One of the most exciting parts about buying a new car is picking the color. Color can say a lot about you, and it’s just one way that drivers customize a new vehicle to their tastes during car shopping. Other times, it’s not about choice but rather what’s available, with some car buyers choosing color for convenience rather than personal style.
But is there such a thing as the wrong color? Could the color of your car result in more pullovers and tickets?
Red has long been the color associated with strong emotions such as love, power and anger, but what impact does it have on your car insurance? Can a red car really result in higher car insurance rates with a different color offering more cheap insurance?
It’s certainly been a debate for the ages, but we’re here to solve the conundrum once and for all, with the help of the nation’s leading car and automotive experts.
Is It True That Red Cars Cost More To Insure?
An estimated 44 percent of Americans believe that a red car costs more to insure than other colors, including over half of millennials. About 45 percent of college graduates and 42 percent of Americans with an annual household income of $75,000 or more also believed that red cars are more expensive.
“Insurers look at a lot of data when coming up with their rates for customers,” says Zach Shefska, co-founder and CEO of Your Auto Advocate, a customer advocacy platform for car buyers and owners. “At the end of the day, insurers are in the business of monetizing risk, and whatever data they can leverage to help them do that, they’ll use. That being said, vehicle color isn’t a factor that insurers build into their risk models.”
So, what about the myth?
“It is just that – an urban legend/myth that has perpetuated itself through the generations,” says Ben Guttman, Insurance Specialist for North Central Insurance Agency. “Ironically, I grew up believing this too. Imagine how shocked I was when I got my insurance license and that question never came up on applications!”
R.J. Weiss agrees. As a certified financial planner and founder of the personal finance site The Ways to Wealth, he’s all too familiar with this matter. “The color of your car isn’t a question that’s asked on an insurance application,” he says. He also notes that vehicle identification numbers (VIN) do not include any color codes. “As such, there is no way for insurance companies to gather the data and make any conclusions about whether certain car colors should have higher premiums,” he explains.
“The short and precise answer is NO,” says Umer Brown, founder of Warnock Auto. “However, car color directly impacts car value. Succinctly, the myth of red color affecting auto insurance rates has no truth in it.”
It’s a relief to hear, but one still has to wonder where such a popular and commonly-known myth originated from in the first place? Turns out, sports cars are to blame.
“The myth that red cars are more expensive to insure probably comes from the idea we all have of shiny, red sports cars. The fast and expensive sports car would be just as expensive to insure if it were another color,” says Fran Majidi of SmartFinancial Insurance.
“Sports cars cost more in insurance rates because they are driven faster and are more likely to be involved in an accident,” says Alex Manos. As a renowned European classic car expert, Manos is the owner of the Los Angeles-based Beverly Hills Car Club, one of the largest classic car dealerships in North America. “The fact that most sports cars are red and the tendency for these vehicles to get higher rates caused people to believe that the primary reason is the color rather than the car itself.”
However, there are some cases where a car’s color could cost more. “Though widely considered a myth, there is some truth to this,” says Justin Nabity, a certified financial expert and Founder and CEO of Physician’s Thrive. “The main factor is the paint done on the car. The primary factor involved in the decision of the insurance premiums to be charged is the value of the car, including the paint color. If there is an expensive shade of color or an expensive paint job on the car, the insurance companies have to factor in the increased cost of repairs.”
For Sarah George, a car insurance expert at Finder, the proof is in the pudding. “I currently own a red car — although it’s a minivan — and I pay some of the lowest rates I’ve paid for any car I’ve owned,” she tells us.
Does the Color of Your Car Affect Your Car Insurance Rates?
So if red doesn’t make your insurance higher, what about other colors?
Experts say it doesn’t matter for your auto insurance rates because insurance companies are concerned about other factors.
“In a couple of decades of purchasing various cars and insurance, I have never been asked the vehicle’s color,” says Manos.
That’s because insurers are more worried about other details. “Your vehicle’s color is irrelevant because it doesn’t affect the way you drive or your car’s safety,” says George. “Instead, insurance companies care about your car’s safety and theft rates, questions that are revealed when they ask for your make, model or vehicle identification number.”
In fact, having a red car could be a very good thing, according to a 2012 study by CCC Information Services. The study found that car thieves choose red last, instead preferring the nondescript color of silver for their criminal endeavors. After silver, cars in green, gold, black and white were the most popular for auto-related crimes.
“They’re very common because they’re very in demand, and thus a thief would have less difficulty reselling it,” says Fabio Rosato, Founder of Roadologist.com.
