How your car’s color affects your insurance – and safety

November 11, 2013

Car convention has long dictated that insurance rates are higher for red cars; and, at first blush, the urban legend seems to make good sense. After all, aren’t flashy red Corvettes are more likely to draw attention, and therefore the eye of traffic cops? And aren’t cherry red roadsters are easier to see, and thus avoid, in dangerous nighttime driving scenarios?

Insurance companies are quick to point out that the expensive red car insurance tale is a mythic one. Online car insurance company Esurance states plainly, “While the color of your car can reflect your personal taste, it will not have a direct impact on your car insurance rate.” Yet the myth is repeated extensively; in one 2011 survey, 29% of those surveyed believed that red cars are pricier to insure.

antique ford

Believe it or not, this is what a car that’s painted for safety looks like. From DVS1mn.

What does have an impact on your insurance rate? Your driving record, claims history, credit history (in certain states), and the make, model and year of your car are all factors that come into play when car insurance companies set out to assign your rate, according to Esurance.

Insurance myths aside, is there a relationship between car color or design, and accident rate? A 2007 study led by Australia’s Monash University found that white cars had the lowest crash risk. Cars painted with colors low on the “visibility index” — specifically, black, blue, grey, green, red and silver — had higher crash risk than white cars; this is especially true, the study suggested, during daylight, where crash risk was higher for those colors.The same study suggested that a car’s color is also related to crash severity. In other words, lower-visibility colors have a higher likelihood of more severe crashes.

Further research suggests that black cars are the most dangerous, as they tend to be blend into the background or traffic; during daylight, black cars were found to be up to 12% more likely to be in crashes than white cars. During dawn and dusk, they were 47% more likely to be involved in crashes Grey and silver cars were the next most dangerous, then red and blue. The study also suggests that it’s possible (though not proven) that orange cars are even safer than white ones.

Red 1979 Ford Fairlane Futura

Contrary to popular belief, this car’s driver doesn’t pay any more for insurance just because it’s a snazzy, red 1979 Ford Fairlane Futura. From DVS1mn.

Still, other factors are more important than car color alone: light conditions and the type of car exert a more significant impact on crash risk than car color alone. Color can play a role in accidents, but not necessarily a major one. As Dr. Stuart Newstead told the Daily Mail, “Whilst campaigns to modify vehicle color choice could alter the crash risk for the fleet, color is a much less influential crash risk modifier than behavioral traits such as drink-driving, and speeding.”

If you’re choosing a car color, you can’t go wrong with white: In addition to being one of the safest colors, it was also recently named as the world’s favorite car color choice for the third year running, according to the CS Monitor. PPG Industries, a major auto paint company, found that in North America, white led with 21%, followed by black at 19%, gray at 17%, and silver at 15%. And at least in this case, the old saw holds true: Sports cars, according to PPG, are usually red or blue, while minivans are more likely to be gold or beige.

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Category: Automotive, Resources, Road safety

About the Author ()

Katy is a writer, reporter and editor who, in addition to writing for RoadTrafficSigns, has worked with the United Nations Development Programme, Hamptons magazine, Hearst Corporation, The Daily Mail, People Magazine, and a variety of other publications and nonprofits. After graduating with honors from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and distinctions on her thesis and in the consumer journalism seminar, she moved to Milan, Italy. In Italy, she worked as a writer and consultant for an international magazine, editing and translating text and reporting on such events as the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the annual design fair. A born and raised New Yorker, she has lived in three of five boroughs, relying quite a bit on public transport until getting her driver's license at the admittedly belated age of 21.

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