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How much cooler is a white vehicle in the summer than a black one?

z71z71 Member Posts: 67
I've always heard that white vehicles are cooler
tha black ones because they reflect, rather than
absorb sunlight. Is there much truth to this?
I've only owned dark colors so I don't have much to
compare to, but I was wondering if someone did.
What is the guesstimated temperature difference?


  • g8trg8tr Member Posts: 77
    Having a lighter colored vehicle definitely makes a difference. I'm not sure of a temperature difference in actual degrees but my body tells me there is a difference. If you get the windows tinted, that will also make a difference. A friend of mine has a dark blue van and that thing is like an oven on the inside. The AC takes a good 1/2 hour to even start to cool things down. I've always owned light colored vehicles and I've never suffered much. They also don't show dirt as bad.
  • jeffthrojeffthro Member Posts: 35
    If you are like most of us, buying a new vehicle is a big investment. I am of the opinion to GET WHAT I'VE ALWAYS WANTED. Make a list like I did:
    Indigo Blue
    Graphite Interior
    Extended Cab for family
    Tinted Windows

    Don't sacrifice the color of your vehicle because you are afraid that it will be too hot. Air conditioning will cool down the interior. Bottom line: Get what you want.

  • z71z71 Member Posts: 67
    Don't worry, I will get what I want. The problem is, I'm torn between white or black. I'm just looking for a "deciding" factor.
  • aaron_aaaron_a Member Posts: 29
    At night Black vehicles are harder to see, maybe black is more accident prone?
    Might be a deciding factor??
    Who knows.. just a thought
  • norm10norm10 Member Posts: 9
    I work for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. We operate a fleet of 933 vehicles. Our paint colors are; fire engines, white over swift red. Fire response vehicles are painted the same. The Resource Management vehicles are painted white over forest metallic green and our heavy equipment fleet (dozers, graders, rollers, front loaders, etc are painted white over caterpillar yellow. After a detailed study of temperatures in vehicles painted solid red, green or yellow the interior temperatures were as much as 18 degrees (f) cooler in the summer months when parked exposed to the sun and in the winter months the temperatures were nearly equal9dark colored top vs white top).I'm sure that black would even be warmer in the summer!
  • hindsitehindsite Member Posts: 590
    Darker colors always absord the sun rays more than lighter colors. I usually try to park in the shaded area or I leave the window open a little. I personally like the color white, but since I routinely drive up to Buffalo, NY in the winter time where they have those white outs I choose a darker color.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    Buy what you like. Leather and Cloth are not bad at any temperature. Now Vinyl...Yikes! I still remember the black Vinyl interior on my Chevelle wearing a Half shirt. Had to drive the first Mile leaning forward!

    - Tim
  • z71z71 Member Posts: 67
    I've had a black Z71, a black 1972 Jimmy and a dark burgundy Z71, so don't worry, I haven't let the heat thing change my decision too much. That is especially interesting, norm10, about the temp difference. Thanks for the info. Thats why I like this internet thing: you can talk to people that know more than you.
  • clundy8888clundy8888 Member Posts: 1
    I live and play in So.Calif.......White is definately cooler than black or dark colors.......I've several of each color.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    On the hot [non-permissible content removed] days when you will be concerned about it. I think that ANY color that has been all closed up and sitting in the sun all day will be hot no matter what. It may be 18 degrees cooler...but cooler than what? 150?..145? Either way..when you open that door and get in there will be that dreaded blast of air we all hate so much. So open the windows with the air on for 30 seconds..roll them up..and enjoy whatever you buy. Go for the Color you like....unless you hate washing cars?

    Good luck

    - The reformed (kinda) Tim
  • KCRamKCRam Mt. Arlington NJMember Posts: 3,516
    I have a Dodge Ram with the most possible black paint on it (Club Cab dually). But my interior is light beige (Dodge called it Driftwood in 1996). While you don't want to lean on the sheetmetal on a summer day, the interior is much more comfortable and the AC is much more effective than in my previous Ford that had the Charcoal interior.

