Light vs Dark Car Color

One passive way to lower your carbon footprint and reflect some of the sun’s heat back into space is believe it our not… is the color of your car.   More sustainable living simply thru the car color you choose.  A decision that you’ll live with on average for 12 years.

Despite what New York fashion mavens may say, Black is out in terms of car color.  Or at least should be out when selecting the color of your next car.

Green Blizzard is always looking for suggestions for our readers to whittle down their personal carbon footprints and realize a more sustainable lifestyle by providing insights, resources, and oftentimes carbon reducing options that require a bit of investment.

This time is the environmental benefits of light vs dark car color.  Horaah!

But this carbon footprint reducing option requires no investment, unless you opt for a special color. By the way, there are some really impressive standard and special metallic car color choices on the market today.

For this major long-term consumer choice, the color of your car really DOES MATTER to your carbon footprint. It’s a decision that will impact your annual carbon footprint for years to come and maybe even someone else’s footprint when they buy your used car.

One handy rule of thumb is that the closer you are to the equator, the lighter your color choice for an auto.

Light vs Dark Car Color

Cooler climates, like Canada, Michigan, Maine and Minnesota may welcome the warmth  provided by a darker color, but its an entirely different story in Arizona and Texas, even in Washington, D.C..

If you already have a dark color car, try this white canopy tarp to cover on those sunny hot days or this larger car canopy option for the summer months at your house.

First hand experience has shown the team at Green Blizzard, that after some pretty hot days here in the nation’s capital, with the Green Blizzard white Prius, we have to say, its noticeably cooler and takes much less time for the AC to cool it down initially.

Especially when compared to our black 1996 Honda Civic. light vs dark car color Does the color of a car really make a difference in how it absorbs heat?  Many say white cars are at least 10 degrees cooler than black cars.  Green Blizzard whole-heartedly agrees.

Cooler cars mean less work for AC and less engine demand, less gas consumption to run the AC unit, and fewer greenhouse gases. It’s a fact that darker colors absorb light at a faster rate than lighter colors, which is why the difference in heat absorption is more noticeable during the daytime when the sun is out. It doesn’t matter if the object is a car or a popsicle, the fact remains that dark colors absorb light – and therefore heat – faster than their lighter peers.

If the temperature outside is 100 degrees during the night time, there won’t be any noticeable difference in heat absorption between dark and light colored cars. This also holds true for car interiors (and at times the material used for the interior play a big factor – like all leather vs. fabric, dark and light materials).

If you leave in the southern part of the U.S., ever try to grip the steering wheel after its been baking in the summer midday sun? White and yellow cars will give you the coolest possible temperatures outside and inside your car – again note that interior car colors along with the material used also play a role in heat absorption.

In early 2009, the California Resource Board, when developing new measures to combat heat, included a measure require new cars to have reflective paints that absorb less solar heat, effectively banning “black” color cars.  After the initial flap, it never materialize and the Resource Board retracted this idea.

Moose MoselyA few other insightful links offering different points of view on the topic of car color; The Truth About Cars, Short Sharp Science, Tech Crunch

So color does matter when evaluating light vs dark car color.  Next time you purchase either a new or used car, go with the lighter color and enjoy a cooler, more efficient ride.


About the author

Moose Mosely

Moose, (yes, that's his everyday name - at least as far as we know), writes about all sorts of green living insights. Every minute, every decision we make in our lives has some impact to our personal carbon footprint, and Moose is there to share some insights on its impact and relevance and suggests healthier alternatives.