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Black overtakes white as the UK's most popular car colour

Published 20 January 2018

As the late Amy Winehouse once sang, we've gone Back to Black. I'm paraphrasing of course, but black is back as the colour of choice for the UK’s new car buyers - taking top spot in 2017.

In fact black has overtaken white as the UK's most popular car colour for the first time in five years.

More than half a million (515,970) buyers opted for black last year, sending white tumbling to third place. Grey is now the nation's second favourite, as monochrome colours continue to dominate the market.

Almost 60 per cent of the 2.54 million new cars registered in 2017 were ordered in black, grey or white - with a primary colour not making the top three for seven years.

"Fears of where political situations will lead us, financial worries, climate change etc. A black car is a nice cocoon for most of us."

A blue Ford Fiesta was the most common car bought in 2017, which will come as no surprise. However, niche colours like orange and green are increasing in popularity. There were 26,834 green cars registered in the UK last year, but this only brings the market share up to 1.1 per cent.

In the 1970s and 80s, cars - much like music and fashion - were brighter and bolder. These days, buyers must be more money savvy and non-metallic white is often the colour that comes at no extra cost.

White also represents an essence of coolness and sleek design that fits well with more modern curved cars rather than their sharper edged predecessors. 

Orange Cortina

A burnt orange Ford Cortina when cars were more likely to be green than grey

That said, the popularity of black cars extends beyond the connotation of just luxury and sophistication. When Henry Ford discovered that the fastest drying paint only came in black, that was the end of other colours from 1915 until 1926.

Silver saw the biggest decline, with 25 per cent less registered since its prime in 2004. The ubiquitous silver Volkswagen Golf was so popular in its 2000s heyday that it led to the urban myth that the Wolfsburg factory had two paint lines - one for the silver cars and another for the rest.

It would seem as though the roads are now filled with monotonous monochrome cars compared to the days when colours like canary yellow, graphite nightmist and desert coral could be found on every British street.

But what exactly does your car colour say about you? Well, a car is a long-term decision and many buyers now opt for more conservative colours to guarantee higher residual values. But car colour can also tell us a lot about ourselves according to Marcie Cooperman a professor of colour theory and author of Color: How to Use It.

Young people, and those looking for a drastic change later in life, opt for brighter colours like red and yellow because they don't see vibrant colours as a risk. Similarly, drivers that choose grey and dark blue are looking for something that won't garner too much attention, notes Cooperman.

However, the colour we choose also reflects our thoughts about the state of the world. Cooperman argues, "Fears of where political situations will lead us, financial worries, climate change etc. A black car is a nice cocoon for most of us, white cars have nothing to say to us at this moment in time. They're too upbeat and cheery, and reflect light so that everybody can see us – which isn't desirable any longer."

SMMT-Car -Colour -top -10-table

Comments

HighlanderUK    on 20 January 2018

can't beat a good metallic grey.

Maltozo    on 21 January 2018

Being on the periphery of the garage trade for around 3.5 years a few years ago, a much respected bodyshop owner told me that black was the softest pigment and as many will agree, 'it never looks clean". I also understand that red is best avoided as its not the most durable/fades quicker than othes? I've had 3 red cars (!) in the last dozen or so years but made sure that I p/ex'ed them in less than 3 years. If I'd intended to keep any of them longer term I would have had it treated with 'Duragard' or 'Diamond Brite' or whatever from the outset.

White was my colleagues personal preference (easiest to match and repair/good for not looking dirty etc.). IDEALY white would be my first choice too. My current car is silver, my first' silver' in decades, and I once very nearly bought a 2014 model year Fiesta ST because I thought it suited the car exceptionally well. It was a little too expensive so fortuitously (?) I passed it over!

Maltozo    on 27 January 2018

Being on the periphery of the garage trade for around 3.5 years a few years ago, a much respected bodyshop owner told me that black was the softest pigment and as many will agree, 'it never looks clean". I also understand that red is best avoided as its not the most durable/fades quicker than othes? I've had 3 red cars (!) in the last dozen or so years but made sure that I p/ex'ed them in less than 3 years. If I'd intended to keep any of them longer term I would have had it treated with 'Duragard' or 'Diamond Brite' or whatever from the outset. White was my colleagues personal preference (easiest to match and repair/good for not looking dirty etc.). IDEALY white would be my first choice too. My current car is silver, my first' silver' in decades, and I once very nearly bought a 2014 model year Fiesta ST because I thought it suited the car exceptionally well. It was a little too expensive so fortuitously (?) I passed it over!

The Fiesta ST mentioned in my original post was I forgot to mention was BLACK!

Vivien Barber    on 22 January 2018

Metallic grey merges into the roadscape best!

