Ask the Appraiser

Are some colors really worth more than others?

by Dave Kinney
20 April 2022 3 min read

Are certain car colors worth more than others? The most accurate answer about as clear as mud (or clear as umber if you’re a helpless color geek). An unusual color can also be a double-edged sword—perhaps it deserves to be unusual. It all depends on the hue, the car, the era, and the audience.

For the most part, special paint colors fall within one of three categories: There are “Iconic” colors. These are paint mixes instantly recognizable from a specific period or model of car. Picture the idealized representation of a 1955–1957 Ford Thunderbird in your mind. Chances are, it’s wearing something like Thunderbird Blue (turquoise), Dusk Rose (a shade of what you just might call pink), or Coral Sand, even though more of the cars were actually painted black and white.

Photo by Joe Puhy

Fast forward a generation, and think about the colors most often found on muscle cars from all domestic manufacturers. AMC had the “Big Bad” colors, hot Mopars shouted with a rainbow of “High Impact” hues, and both GM and Ford cranked out a cadre of cars wearing some seriously fetching shades, even if the sheetmetal under the fresh lacquer was writing checks its engine couldn’t cash—like Grabber Blue on a three-speed, six-cylinder Ford Maverick.

Of course, these factory standards are a far cry from today’s ongoing “Paint-to-Sample” craze, where any moneyed owner can snip a lock of their award-winning Havapoo puppy’s hair and have it immortalized by the in-house paint specialists in Stuttgart, Woking, or Crewe.

A color considered popular when new does not necessarily translate to sustained value in the market, as there is often a span of time when a used enthusiast-focused car is simply viewed as another used car, having not yet made the cultural leap into collectible car status. In fact, odd colors can often keep a car from selling: a few years following the end of production, those soon-to-be iconic colors can look so last year in the eyes of a prospective buyer. Think of unique car colors in the same way you might think of cyclical fashion; in one season, out the next, and then reintroduced as retro-chic a few years on.

RM Sotheby’s

It also depends on the character of the car in question. While the characteristically pastel colors of the Fifties are fun, some would prefer their mid-century Cadillac (or Lincoln, Imperial, or DeSoto) in a white or dark blue hue. Big, meaty muscle cars? I’ll take mine in the most look-at-me color possible, as I suspect will the majority of collectors.

Paint-to-sample presents its own challenges. While it’s cool to have a car in the same colors as your favorite pair of Levi’s, that might not be the next person’s choice. Still, special ordering some modern sports cars in historically significant colors from other eras might pay off, especially in the wild Porsche market. At the very least, you’re usually able to at least recoup the original cost of the PTS order when you go to sell that one-off Cayman.

In some cars, color is a bigger issue than others. While few hate a Mercedes-Benz in classic silver, there are those who will only have lipstick red. We call these people “original owners.” If there is a question surrounding an unusual color, an appraiser can do a market survey and ask dealers, marque-specific club members, and even other owners if they might pay more or less for said paint, and report those findings.

Of course, it’s usually a solid practice to ask your appraiser if he or she is colorblind. Plus, it never hurts to recount your reasoning behind that PTS order, including why you immortalized Cuddles the Havapoo on the exterior of your Porsche. Sometimes, the story is better than the color.

Dave Kinney is an appraiser and publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide.


  • Mike Lenover says:

    In reference to unusual colours I recently had my 56 New Yorker Newport repainted in “cloud white”. I really regret not painting it in the original “unusual” two tone colours but it does look great in all white exterior especially with the two tone “desert rose” interior.

  • Lou Salvalaggio says:

    We own a 1965 Mustang in Code “0” Tropical turquoise, people walk up to that car like a magnet, passing all kinds of expensive high end cars. Because the paint is straight, flat and flawless brings all kinds of compliments and feeling, memories etc. Colour matters more than one thinks. We have been asked many times just to name a price, but green in the bank is the wrong shade.

  • Jon Delach says:

    At 15 years old the night the new 65 chevys premiered my next door neighbor came home with a maroon impala super sport coupe. I kept starring out the window at it thinking it was so beautiful until the next day when just a block away another super sport, but a convertable in evening orchid with white interior. Pontiac had the same color but called it iris mist. I still think it’s one of the most beautiful colors.

  • grampz says:

    I won’t look at a car that has yellow, purple, or orange paint

  • Loren Moore says:

    If I owned a car company there would be no black, white, bright yellow, lime green or orange colors for my cars. I hate all of these colors! Even a car wih beautiful lines is ruined to me with these putrid colors.

  • Jeff Casida says:

    A late friend, who owned a ’55 Thunderbird in turquoise, referred to all the loud green colors as “snail snot green.”

  • Bob Beveridge says:

    I am so sick of new cars lack of colour choice . In most manufacturers they offer black , white , a red , 2 or 3 shades of silver/grey/charcoal grey – that’s it . Black and white are not colours – they’re basics . In 1969 Dodge /Chrysler offered 21 exterior paint colours , and 6 interior colour choices . Today accept depressing black , grey , or possibly beige.Do you live in an all black interior house ? Come on car manufacturers – at today’s prices at least attempt to show you actually care what people may like

  • Thomas Benvie says:

    I own a 1993 Mary Kay Pink Allante. It gets more comments than any other car I’ve owned, but most start with “when ya gonna paint it”. Truth e told, I like it!

  • jane don says:

    In my experience color makes All the difference–nowadays for some strange reason–for some reason people are choosing Bland because it’s (not really appealing ) but not offensive to others–& car companies push bland to keep their Profits up ( like Ford in the early days(any color you want as long as it’s Black)- But go to a car show & see what cars people are attracted to-unless they are mainly attracted to mostly Power–It’s Color-the difference when I painted my old Futura a 78 honda gold with large gold metal flake was incredible–

  • Tim McGuire says:

    I saw a pink Bentley convertible today. Really ugly looking. I would not own any car painted black.

  • Bob Johnson says:

    Hi Dave,
    We still have our dark purple ’96 Corvette. I remember you were not particularly fond of it back at the ASA automotive group meeting in Scottsdale in 1999.
    The dark purple (’95 &’96 only) was the reason we ordered our car. Still love the color, especially with the grey interior.
    I have always gravitated toward the “unusual” colors for my cars. Effect on value has never been a consideration. To each his own.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More on this topic

Hagerty Insider Newsletter

Your weekly dose of auction reports, market analysis, and more.

Thank You!
Your request will be handled as soon as possible
Hagerty Insider Newsletter
Your weekly dose of auction reports, market analysis, and more.