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Certain Car Colors Can Cost Extra

By Aaron Crowe

Owning a red car won’t increase your auto insurance rates — despite the myth that it will — but buying a red car or other popular color could cost you more at the car dealership.

Ranging from $200 to thousands of dollars, many carmakers charge extra for certain colors, partly because the metal flake and tri-coat pearl finishes are more complicated to produce than standard colors, and partly because some manufacturers charge more for almost every color that isn’t white or black.

“Certain colors can be in demand at times, and command a higher profit margin for a span of time. It’s all supply and demand,” says Mike Rabkin, president of From Car to Finish, which helps new car buyers negotiate prices.

“I remember a period years ago when VW Jettas commanded a premium if in silver, or some luxury vehicles had a premium if in black or burgundy,” Rabkin says. “It’s all quite random and temporary, however, based on tastes at the time.”

Typically, metallic and special edition colors — which are usually metallic — cost more than flat, regular colors, says LeeAnn Shattuck, chief car chick at Women’s Automotive Solutions, a car buying service for women.

Metallic paint, which has little flecks in it, is a little more expensive than regular paint, and is especially more costly on high-end cars, Shattuck says. Cadillac, for example, has a black, white and red “tricoat” paint that has extra “depth” to it with metallic and pearl layers. It’s beautiful and costs $995 extra, she says.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz charge extra for any color other than white or black, according to Consumer Reports, which looked at every combination of model and color available from carmakers for the 2013 model year. It found nearly 5,300 combinations of make, model and color that carried some extra charge, averaging about $700.

The BMW 528i is available in 18 colors, with some costing $550 to $1,800.

Even picking a color in a non-luxury can can cost extra. A red Chevrolet Malibu is $325 more, and a red Ford Fusion is $395 more. the Fusion in white platinum is $595, and the Malibu is $995 more for a color it calls White Diamond Tricoat.

The economical Chevrolet Spark charges up to $325 for certain colors. A Mazda3 hatchback comes in six colors for no extra charge, but white in Crystal Mica Pearl is $172 more.

Three colors of the Mini Cooper are available at no extra charge, but 11 other colors are for sale from $500 to $2,750 more.

Some cars with less popular colors, however, can be bought at a discount if a dealer is looking to unload a car that isn’t selling, says Jenny Lang, author of the upcoming book “The Frugal Guru Guide to Everything Auto.”

Paint that costs more originally will also be more expensive to replace if your car needs bodywork or touching up door dings. Red and yellow finishes cost more to make and buy, according to Consumer Reports, and the tri-color whites require a three-stage process to repair.

The extra cost for a color you love won’t likely come back in value if the car is traded in, Consumer Reports says.

And pin striping, paint protection, contrasting roof colors, patterns for the dashboard and doors, and other color add-ons will add more to the car’s cost than just picking out the popular color of the year.


Aaron Crowe is a journalist who covers the auto industry for