White vs Black Car: Which Color is Best?

White vs Black Car

When shopping for a new car, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing the color. While ultimately a personal preference, the exterior color you pick can impact everything from resale value and safety to how hot the car gets in the summer sun. But when it comes to arguably the two most popular options, which is better: white or black?

White cars tend to hold value better long-term, be easier to keep clean, and provide safety benefits over black vehicles. However, black is seen as more luxurious and prestigious.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare white versus black car paint across a variety of factors to help you determine the best color for your needs. We’ll look at resale value, heat absorption, visibility of dirt and flaws, safety records, prestige perception, ease of maintenance, and much more.

How Color Impacts Resale Value?

One of the top considerations for many car buyers is resale value – how well the car will hold its value years down the road when it’s time to sell or trade-in. The color you choose can significantly sway resale value.

Across the automotive industry, white is the most popular car color purchased. Approximately 20% of all vehicles sold are white, a trend that has held steady for years. The second most popular color is black at around 19%, followed by silver and gray.

The high demand for white vehicles directly contributes to their higher resale value. According to Kelley Blue Book, white cars have the best resale value overall, recouping on average about 62% of their original price after 5 years. Silver is close behind at 61.5%, making it another smart choice for resale. By contrast, black vehicles average just 52% of original value after 5 years.

There are a few reasons white and silver hold their value so well:

  • They are “neutral” mainstream colors with mass appeal. While not everyone loves white or silver, even fewer people actively dislike them. The broad appeal results in high demand when reselling.
  • They hide flaws well. As we’ll discuss more below, white and silver paint disguises dirt, dents, scratches and other imperfections better than black. This helps the car maintain a higher value over time.
  • They are associated with luxury brands. Many high-end luxury and sports cars like Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, and others are offered in white or silver. This enhances the prestige of the colors.
  • They look new longer. White and silver colors simply stay cleaner looking over the long run, making the car appear newer than it is.

While resale value may not be a concern if you plan to drive the car for many years, it’s an important factor if you lease or trade-in your vehicles more frequently. If high residual value is a priority, white and silver are wise choices – while black cars depreciate faster.

Heat Absorption and Cabin Temperature

Anyone who’s entered a hot car on a sunny summer day knows that interior temperature can soar to uncomfortable levels. But the exterior color you choose actually impacts how hot the car’s cabin gets.

Darker colored vehicles, especially black ones, tend to absorb significantly more heat from sunlight. The thermal energy is conducted into the car interior, resulting in higher temperatures inside.

On a 90°F day, the cabin temperature in a black car can climb as high as 131°F. Darker interiors, like black leather seats, only amplify the heat further.

By contrast, white and lighter colored cars simply don’t get as hot inside on sunny days. One study found that a black car’s interior can be up to 10°F hotter than a white car under the same conditions.

There are a few reasons for this discrepancy:

  • Darker paint absorbs more sunlight. The dark pigment in black paint absorbs and retains a greater amount of the sun’s thermal radiation. This heat energy then migrates into the cabin.
  • Black interiors heat up faster. Dark leather and vinyl surfaces also readily absorb heat. White or light gray interiors help reflect sunlight and minimize heating.
  • Greenhouse effect. The windows in the greenhouse area trap and intensify accumulated heat in the cabin. Solar energy passes through the glass and becomes trapped inside.

For those in hot, sunny climates, a white or lighter colored car can provide noticeably cooler comfort during daytime driving. Over years of ownership, not having to blast the A/C as frequently also benefits the engine and components.

However, this temperature difference is most noticeable in direct sun. At night or during overcast days, exterior color has a minimal impact on cabin temperature.

Visibility of Dirt, Dust and Flaws

No one wants a car covered in visible grime, swirls, scratches and dents. But due to simple color contrast, some exterior colors naturally hide flaws better than others.

White paint tends to hide dirt, dust, minor dents, paint imperfections and mild scratches far better than black. The light color helps conceal imperfections to the eye. Black on the other hand highlights every speck of dust, smudge or swirl mark on the surface.

There are a few reasons white beats out black in this regard:

  • Low contrast. The white paint color matches or blends with common types of dirt and dust far better than the high contrast of black. Smudges and mud don’t stand out as much.
  • Reflectivity. The light color reflects more light waves, obscuring small dents, swirls and scratches in the paint’s reflection. Black absorbs more light, accentuating these flaws.
  • Camouflaging effect. Analogous to how white clothing camouflages stains better than black, the white paint helps disguise flaws in a similar manner.

Keeping a black car looking pristine requires far more frequent washing to avoid dust buildup. And any scrapes or scratches sustained will be immediately visible and obvious on a black surface.

So if you park outdoors, have kids or pets, or simply don’t want to notice every minor imperfection, white does a better job keeping an exteriors flaws discreet.

Safety, Crash Records and Visibility

Vehicle color can also impact safety, crash rates and visibility to other drivers. In general, white cars tend to have better safety records than black ones.

According to a study by Monash University in Australia, white is the safest car color with the lowest crash rate. The research examined over 45,000 vehicle crashes and found:

  • White cars had a crash rate 12% lower than the baseline average vehicle.
  • Black cars had a crash rate 7% higher than the average vehicle.
  • Silver cars had a crash rate 4% lower than average.

