Used-car search engine site ISeeCars.com recently analyzed more than 2.1 million sales of used cars from the 2014 model year and found wide variances in depreciation rates based on the color of the paint finish. Yellow cars held their values the best and depreciated 27 percent during the first three years of ownership, less than the average three-year depreciation rate of 33.1 percent. Also faring well: orange and green cars, whose depreciation rates were 30.6 and 30.9 percent, respectively.
The worst colors for holding value over those three years? Beige, purple and gold, which all outpaced the average depreciation rate by at least 10 percent. The most common meh colors — white, black and gray — depreciated close to the average rate. It's a flip from the site's 2014 study, which found the most common colors as the worst depreciators and gold and beige just under the average rate.
Why the variation? One thought is that yellow, orange and green are all less-common exterior colors, making up just 1.2 percent of all three-year-old cars, which may drive up the demand for them and help maintain value. Then again, the three worst-performing colors were even more rare (thankfully, in the case of beige cars), with a 0.7-percent share. Gold cars had the worst depreciation rates among SUVs, the second-worst among sedans and among the worst depreciation rates across nearly every body style, ISeeCars said. Gold-painted cars also transcended measures of mileage on the odometer, depreciating heavily even when the cars evaluated had relatively low mileage.
"We speculate that mileage alone can't explain the color depreciation pattern, and that gold's near-universally poor depreciation may reflect lower consumer demand for the color — given the choice, consumers may just prefer the more common colors or flashier colors," says Phong Ly, the site's CEO, in a release.
Interestingly, a car's color and retained value don't tie strongly to the length of time it takes to sell the car. At an average 41.5 days on the market, yellow cars take longer to sell than both gold (34.3 days) and the average car (36.5). But green cars, another of the lowest-depreciating colors, were close to the average at 36.2 days, while beige cars took an average 46.6 days to move.
So if you want to consider this news you can use, stay away from gold paint finish. Unless you're looking to pick up a used car on the cheap, of course.