The Wiley Report

Does the color of your car really impact its value?

by John Wiley
7 January 2021 2 min read

Update: OK, Porschephiles, you’ve read what we think. Now we want to hear from you. Take our survey on Porsche colors here.

Choosing a car color is a near universal experience, and a mundane one for most—77 percent of the cars sold in North America last year were white, black, silver, or gray, according to chemical company BASF. Yet for those of us who see cars as part of our identity, paint color is something more. Drive a Hugger Orange Camaro, a Laguna Seca Blue BMW, or even a Dorado Brown Saab, and you’re saying something about yourself and your very particular taste.

We wondered something else: Does a car’s color impact its value? Of course, we’ve all seen the case studies—the car that attracted extra bids because it wore just the right shade of yellow. But does paint color impact color car values on a more widespread basis?

To find out, we examined 3500 sales at live auctions and online auction platforms such as Bring a Trailer, Cars & Bids, and PCARMARKET dating back to 2013. We focused on Porsche, a marque famous for letting its customers taste the rainbow. There’s a comprehensive website, Rennbow.org, as well as events dedicated to the wide variety of shades that Porsche has painted its cars.

The first, clear conclusion, is that color indeed correlates to differences in value. Across Porsche models, we saw swings of nearly $3000 above or below average based on shade, with yellow cars tending to earn the most and green the least.

Porsche Values by Color
Illustration by Sonja Kuijpers – STUDIO TERP

Moreover, we saw variance in the likelihood that a car would sell at all. Sell-through rates for blue Porsches, for instance, tended to be higher than red.

Porsche sell-through rates by color
Illustration by Sonja Kuijpers – STUDIO TERP

Knowing that the Porsche market has been rather volatile in recent years and for certain cars—in particular the surging and sometimes speculative interest in air-cooled 911s—we also broke out sell-through by year and model. No surprise, certain “wild” colors, like green, tend to show bigger swings. Also no surprise: the best color for a classic 911 is orange.

Porsche sell-through rates by color over time
Illustration by Sonja Kuijpers – STUDIO TERP
Porsche colors by model
Illustration by Sonja Kuijpers – STUDIO TERP

Ideally, the data would allow us to precisely calculate that Bali Blue is worth more or less than Baltic Blue. However, the variety of models, conditions, and periods meant we had to generalize. (Sorry, purple, you’re too rare for your own category.) We did break out results by shade here. Have fun poking around, but keep in mind the sample size for some of these shades is extremely small and thus should be taken with a healthy grain of salt.

Shiny App Iframe

That said, our clearest takeaway, aside from the fact that color clearly does correlate to trends in values, is that the so-called “safe” colors—white, black, and silver/gray—are at best mid-pack when it comes to sell-through rates and value. So, if that silver 997 really speaks to you, go for it, but don’t buy it because you expect a surer return on your investment.

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Comments

  • Greg Dahlen says:

    Of course it matters. When I sold my Miura S in 2010, it had a $50,000 premium because it was the original color, and most desired by collectors: lime green.

    • John Wiley says:

      Glad to hear you sold your Miura S well and kept it with its original color. This piece was more of an investigation into how color matters rather than does it matter. Perhaps with enough data, we can investigate to see how color matters for other vehicles.

  • Rob says:

    What was / is the best colour for a 92 NSX

  • Terry Micklos says:

    FJ5 Lime light from Plymouth in 1970 is a lime/green lowest production, hardest to find and adds mucho to the value of mine!

  • Scott McPherson says:

    As always well presented!

  • Roger says:

    I think that the desirability of certain colors is vehicle model-specific. Would a MGB be less desirable because it is in British Racing Green? I doubt it. Certain cars look great in specific colors. So I think that the analysis in this article is valid in that color does matter, but it is likely invalid regarding the desirability of various colors across many vehicle models.

  • The Amazing Waldo says:

    As a late middle age (read almost 70) collector of English cars, I would like to see a breakdown of color preferences for other cars. I think other demographics such as age and other categories such as American muscle, English or Japanese might produce different results. It would be interesting to see. Young Porsche drivers just might prefer different colors than older drivers of Jaguar or Packard or …

  • Richard Luciano says:

    Ummmm. As far as I know guards red is India red. Same color, different names in different countries.

