Ever wondered what the most popular car colors were in the 1970s? How about how the best-selling car colors have changed over the decades since? In the infographic and the article below, we’re taking a look at the most popular car colors, 1970s trends, and the breakdown of the most common colors by decade through 2020. Let’s get started!
It may surprise you that blue was the most popular car color from 1971 through 1979. Nearly one out of every four cars on the road were blue. The psychology of colors tells us that blue evokes trust and dependability, which were two very common themes in American manufacturing in the 70s.
The next most prominent car color at the time was white, accounting for about 22% of all vehicles from car manufacturers.
Bright lime green was a classic 70s car color, accounting for about 10% of all vehicles.
The least popular car color in the 1970s was brown. Only 3% of new cars during the 70s were brown. Grey accounted for slightly more cars — about 4%.
Although “classic car” most commonly refers to cars from the 60s and 70s, blue is not the most common classic car color. About 25% of classic cars are red, making it the most common. Since red colors make us feel excitement, it’s no surprise that nearly one quarter of all classic muscle cars are red.
By 1980, the desires of car buyers had shifted a bit, but blue remained the most popular color, accounting for about 23% of the market. Red cars became more popular since the 70s, making a jump from 16% to 22%.
Brown cars more than tripled in numbers in the 1980s, jumping from 3% to 10% of vehicles manufactured.
A car painted grey was almost unforeseen, as it was the least popular car color from 1981 through 1989. Grey accounted for only 3% of cars at the time.
There was a tie for the most popular car color in the 1990s, with red and black cars each accounting for 22% of all vehicles manufactured.
The least popular car colors in the 1990s — bright green and brown — each accounted for only 4% of the cars on the road. In the previous decade, both of these colors were more than twice as popular at 11% and 10%, respectively.
Although bright yellow cars were present in the 1970s and 1980s, they were virtually nonexistent in the 90s and aren’t even reflected in the statistics.
The 90s as a whole marked a distinct turning point in car colors. Consumer taste began to change from bright, vibrant colors to more muted and sleek colors. Grey cars jumped up from 3% in the 80s to 16% in the 90s. Black cars more than doubled from 9% to 22%. While white, black, and grey cars combined only accounted for just over 25% of all cars in the 80s, over 50% of cars in the 90s were one of these three colors.
In the 2000s, the car color trends that began in the 1990s continued, with vibrant colors becoming less and less popular and more muted and understated colors taking precedence. Black, white, and grey accounted for 54% of all cars being sold.
Once again, yellow cars were more or less nonexistent and aren’t reflected in the statistics. Brown isn’t far behind, accounting for only 1% of the cars being manufactured. However, green cars jumped from 4% in the 1990s to 13%, more than tripling in numbers. Red cars dropped to a third of the numbers in the 90s, from 22% to just 7%.
For the first time ever since 1971, grey was the most popular car color in the new millennium, accounting for 34% of all cars manufactured and sold. Blue cars also increased from the 90s, jumping from 19% into second place at 25%.
The understated color trend, which began in the 90s, persisted into the 2010s, with an impressive 81% of all cars being black, white, or grey. Both brown and yellow cars barely existed throughout the decade and aren’t even included in statistics.
There was another tie in the 2010s for most popular car color between black and grey, each with 32%. The least popular car colors, green, red, and blue, accounted for just 4%, 6%, and 9%, respectively.
White cars, which had been on a steady decline since 1971, suddenly became more popular in the 2010s, jumping from 5% up to 17% by the end of the decade.
Although the 2020s are far from over, we can already see the color trends established in the 90s continuing through the present decade. Bright colors are less popular now than ever before, with brown, green, and yellow all being marked as statistically insignificant. Blue and red combined only account for 15% of all cars, at 11% and 4%, respectively.
Grey, black, and white cars are more popular than ever before, totaling 85% of all cars produced. Interestingly, grey cars are once again the leader in popularity with 35%. Second to grey cars are black cars at 29%, followed by white cars at 21%.
Grey and white cars both jumped in popularity since the 2010s, while black cars dipped from 32% to 29%.
The most popular car color from 1971 through the present day, based on the aggregate percentage market share from each decade, is grey. On average, approximately 20% of all cars since 1971 have been grey.
The least popular car colors since 1971 have been brown and yellow, each accounting for just 3% of all cars over the past six decades.
Below are the average popularity scores of each car color from 1971 through 2020:
It’s interesting to look back on car color trends over the past few decades and see how consumer preferences have changed. Cars went from bright and colorful to dull and muted. The steady rise of black, grey, and white cars since 1971 suggests that understated colors are here to stay. This is especially true since a company’s car palette is usually determined by present tastes.