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Will people crash into you because of your car's color?

The most popular car colors on the road – and the perceived problems

 white cars

White – 23%
We can’t see you in a snow storm!

black cars

Black – 21%
We hope you don’t drive at night.

silver cars

Silver – 18% and Gray – 14%
Try not to drive when it’s raining or foggy.

red cars

Red – 8%
You’re gonna get pulled over.

blue cars

Blue – 6%
You’re in luck! No known “conspicuity” issues.

beige cars

Brown/beige – 6%
You’re driving cautiously anyway, we can tell.

green cars

Green – 1%
You’re going to blend in with those trees!

yellow cars

Yellow/gold – 1%
Don’t drive in New England in autumn.

other car colors

Other colors – 2%

Car color source: DuPont, “Global Color Popularity 2012,” North American results.

Is a white car less visible, and therefore more dangerous to drive, in wintertime Minnesota? Are green vehicles more crash-prone in the leafy Pacific Northwest? Is a silver car dangerously invisible in the rain? Are beige cars driven more cautiously because their owners are not exactly risk takers?

Is a crimson car more likely to catch the eye of the cop with the radar gun?

Not once in a blue moon, say the experts.

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you've probably fallen victim to urban legends linking vehicle color with car safety. In fact, the notion that red cars cost more to insure because they’re more likely to get ticketed is the No. 2 most popular insurance myth, according to a recent Insure.com study.

The issue of car color is so off the radar that experts rarely bother to research it. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety doesn't have any research findings related to car color, reports spokesperson Russ Rader. "A brighter color could make a vehicle more visible to other drivers, but the effect is likely small," Rader says. "For example, daytime running lights have been shown to reduce crashes during daylight hours by up to 5 percent.

"If car color has any effect, it's probably smaller than that," he says.

If car color did have an effect on crashes (and therefore insurance claims), car insurance companies would be all over it. But Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Irvine, Calif.-based KBB.com, says, "There is not enough real world evidence to justify insurance companies modifying rates based on color alone," he says.

While people often point out that a white car on a frozen tundra would be barely visible, any color car could be more risky in settings where its hue blends in with surroundings, Brauer says. "But we thankfully live in a very colorful world," he observes.

"The idea a specific single vehicle color would have a disproportionately higher tendency to blend in more often is pretty much implausible,” Brauer says. Background colors behind cars are constantly changing. “You have gray streets, brown hillsides, snow-covered mountain roads and lush green trees.”

Lack of evidence

In a 2004 white paper titled "Car Color and Safety," the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety noted the glaring lack of studies "directly addressing the relationship between car color (conspicuity) and crashes among passenger vehicles."

The white paper noted that the relationship between car color and safety is about as clear as mud "because only two scientific investigations of the matter have been conducted to date, and the authors of both studies admitted that they were not able to draw clear or generalizable conclusions."

While people often make car-purchase decisions based on color, it’s unlikely that someone who hates the color orange, for example, will crash into an orange car on purpose, says the AAA Foundation.

The report's authors summarized their findings succinctly. "The bottom line is that there is presently no scientific evidence supporting the selection of one particular vehicle color as the unambiguous best choice for safety."

Car colors and resale value

OK, there’s one time when car color really is important: Selling your vehicle.

Car hue really does make a difference is in resale value, Brauer says. Lighter-colored vehicles don't show damage as much, tending to age a bit more gracefully, he reports. How well a car ages is one of two color factors affecting resale value. The other is demand for a particular color.

"That's why you see a lot of dealers and individuals showing a lot of interest in white and silver," he says. "Because everyone thinks people like white and silver vehicles, many people buy white and silver vehicles to help ensure a higher resale value and leverage a wider spectrum of demand for a vehicle."

The resulting higher resale value becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, he says. Other than that, car color is a real gray area.

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