  • Sunshine says:

    I like a variety of colors, but I hate Yellow cars. With good reason, my first car was yellow. Yellow, black vinyl top, and white interior 2 door ’68 Buick Skylark with a 2 speed automatic. It taught me everything I never wanted in/on a car again. I believe color and well detailed paint attract a buyer’s eye.

  • John Naitove says:

    You left out Black Metallic in your Porsche colors.

  • Janice Coffey says:

    Rio Red is the color of my 1994 Cobra and for the past 27 years, every time the garage door opens, my breath is stll taken away.

  • David Tanner says:

    My 68 Firebird is verdoro green, the original color. I know at car shows, if you park a red Firebird next to it, the red gets more looks. But after telling the Delorean story of where verdoro green came from, people take a closer look.

  • Kelly E Smith says:

    Great article! I can also add that it’s a bit exhausting seeking out these skittle cars but it sure is fun.

  • chrlsful says:

    yes I would think it would be important to test on other vehicles AND other types of vehicles (inc price point levels). We can only say one thing abt 1 make at one time (the historical time this was gathered) in this specific market (was it also at 1 dealer? or site, etc?).
    Last I didn’t see a definition of “sell-thru”. It seemed U said 1 thing abt 1 market and another abt the ‘sell-thru’ factor (another mrkt?).

  • 964c4 says:

    Does this mean that viper green Porsches are becoming inexpensive and plentiful?

  • Robert Jenson says:

    As has been pointed out by several prior posts, color does matter for particular cars. When I was deciding on colors for my 2 Austin Healeys, I went to the paint store and chose a variety of colors that I thought might look attractive, then went home and made castings of a model body that I had stripped specifically to make a mold. Painting 7 castings first with dark gray primer and then color /2 tone, resulted in some interesting results. One or two looked like “what was I thinking”, two stood out from the rest, and from that field, one was chosen. Different colors for each real car. When the first car was shown at the All British Field Meet, it won the people’s choice award. The second is finishing its restoration, but pictures of it that I’ve shown to people elicit the same response. Had I chosen one of the “also ran” colors, I would expect that the response would not have been the same as what they have garnered. Color does matter with each different car.

  • Matt Biondi says:

    So the question is, in all but the most original of classics, would you keep the original color or go for the “best color” when restoring it?

  • Mark L Nienow says:

    It would be interesting to do a similar study on Corvettes and then to compare it to this data.

  • Jason Carini says:

    Very cool John. Interested in how your study isolated color as a factor. Were you able to account for other contributing factors like body style, transmission, condition, options (limited slip), service history?

    I assume it’s Red for Ferraris btw.

    Apologies for cross-posting.

  • John Wiley says:

    We may be able to look at other models next. Evaluating Porsche colors required a lot of data, which needed a lot of cleaning, and then came the analysis.

  • John Wiley says:

    This analysis accounted for model year, model, sub-model (S, Carrera 4, etc.), body style, and when the sale occurred. Specific options and service history were not part of it.

  • John Wiley says:

    Corvettes would be another viable option for gauging the value of different colors. Maybe we can develop a calculator that says here’s my vehicle based on year, make, model, body, condition, and then it tells you how much Monterey Red or Jetstream Blue adds or subtracts.

  • Bill Sundin says:

    This is a valuable study for those who own or are considering a Porsche, and appears exceptionally well done statistically. Like other categories, Porsche has its own unique audience, and therefore factors, as you made clear.

    Some of these may elude statistical evaluation, but some more general questions of best value come to mind:
    – original color vs. most popular color
    – original color characteristics vs. modern enhancements (e.g. multi-stage, vivid pigmentation) or different shade (e.g. British Racing Green has many shades across time and manufacturers)
    – does this characteristic change by make (e.g. RR should be “appropriate,” some cars must be painted original color from factory)
    – does it change over the years (e.g. national racing color pre-war, phased out post-war)
    – does it change to favor current fashion trends
    Some of these may be more qualitative than statistically answerable, depending on the wisdom of experienced auctioneers et al for answers; but they’d be very helpful to a wide array of collectors.

