When it comes to the UK's favourite car colours, it's not all black and white. In fact, it's a bit of a grey area, with grey being the most popular shade of automobile nationwide in 2020 (24.35% of new cars), followed by black (19.90%) and white (17.37%).

Grey car parked at roadside
Monochrome motors 

In fact, 61.6% of new cars were painted in these three rather austere shades, according to data from the Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

"2020 was a pretty dark year for the automotive industry and having grey as the top new car colour probably reflects the atmosphere," said Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, referring to an annus horribilis of Brexit, lockdowns and economic uncertainty.

 

Colour psychology of the top three

Grey may be associated with stability and reliability, while black is linked to luxury and sophistication. The popularity of white has been connected to the "Apple effect", and the clean, tasteful elegance of the Californian computer giant.

Black BMW Series 8 Coupe

Credit: medvedsky_kz - stock.adobe.com

Top 10 UK car colours 2020 (SMMT data)

 

Rank 

Colour

Market share

1

GREY

24.40%

2

BLACK

19.90%

3

WHITE

17.40%

4

BLUE

16.90%

5

RED

9%

6

SILVER

7.50%

7

ORANGE

1.30%

8

GREEN

0.90%

9

YELLOW

0.40%

10

BRONZE

0.10%



But there were a few splashes of colour over the 12 months, with blue the fourth most popular (16.9%), followed by red (9%), silver (7.5%), green (0.9%), orange (1.3%), yellow (0.4%) and bronze (0.1%).

 

The Isle of Blue?

A handful of areas bucked these trends by favouring more vibrant colours. The Isle of White (despite its name) favoured blue, as did the Borders. Strathcylders mostly preferred their motors painted in white.

 

Leicestershire in the pink

Some other interesting anomalies include Leicestershire, which snapped up a whopping 23.7% of all newly registered pink cars in the UK, and the daring West Midlands, which brought the largest share of orange motors.

 

Not feeling blue

Blue, often associated with "open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, inspiration, and sensitivity", has fallen out of favour since 1999, when it was the most popular colour - although it has appeared in every top 5 in the last 20 years.
Red car parked up at scenic viewpoint

Seeing red (sometimes)

Red ("life, health, vigour, war, courage, anger, love") is often considerably behind blue percentage-wise, coming in fifth to blue’s fourth six times in the last seven years.

 

Car colour availability 

With Brexit and the pandemic to contend with, UK carmakers (and importers) need to ensure they have popular shades and colours available to showrooms.

After all, one study suggested nearly 40% of buyers would choose another brand if the model they initially wanted was not in the colour of choice.

More generally, 85% of customers "report colour has an influence on their decision to buy a product".

To a degree it seems colour may sometimes trump things like high safety ratings and impressive fuel economy; what’s on the outside really does count.

 

Factors that may influence preferred car colour
  • Will it show the dirt?
  • Will it be seen in the dark?
  • Will it impact resale value?
  • Does it express my personality?

In addition, those in warmer climates tend to choose lighter colours, possibly to reflect the heat.

Perhaps it's no surprise that Brits, plagued by such changeable weather, have chosen the ultimate middle-ground shade - of grey.