What Your Car's Color Says About You

If you've ever bought a car, there's a 99.9% chance the color played a role in your decision. Everyone knows the age-old stereotypes about certain car colors, but what do those colors really say about the owners?

Lea Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, is one of the world's foremost experts on color choices -- it's literally her job to research how color impacts consumers, so that she can advise major corporations regarding color selection. According to Eiseman, not only do you factor in whether you like a car's color, but you consider "how it reflects who you are. It's a question not only of how people see themselves, but how they would like others to perceive them."

So grab a seat on a couch, and think about every car you've owned. This is gonna get deep.

Vibrant Red Corvette
Flickr/p&p photo

Vibrant red

What it says: High-energy, sexy, craves attention
"The person who is inclined to drive a red car is someone who is high-energy, who loves the dynamism of a red car. There's a certain sexy connotation attached as well. It's a person that craves and loves attention. Now there is a difference, however, in the kinds of reds..."

Red Bugatti Veyron in San Francisco
Flickr/Philipp Lucke

Burgundy red

What it says: Attention-seeking, but subtle and sophisticated
"Deep, bluer reds have the same sort of qualities as vibrant reds, but this is a person who wants to be more subtle about it. A wine-colored car, a burgundy, still comes from the red family, but there's a great deal of subtlety and sophistication there."

Orange BMW 2002


What it says: Friendly, fickle, trendy
"Orange cars are unusual. This is a person who is inclined towards trends, and doesn't mind making a statement about a color that, while not always the most popular, certainly gains attention. At the same time, orange is not perceived as being as aggressive as red, so it has more friendly tendencies. There's also a certain amount of fickleness attached to orange in that this isn't a car that you're going to invest in and drive for many years. A person who buys it loves that it reflects a trend, but could easily move on the next year to whatever the next trend is."

Two yellow Lamborghini Diablos
Flickr/Daniel Stocker

Sunshine yellow

What it says: Joyful, friendly
"It's highly visible, so there is a safety factor in driving a car that's this bright. At the same time, it has a sunny disposition. There's a kind of joyful, young-at-heart feeling. It's a very friendly color, attached to good cheer."

Deep yellow/gold

What it says: Friendly but sophisticated
"The yellow-gold family doesn't want to imply that much attention, but the gold implies a certain intrinsic value to the car. So it's friendly and sophisticated. Any time you deepen a color, you add sophistication, so that's the way a person wants to be perceived."

British Racing Green Jaguar E-Type

Dark green

What it says: Traditional, well balanced, subtle, earthy
"Dark green comes and goes in cars, but it's considered one of the most traditional and well-balanced colors, with an inherent subtlety attached to it. Now, with all of the movement and understanding of natural themes, having a green car is almost like attaching yourself to the whole green movement, because the color is so implied now, so anything with a green color has a very positive connotation."

Green Porsche 911 at night

Bright green

What it says: Funny, lively, trendy, spontaneous
"Bright green is completely different than the deeper, trustworthy greens. This is one that's completely fun, whimsy, lively, and like the orange, trendy. A person who would buy a bright-green car has a sense of humor and is not so dedicated to having one car for a long period of time."

Grabber Blue Boss 302 Mustang

Bright blue

What it says: Faithful, calm, dependable
"The entire blue family is a favorite color internationally. There's a certain calm, faithful, credible, dependable concept of blue. [Owners of] sky blues are faithful and quiet, not overreaching. Friendly, but not effusively friendly."

Dark Blue Classic Mustang

Deep blue

What it says: Confident, self-assured, dependable
"People who have a great deal of self-assurance often like to buy that deeper tone in the blues. It's a very confident color."

Purple Lamborghini Aventador


What it says: Creative, original, individualist, energetic
"Purple is highly unusual. Today, we're seeing more cars in the purple range than we've ever seen in the industry before. That's because purple has really gained a great deal of attention as being the color of creativity. The person who drives a purple car wants to be seen as a very original person, quite a bit of an individualist, and doesn't mind the fact that it has a little bit more energy and creativity attached to it."

a Grey Mercedes

Neutral gray

What it says: Corporate, practical, pragmatic
"I think we all know what this says. It's very sober, it's very corporate, it's very practical, and it's a very pragmatic color. It's a pragmatic choice in that we know it's a color that you buy and would keep longer than probably any other color."

White Porsche 911 Carrera
Flickr/Christian Junker


What it says: Clean, prideful, fastidious, pure... or lives in a hot climate
"What is interesting, is that a lot of people who choose white like the idea that it's very clean. There's a kind of purity in the color white, and of course these are the people who are also fastidious, because in order to have a white car you've gotta keep it very clean [laughs] or else it doesn't look great. 

"Now, obviously, some choices are made because of geographic location. If someone lives in the Southwest, where cars get hot, they might choose a white car because it just kind of goes with the temperature. But if we're talking personality, it's someone who likes to keep that car clean, takes a great deal of pride in their car, and makes sure it's seen by the rest of the world as a very clean car."

[Note: Um... guilty.]

Black Corvette Stingray


What it says: Power, status
"Black is the most empowered color of all. It's seen as classic, and the person who would purchase a black car enjoys being seen as powerful. We know that limos and cars politicians are driven around in are [usually] black, and that always implies power."

Jaguar XJ220
Flickr/Jaguar MENA


What it says: Elegant, futuristic, modern
"Silver can be very elegant, but it also has a rather futuristic appeal as well. There's a kind of modernity that's attached to a silver car."

Brown Wagon


What it says: Down to earth, no-nonsense
"Brown is a whole other animal, in that a person who likes a brown car sees it as a down-to-earth, no-nonsense kind of choice. They don't see it as a fashion color."

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Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter and Facebook. He's had cars in dark metallic blue, dark metallic purple, pure white, white-and-black, dark metallic red, bright red, dark green, bright metallic green, and two in black. Talking to Lea was like being diagnosed by a psychoanalyst.