Emily Deaton, a financial journalist at Let Me Bank, says that theft isn’t the only problem with dark or neutral-colored cars, citing that darker cars can pose greater problems “due to difficult visibility in harsh weather or during nighttime.”
Manos agrees. “Multiple studies on vehicle color safety indicate that dull colors are the least safe,” he says. “Why? Because silvers, grays, and whites are less visible in various conditions than bright colors.”
Still, he acknowledges that this is more likely a road hazard rather than an expensive line item on your insurance policy. “Indeed, there might be insurers that consider the color because they assign a slight probability of risk linked to the car’s color, but this is definitely not a significant consideration of your rate. Insurance companies are basing their rates on your driving habits, vehicle type and year. For example, a 2001 Honda Accord will cost you less than a 2015 sports car.”
John Espenschied gives us the final word as an experienced veteran of the insurance industry and owner of Insurance Brokers Group in Chesterfield, MO. “In over 20 years in the car insurance business, I’ve never seen a higher rate based on the color of a vehicle no matter what company we quoted.”
What does matter for your rates?
If color doesn’t matter, what does?
The Insurance Information Institute says these factors can affect the best car insurance rates.
- Type of car you drive
- Number of miles on your car
- Your driving record
- Where you live
- Your age
- Your gender
- Credit history
- Relationship status
- Coverage and deductibles
- Insurance claims history
- Previous insurance
“What counts is the type, horsepower, age of vehicle and driver, prior driving history, and annual mileage,” Espenschied explains. “Now, that’s not to say driving [a] red Corvette might increase the likelihood of driving faster because it’s a really cool car, but the color is not an insurance rating factor – more of a myth. You might get pulled over by the police because they assume you’re driving faster.”
“As with insurance companies, radar guns don’t care what color your vehicle is,” Guttman added.
“When you consider that auto insurance is intended to pay for repairs, you’ll see why that matters,” says Majidi. “Your credit may also affect your rate, depending on where you live. That’s why it’s important to pay your bills on time.”
Another factor that can significantly determine your eligibility for cheap car insurance is whether you are single.
“Vehicle color may not change your monthly insurance expense, but if you marry your partner, that will!” says Zach Shefska. “A 2004 study found that married couples carry less risk than single people. Ever since then, insurers have offered cheaper prices for those that are married versus those that aren’t.”
How To Lower Your Auto Insurance Rates
“Ways you can save money on car insurance are fairly simple,” says Espenschied. “Slow down, don’t get tickets, and avoid simple accidents like backing into something.”
He also shares the following tips with us.
- Drive less
- Use the new technology available by all auto insurance carriers to track your driving – discounts start at 10% and can go to 50% off your premium
- Multiple vehicles on the same policy give a discount, as do multiple policies, like auto and home insurance
- Ask your insurance agent or broker for discount opportunities they may not be currently receiving
Finder’s George adds that lifestyle factors can also impact your insurance rates. “If you’re married to another safe driver, you’ll probably see a 10% drop on your premium.”
“Your job can affect your rates, too,” she adds. “If your job keeps you working long hours or trekking home during high-risk times of the night like a doctor, you could see higher rates than your friendly neighborhood 9-5er.”
Some things are harder to change than others. The coronavirus pandemic may allow for work-from-home opportunities in 2020, but 2021 could see a return to normal commutes for many, impacting insurance rates.
“With more individuals working and staying at home for the near future, drivers can save money choosing an insurer that offers a pay per mile product,” Weiss recommends. “More of the big insurance companies are offering this type of insurance now, and many consumers stand to save a lot over the next year by switching.”
As a financial planner, he also recommends that you protect yourself with a high credit score. “One of the best ways to save money on your car insurance, without sacrificing coverage, is to raise your credit score,” he shares with us. “Setting up automatic payments and keeping your credit utilization low, which you can do by increasing your credit limits, are the best ways to increase your score.”
At Warnock Auto, Brown sees firsthand the impact of a good credit score as he guides customers through the car-buying process each day. “Since the credit score is a major factor in determining insurance rates, maintaining a good credit score would save you some cool bucks instead of walking around believing your car color would cost you more.”
The Bottom Line
Whether myth, urban legend or old wives’ tale, we’re here to confirm that the color of your car does not affect your car insurance rates.
In the words of the Insurance Information Institute, “It doesn’t matter whether your car is “Arrest Me Red” or “Hide In Plain Sight White”—the color doesn’t actually factor into your auto insurance costs.”
Car-buying is about to get a whole lot easier.
Featured image by Henrik Weis / Getty Images.