Mailbag: White cars are practical – not boring, readers say

“Mailbag” gives insight into the comments I get from my readers — good, bad, or in-between — and my thoughts about their feedback.

More than a few readers questioned my recent description of white cars as boring.

The comments followed my column on a study by the Iseecars website that found only 17% of California vehicles were not white, black gray, or silver – the smallest share in the nation. I lamented, along with Iseecars analyst Karl Brauer, the dull color choices of California car owners.

“Individuals purchase ‘safe’ colors to avoid challenges when it comes time to sell,” Brauer told me. “They feel like everyone will buy a black, white or silver car and they don’t want to work hard to find the rare buyer seeking a creative color. Many dealers order ‘safe’ colors when stocking their lots for the same reason.”

I noted in the column that black-gray-silver vehicles make up 53% of vehicles statewide. Owners of those cars didn’t object much to my words.

But owners of white cars – 30% of all California vehicles – seemed particularly bothered by the analysis. They sent me numerous reasons why they chose that color. Let’s summarize what they wrote me…

Visibility: “My best chance of survival is to hope that they’ll see a streak of my white Camry before they rear-end me. This, in a nutshell, is why I insist on a white car, even when I’d much rather have one in a fun or interesting color.”

Note: An Australian study of accidents found white was the safest car color. Highest-risk? Black, gray and silver.

Or, as one of my readers put it: “What are people thinking when they buy all those gray cars? Do they NOT want people to see them coming? Big fat “F” for safety in colors.”

Cooler: “I haven’t got a clue why anyone would buy a black car in California. White and silver are about reflecting, rather than absorbing heat from the sun.”

Note: Cal Berkeley researchers found the inside of a silver or white car could be significantly cooler after an hour in the hot sun than a similar black vehicle – and that could cut air conditioning use, fuel costs and pollution emissions.

Price, proudly: “Why would I pay more for a blue, gold or red car, when I could get a white or black for no additional cost? We are practical in California and prefer to save money when we can. I am now the proud owner of a white car that matches the other two cars we own.”

Price, with a sigh: “I wanted a blue car. I settled with a white one because a blue one would have cost me thousands of dollars more. The huge additional cost may be partly to blame for our bland highways. It’s too bad.”

Note: An Iseecars study showed vehicles with odd colors – yellow, orange and purple – had the lowest depreciation rates. White depreciation was slightly above average.

Cleaner: “White normally appears to get dirty faster on most objects such as clothing, walls, etc. the opposite is true with a car.”

Anti-theft: “In a parking lot, a white car tends to blend in with all the other white cars and hopefully is less likely to be targeted by a thief.”

Note: Several academic studies found car thieves steal vehicles with the most-popular colors more frequently to maximize their ill-gotten gains. Bad news for white, perhaps?

Some readers, however, were not fans of the lack of color on California roads.

“It is incredibly boring to see the sea of grey, white and black. Thanks for exploring this burning question.”

“I didn’t know anyone else was counting the drab-colored cars. I’m planning on buying a new car soon so I’ve been paying attention. Give me any color other than black, white, silver or gray. Bright red would do nicely.”

“I drive a blue Toyota Camry. You didn’t mention another good reason to get a colored car — it is easier to find in the parking lot. “

And, of course, politics had to be part of the opinion mix!

“Dull as dishwater is the favorite of a herd mentality. Distressing to know that truly we are living in a lockstep world in the Socialist Sanctuary State of Nutlandia.”

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at

Share the Post:

Related Posts