The main reason is likely visibility and contrast. During daylight hours, white stands out clearly against most backgrounds and is easy for other drivers to see. Black on the other hand can visually blend into shadows, pavement, buildings and other dark surroundings at times.

This difference is especially true at night. Black cars are notoriously difficult to see after dark for oncoming drivers. The lack of contrast makes them harder to judge speed and distance.

Black also tops the list of colors most pulled over for speeding tickets. An analysis found that black cars received 22% more citations than average. Police claim it’s not profiling, but rather inability to properly gauge the speed of black vehicles at night.

So when it comes to safety records, white appears to be the best choice while black falls short. However, this doesn’t apply to extremely bright colors like red which tend to get pulled over even more. Ultimately, highly visible colors like white and silver are preferable from a crash avoidance perspective.

Luxury, Style and Prestige Perceptions

The color of your car also influences the perception of style and prestige conveyed. This is an area where black has a distinctive advantage over white.

Across cultures black cars are seen as more luxurious, sophisticated and status-symbol. Black is commonly associated with luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar. It’s the signature color of limos and high-end SUVs. James Bond famously drove an Aston Martin DB5 in black.

There are some psychological and cultural reasons black evokes prestige:

  • Color of authority and power. Black clothing is ubiquitous among royalty, clergy, judges and leaders. The color evokes strength and authority.
  • Sleek and serious. Black gives off a serious, elegant vibe. Contrasted with more playful colors, black is timeless and sophisticated.
  • Sensual allure. Black carries allure and mystery. Designers like Coco Channel made black dresses iconic in fashion.
  • Expensive rarity. Historically black cars were more difficult to keep clean before clearcoat. Conveying you could maintain a black car signified wealth.

So if your priority is projecting luxury styling, black cars align better with that image. However, this doesn’t necessarily apply to all make and models. A Porsche 911 in white still carries prestige.

Meanwhile, white cars convey qualities like purity, simplicity and precision. With its clinical color, white paint has a modern high-tech look. Many contemporary supercars like the Lamborghini Huracán and McLaren P1 come in white.

Ultimately personal preference reigns supreme on assessing color style and prestige. But black certainly holds the historical edge on luxury associations.

Long Term Value Retention

We’ve already covered how white cars hold their value better overall in the short term of the first 5 years. But how do black and white compare when it comes to long term value retention 10+ years later?

Once again, white wins out for maintaining higher value over decades of ownership according to historical auto sales data.

Kelley Blue Book track resale values stretching all the way back to the 1981 model year. Analysis of retained value on over 300,000+ used car transactions found that white painted cars tend to sell for more money at auctions than black cars of the same make, model, mileage and condition.

There are some factors that contribute to white’s superior long term value:

  • Nostalgic appeal. For classic cars, white paint evokes nostalgia for the styling of the era and retains interest from collectors. A vintage Mustang or Camaro looks just right in white.
  • Easier to photograph. White backgrounds help used cars photographs better online. Black cars can disappear in photos, failing to capture fine styling details.
  • Easier maintenance. As discussed next, keeping white cars looking presentable long-term is simply easier than black. This translates to higher value.
  • More demand. The majority of new car buyers still favor white. This broad demand carries over to the used market.

Black cars still clearly command a premium over other loud colors like yellow or orange after decades. But white retains an edge for value and demand into vintage status.

Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance

Over the life of car ownership, keeping the exterior looking clean can be a chore. Here as well, white cars are generally easier to maintain and keep looking pristine:

  • Stays cleaner. White has the dirt hiding abilities we covered earlier. It needs less frequent cleaning to maintain a fresh look.
  • Hides swirls. The minor scratches from automated car washes are less visible. High-pressure rinses are more forgiving.
  • Less visible water spots. Rain or tap water dries without leaving dark mineral spots on white paint.
  • Cooler washing. You can safely wash white in direct sunlight without flash drying. Black requires shade.
  • Shows polish better. White paint really shines with wax and polish. The light color reflects gloss well.
  • Matches touch-up paint. Small stone chips and flaws are easily concealed with matching white touch-up paint.
  • Disguises brake dust. The white or silver wheels don’t show brake dust buildup nearly as fast.

Black of course looks amazing when cleaned and polished to perfection. But keeping that level of perfection requires far more meticulous maintenance and detailing. White is simply more forgiving of washing mishaps and everyday driving.

Over years of ownership, choosing white can save considerable effort keeping your car looking its best. If regular washing and detailing sounds unappealing, white provides resilience.


At the end of the day there’s no definitively “better” choice between white and black cars. The most appropriate color depends on your priorities for resale value, appearance, maintenance considerations, and even safety records.

Here’s a quick summary of the key pros and cons of each color:


  • Holds value very well long term
  • Provides safety benefits of visibility
  • Stays cooler inside in hot weather
  • Hides dirt, dents and scratches
  • Easier to keep clean long term
  • Maintains high-tech, clinical aesthetic


  • Considered more luxurious and prestigious
  • Greater contrast shows styling lines
  • Seen as more powerful and authoritative
  • Darker cabin provides cozy vibe
  • More elegant and sophisticated

For many shoppers, white represents the pragmatic choice that saves money, hides wear, and retains value. Black on the other hand makes more of an impactful style statement.

Regardless of which color you choose, always consider ceramic tints or protective coatings. This shields the paint from UV rays, environmental damage and scratches – keeping your car looking its best for years to come.

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