    Thanks for your great work on this.

  • Ken Sousa says:

    I’ve never owned a Porsche myself, but my experience with my ’69 Mustang convertible certainly proves there are horses (and colors) for courses. My ’69 is in reasonably good condition (it’s won 32 awards and trophies over the 22 years I’ve owned it) and it attracts the distaff set almost without question. Women flock to it because it is Meadowlark (pastel) yellow. Men, on the other hand, are attracted to red cars. A few years ago I was parked next to a very nice red ’69 convertible that was entered in the Occasional Driver class with my yellow car. The owner admitted that the engine was a 289 that he had salvaged from an older car and there were several other incorrect features on his car. He was a professional restorer. He took the hardware in our class. My recompense, however, was that my car was selected as Best In Show by the Mother Superior whose order was one of the sponsors of our car show. She said she had dated a guy with an identical car before she joined the order. 🙂 It made me blush.

  • Steve Clinton says:

    I remember seeing a Jaguar XKE painted a bright canary yellow on a site (not sure which one). It was like seeing a nun dressed like Madonna.

  • george says:

    I have a V12 E Type roadster that is now a deep blue ! was the pinkish color new ! but the owner couldnt live with it so changed it ! totally agree with him , but am told it was rare for V12 >??

  • george says:

    and I,m restoring a BN2 Healey thats a great clour of yellow with silver strip thik ill keep the colour !

  • J. Morris says:

    For Porsche, the first chart shows yellow brings the largest premium. The last graphic shows yellow in negative returns. What gives?

  • John Wiley says:

    The yellow in the first chart, and all of the static charts, is the generic color group. The yellow color group includes all shades of yellow such as Speed Yellow and Light Yellow etc. The same treatment is used for red, green, blue, and so on. All calculations for the static charts are based on all shades of the particular color group. The interactive chart shows each individual color within those color groups. The yellow and red and green of the interactive chart refers to transactions where the specific color name wasn’t declared. Cars with a descriptive auction listing tend to sell for more, which is why the greater number of “yellow” transactions at a discount doesn’t result in a negative dollar premium for yellow as a group.

  • James Nelson says:

    For the most part, this is a 911 and newer set of values. The classic 356 colors are missing in large part, and that’s ok, but not indicative of the influence of color on valuation for that sub-group.

  • Lilly Pray says:

    What a great article!
    Anyone having been to the PECAL and seen the candy colors on the wall of all the Porsche paints, knows that color is important. But who is it most important to in terms of its worth.
    I’ll never own and black/black Porsche if any kind, even if it was the last car I’ll ever own. But give me a Mamba green and you’ll see me fly.

    Oh and your Survey, why do I have to pick between water or air cooled. I ve them equally.

  • Hack H says:

    I know this adds unwelcome complexity, but a very dry and dusty climate matters more than I would have thought to the desirability of black cars. When I lived in Atlanta I loved black cars and owned several. But moving to a dry and dusty high desert climate meant that black cars quickly look dusty. Many car club friends say they simply won’t consider buying a black car here.

  • John Tad says:

    I feel that certain colors are appropriate for certain makes and models. A 911 looks correct in Silver
    an XKE in British Racing Green and a Ferrari in Red. I own a 1974 Sepia Brown 911 with tan interior
    and I appreciate it more each year. IMHO yellow decreases the value

  • John B Crusse says:

    I have a 69 911T Ossi Blue with Black interior completely restored ground up. What are the ranges on this make model and color for valuation?

  • Steve Robinson says:

    Hack H your point about dusty locales and black cars makes sense. I would add high pollen locales to that. In addition to tormenting seasonal allergy sufferers, the nasty yellow dust looks even worse on black cars. I recall strolling the beautiful streets of Beaufort, SC a couple of years ago and gawd, the pollen was so thick every car looked yellow, but the black ones even more so!

  • Stephen Sarasohn says:

    What does “sell through” mean?

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