Most popular car color in DC (and why it’s not great for value)

New vehicles start losing value as soon as the buyer drives off the lot, but some makes and models depreciate faster than others, and even color can impact depreciation.

In the D.C. metro area, black is the most popular vehicle color, based on share of registered vehicles, but that’s not a great color for holding value. Black has a three-year depreciation rate of 16.1%, compared to the overall average of 15%. White is the second-most popular vehicle color in the D.C. metro. White has a three-year depreciation rate of 15.5%.

New and used vehicle search site iSeeCars recently compared prices of more than 650,000 recently sold three-year-old vehicles to determine the average three-year depreciation rate based solely on vehicle color.

“The worst two colors for depreciation are gold and brown. They are fairly obscure colors, and on most cars they probably aren’t very attractive,” said iSeeCars executive analyst Karl Brauer.

If a buyer is okay with gold or brown, and see the make and model they want to buy in those colors, it might be worth talking to the dealer.

“A dealer is not going to admit that they are willing to negotiate on any vehicle for any reason. If you’re an educated buyer and you see a gold or brown vehicle, let the dealer know ‘I know this isn’t a widely-popular color and I’m not sure how easy it is for you to sell these vehicles right now. If we can deal on price, I might take it off your hands,” Brauer said.

An obscure color isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Colors that depreciate the least are yellow, orange and purple. That comes down to supply and demand.

“There may not be a lot of people who want a yellow, orange or purple car, but there are even fewer yellow, orange and purple vehicles out there than there are people who want one. So if you have one of those colors, it will help hold the car’s resale value up,” he said.

Overall, yellow vehicles depreciate 70% less than the average vehicle, even though it is among the least popular colors. It is also commonly a color for sports cars and other low-volume vehicles that are so novel in the resale market that people will pay a premium for them.

Carmakers aren’t as timid about bold colors anymore either.

“We are absolutely seeing more diversity in car colors in the last few years. A lot of manufacturers are now offering launch editions of popular vehicles, and launch editions always include a specific color that is only available on that launch edition. People like buying it because they know, even if they know nothing else about the vehicle, if they see it in this color and you’ve never seen that color before, that’s saying it is a special car,” Brauer said.

In addition to black and white, the other most popular vehicle colors in the D.C. metro are gray, silver and blue.

Below are the best and worst colors for vehicle depreciation:

Courtesy iSeeCars

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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