While the idea of tooling around in a retina-searing lime green car might be appealing to some, apparently the vast majority of us are pretty boring when it comes to picking out the color of the cars we drive.
More than 20 percent of 2012 model year cars and trucks that rolled off the assembly line in North America were painted a pristine white, according to a recent survey from automotive paint supplier PPG Industries Inc., which provides paints to General Motors, Ford, BMW, and others. Black wasn't far behind at 19 percent, followed by silver and gray. Giving us some small hope that the entire population isn't completely color-blind, red rounded out the top five most popular colors.
Bottom line, it seems Americans just aren't interested in bright colors on their vehicles and there are several reasons why.
Some of it has to do with the increasingly fast-paced and digital nature of the world. Colors such as silver, white, and black conjure images of technology and sleekness, exemplified by products such as Apple's iPhone—available in white and black with silver accents—and the clean, modern aesthetics of the company's stores.
"It comes along with the information age, with personal computing — it all has a very metallic look," says Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at car information site Edmunds.com. "If you look at iPhones, white or black are the options. People want a sleek, more modern feel."
A far more simple reason is that people just don't want to be stuck driving a car around in a color they could get bored of easily. Especially now that Americans are hanging onto their cars longer, "safe" colors such as white, black, gray, and silver have become even more popular.
"If you know you're going to be leasing a car, stepping out of the box when it comes to color is easier," Caldwell says. "But if you're going to have a car for six to 10 years, you're going to go after a color you're not going to get tired of generally."
Another practical reason for forgoing bright car colors is re-sale value and ease. While some people might be interested in a sea-green Toyota Camry, chances are the pool is pretty limited. Would-be sellers have a much better chance of quickly unloading a car with a more neutral color when it comes to tastes.
"Most people don't really want to stand out — they see color as a part of the commodity they're buying," says Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends and insights for TrueCar.com. "With extreme colors and the right buyer, it could bring you a premium [on the vehicle sale] but it will limit your target."
But while Americans are pretty sedate when it comes to car colors, we're actually not even the most conservative in the world. In Europe, preference for white and black cars over more colorful options is even higher. The only place where experts have observed a little more whimsy when it comes to car colors is in Asia.
According to Toprak, car companies such as Chevrolet have experimented with more vibrant colors on their Spark model and have seen some success, especially in South Korea.
"They've tried to come up with different colors to attract young people," he says. "It's become fashionable there, not only among females, to buy bright pink things. There are definitely regional differences in taste, but the take rate is about 25 percent just for the pink color there."
But while bright pink might be a little much for Americans and Europeans, that doesn't necessarily mean the more staid blacks, whites, and silvers of the car color world have to be entirely personality-less. Manufacturers are experimenting more and more with different nuances of hues and pearlizing classic colors to give them more depth and character.
"There's been a lot of advancement in paint technology," Caldwell says. "You can have a more metallic white now, for example, rather than just the flat econo-white. They can be much more interesting colors now."