks and wagons.

But results vary depending on vehicle make and model.

For example, orange Porsche 911s depreciate the least for that model, while “black is in the middle and yellow depreciates more than black,” Ly says.

For an F-150 pickup, “black depreciates the least, white is in the middle, brown depreciates the most and yellow depreciates more than black or blue, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen a yellow F-150.”

Ly’s personal car is a BMW 5-Series. It’s black. Some iSeeCars.com colleagues urged him to repaint it orange, the company color. “That decision is to be determined,” he quips of the orange-is-the-new-black proposal.     

The color of a car says something about the owner, according to a study by Repokar Public Auto Auction. Its findings read something like personalities based on astrology signs, but here’s what it came up with:

Silver: Owners usually are calm, stable, elegant and confident. They most often are thoughtful and attentive drivers.

White: Owners of this color vehicle strive to achieve harmony. They represent refinement and dignity.

Red: It embodies vitality, fun, ambition, and achievement. A red car can indicate a passionate person who likes to be in charge and who can be a little wild.

Blue: Reflects people who are cool, quiet, faithful, reflective and cautious.

Black: Owners often are powerful and well-disciplined. They can be aggressive and competitive drivers.

Gray: It suggests practicality, reliability formality, knowledge and inner wisdom.

Orange: A car color for attention-seekers who are upbeat, fun-loving, trendy, fickle, social and talkative.

Yellow: Cars of this color appeal to people who are bright, optimistic, idealistic, intelligent, intuitive and warm. They like to stand out in the crowd and sometimes have a childish outlook on life.

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