What were the most popular car colours in 2018?

Three years ago we wrote what proved to be a contentious Anorak piece about the mysteries of why quite so many new car buyers chose white for their latest pride and joy; in my humble opinion the most boring, bland and unimaginative colour any car can be painted.

Although there are still far too many drab white cars on our roads, resembling mobile domestic appliances, it was with some delight that I discovered white has now been consigned to third place in the affections of British new car buyers in 2018. More interesting and appealing, grey has now become the most popular colour choice for the first time since the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) began recording the colour of all new passenger cars sold in the UK in 1996, with amost one in five (i.e. half a million) grey vehicles delivered to customers.

The 495,127 new grey cars sold gave the colour a 21 per cent share of the UK car market, compared to 20 per cent for black and 18 per cent for white; these three colours combined taking 59 per cent of the UK market last year. After the top three came blue (16 per cent) and red (10 per cent). Black fell by 7.3 per cent, with the only new car colours to show an increase in 2018 being orange (up 37 per cent to seventh position, and statistically the best colour to choose to retain the highest residual value), plus beige (+28 per cent).

Cream suffered the greatest percentage drop, with only 559 British new car buyers opting for the colour (-34 per cent) with demand for yellow cars also falling by a third. More than 132,000 fewer car buyers selected white last year from the colour’s peak in 2015, although white remained the first choice colour in Scotland, with the rest of the UK wisely opting for grey.

The Scots aren't alone in choosing dreary white as their top new car colour, as troublingly most of the world followed suite last year, according to American paint specialist Axalta.

Globally, white continued as the worldwide favourite, followed by black and grey (the reverse of the UK). White was chosen in 38 per cent of cases worldwide, with a large gap to black (18 per cent) and grey (12 per cent), with orange and bronze showing some marginal growth.

White is most appreciated in China, where a staggering 58 per cent of the 23 million new cars sold there in 2018 were finished in ‘bland’, while Asia as a whole selected white for 48 per cent of new cars. In Europe, white accounted for ‘just’ 25% of all new car sales, ahead of grey at 22 per cent. In what might be considered as ‘true’ colours, blue took a seven per cent market share of the global new market last year, with red chosen in five per cent of cases.

One interesting trend is that the colour choice of a new car differed according to market segment, with white proving more popular for affordable lower sector categories (city cars, hatchbacks, etc.), while more expensive and prestigious vehicles were mostly chosen in grey and black.

It’s often said that money doesn’t necessarily buy good taste, and perhaps on this occasion there is some proof in the old adage. Here’s hoping, as the fewer white cars litter our roads and resemble kitchen appliances the better in my opinion.

So, if you are buying a new car this year, go on, please show some thought and originality by choosing any colour other than white! You know it makes sense. Thank you.

Words by Gary Axon.