Phillip Sheahan    on 22 January 2018

Black cars? Why? Hardest to see in any light and so frequently driven in poor ambient light without the lights on. And, as others have already commented, they always look dirty. When you buy a new car surely you want to stand out not disappear into the tarmac panorama? Go bright - it's safer, more optimistic and adds to the scenery en route rather than disappears into it.

Pam Thompson    on 22 January 2018

What does my car colour say about me? It says I buy secondhand cars and don't have any say in the colour because I choose it by performance and not colour. That being said, I *hate* silver cars and both of my cars are silver.
However, when you only pay £1500 at most for a runabout, you don't feel it's worth respraying it.

Pam Thompson    on 22 January 2018

can't beat a good metallic grey.

ITYM silver. About the worst colour as regards safety as it's hard to see in most light, add a bit of fog, or dusk and you are all but invisible.

NingPo    on 22 January 2018

Thats what lights are for, most modern cars now have daylight running lights so should be visible at all times, give your driving glasses a clean or have an eye test.

KEN LANGLEY    on 22 January 2018

Never ever buy a silver car-it is the hardest colour to match after an accident or repair!!

Bigsphinx    on 22 January 2018

Never ever buy a silver car-it is the hardest colour to match after an accident or repair!!

But silver cars don't show the dirt.

Roger Morrell    on 22 January 2018

I love my 1962 Humber Hawk in Embassy Black

Sarah Mould    on 22 January 2018

Like Pam, I buy 'cheap' cars, where colour is less of an option. That said, I would not buy a white car - they always look filthy. Grey/beige/black blend into the landscape too easily to be safe, in my view.

I have recently bought my 'retirement car' and specifically searched for bright colours, to be safer. I've ended up with a burnt orange colour, which, while not as bright as I hoped for, is quite visible.

Parkton    on 22 January 2018

Cynic that I am, it couldn't possibly be anything to do with the fact that manufacturers restrict colour choice to black or white for "free" and anything else is an optional extra for another £500 quid......., could it?

pint6x    on 22 January 2018

Cynic that I am, it couldn't possibly be anything to do with the fact that manufacturers restrict colour choice to black or white for "free" and anything else is an optional extra for another £500 quid......., could it?

Perish the thought!

I hate silver cars - green or blue for me.

Senexdriver    on 22 January 2018

I choose my cars by engine and spec. Then I ask the dealer what he can supply to match my requirements and at that point I decide which colour - if there is more than one model in my spec. With my last car, the only model he could get was in red. It was my first ever red car and I had to think about it, but I went ahead and I grew to really like it. With my current car the only example available was in silver. I had a succession of silver cars in the 90s and noughties and am no longer particularly thrilled by it, but it’s OK and it doesn’t show the dirt. I’m surprised that it is the 5th most popular colour as I thought it had had its day long ago.

Heinzmanfred    on 22 January 2018

Navy Blue has to be the "smart" colour. My car is a Golf SV and always looks handsome even if missing a wash ! Black and White are "stark" colours and only impress when clean and shiny.....Navy Blue ticks all the boxes !

Heinzmanfred    on 22 January 2018

"Navy Blue" has to be the "smart " colour - my car is Navy Blue - always looks presentable even when missing a wash ! Black or White only impress when shiny and clean - which is difficult in the days of winter.Navy Blue ticks all the boxes !

Glen Costello    on 22 January 2018

I would never buy black again - even if the weather is dry it then shows the dust so never looks clean...my best colour car was a second hand Peugeot 206 in moonstone (light metallic blue) didn’t show the dirt and wasn’t silver!!

paul jenkins    on 22 January 2018

I totally agree that the best colour is grey

Neil McGrath    on 22 January 2018

Monochrome cars are so boring. Be an individual not a clone. Stand out from the crowd rather than get lost in it.

aethelwulf    on 23 January 2018

I buy a car in the colour that cost no extra. I refuse to pay for paint as I consider it a necessary requirement on a car just like wheels and tyres.
It seem so easy to con the UK public out of cash though so carry on.

R L Nunn    on 23 January 2018

Black is ok but don't use a car wash. They look awfull with swirl marks on them. White is difficult to keep clean but easier to see muck than on a black car. My car is gold which doesn't look too bad with cow s*** and the rain washes it off eventually.

Barneys thoughts    on 24 January 2018

Don't funeral companies use black cars!

Frank Dowling    on 28 January 2018

Surely the main reason for the most ordered colours being black grey and white is because so many manufacturers do not offer anything else. When I bought my last car 3 years ago, red was the ONLY alternative to one of those or an almost black shade of another colour. Where were the blues, greens (including British Racing Green) yellows, and so on? Not available! If the manufacturers offered more interesting colours, doubtless many people would opt for them.

Fortunately the tide seems to be turning, and my latest car is a very pleasant shade of blue.

Edited by Frank Dowling on 28/01/2018 at 16:19

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