BUSINESS

Want To Stop Car Thieves? Paint Your Car Yellow

07/05/2010 10:50 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If you're looking to keep your car out of the hands of thieves, try getting a paint job. A new study based on automobile data from the Netherlands suggests cars painted in bright, unusual colors are far less likely to be stolen. (Hat tip to Paul Kedrosky.)

At Vox Ben Vollard notes that in the Netherlands students have taken to painting their bicycles pink or yellow, which makes it all that much easier to spot thieves. Applying this idea to cars, Vollard finds that car color has a significant impact on rates of theft. Thieves, it turns out, do a quick economic analysis of the resale value before jacking a vehicle. Black, silver, grey and blue are the favorites; yellow, pink and red are the least likely to be stolen.

The three most common colours - black, blue, and silver/grey - are stolen more frequently than the uncommon colours. Pink is the perfect deterrent: none of the 109 pink cars (aged up to three years) have been stolen over the last few years. Noticeable is the rate of theft for black cars, which is higher than the rate for the most popular colour, silver/grey. There may well be something else than colour that makes black cars relatively attractive to car thieves. Black is more popular for luxury makes. However, if we exclude the three luxury makes Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, we find the same pattern - albeit at a slightly lower overall rate of theft (right bars in Figure 2). It could be that the most expensive models (independent of make) are more likely to be black, but that is not clear and not easy to test.

And, Vollard suggests, you might want to think twice before you buy an ear-shattering car alarm: "If the aversion to driving a car in an offbeat colour is not too high - or if someone actually enjoys it - then buying deterrence through an uncommon car colour may be at least as good a deal as buying deterrence through an expensive car security device."

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