    Even a white truck will feel like an oven with a dark gray/black interior.

    Community Leader/Smart Shopper Conference
  • RoclesRocles Member Posts: 982
    You guys have too much time on your collective hands.
  • RoclesRocles Member Posts: 982
  • mfreemanmfreeman Member Posts: 37
    There is a lot of truth in the black cars are not always seen. I drive a black GTA (truck on order:) and I have people pull out in front of me all the time like I wasn't even there. (okay they may just be rude;), but I have had a person at night back across a parking lot just to smash in the side of my door. He came in the store and paged me (nice to run into honest people, but I hate it when they run into me :) Anyway, he said he was just backing up and never saw my car, even though it was right beside him on the drivers side, and he only hit it because he turned his wheel and the back of his truck pushed in the side of my car.

    Long story, sorry.


    P.S. New truck will be black, I can't help it, a clean black truck or car just looks good.
  • nuwonuwo Member Posts: 63
    Black is way cooler than white!
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    Not sure if the black at night thing holds true, Mike I suspect you will get a lot fewer people pull out in front of you in a truck simply becuase it has more presence than a GTA, you might pull out in front of a small car, but will think twice about a four foot high grill bearing down on you.

    I have had light and dark, and can't say I have noticed much difference in practical terms. Also heat problems can usually be alleviated fairly easily through a/c or open windows.

    One experience I did have, may not be color related, but I parked a black car for about 6 hours on a freezing day here in Ontario. Plenty of snow ice around but the sun was out this day (although fairly weak). Anyway the car started much easier than normal - could it have been the heat absorbed by the black hood keeping the engine a little warmer? - I dunno.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    Darker colors will be "scientifically" hotter...but when you open the door on that roasting day...you will never be able to tell the difference between black and white.

    - Tim
  • mfreemanmfreeman Member Posts: 37
    My first car was red, and I repainted it black and I don't remember being able to tell any difference. FYI: that is Texas heat in a car with roll down AC.

    Second important note, when some one gets jealous and keys your new car or some one decides to use your vehicle in a crash test, you'll find out that black is the easiest color to match. There is only one shade of black. All other colors, even white have to be color matched, and if your car has a little age on it, it is hard to make new paint look faded.

  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    Actually there are several Tint bases for black.

    but it would be easier to match..perhaps.

    - Tim
  • powerisfunpowerisfun Member Posts: 358
    Believe it or not, there is a slight performance edge to having a white truck over a black or otherwise dark truck. This is due to the fact that the intake air is taken from the space above the fender well. A dark vehicle gets VERY much hotter to the touch in intense sunlight, and the air inside the body panel is heated by the hot metal as it enters the intake. Heated air is less dense, thus less rich in oxygen and combustion will be slightly less efficient. Hotter air is also more likely to cause pinging and thus require higher octane gas. Granted, the difference in air temperature is only a few degrees, but a few degrees is all it takes to need 89 octane instead of 87 in the summer.
    Bias warning: This post comes from someone who owns a white truck, but it is a valid point.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    The temp theory is correct..but not sure if the exterior color will make one bit of difference?

    - Tim
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    Am I missing something here?

    Let me get this straight, the fact that black gets hotter than white means that the air around black gets hotter, and hot air is less efficient - OK that makes sense.

    But surely when a vehicle is moving this is a moot point. I mean the air is exposed to just a few inches of spce between the front of the truck and the airfilter. Now OK the path of the air into the cylinders is also going to be hotter because that's beneath the hood. But even so we aren't talking very long.

    If we say that the total distance travelled by the air between the front of the truck and the cylinders is 3 feet (just for arguments sake), and the truck is moving at 55mph - then it takes the air less than 4/100 (yes, hundredths) of a second to travel that 3 feet. I mean how much can air heat up in that time?
  • powerisfunpowerisfun Member Posts: 358
    Note that the air is taken from inside the body panel and thus is surrounded on all sides by hot metal. An average displacement engine like a 5.7L engine (the one in my truck) driving down the highway at around 1800 rpm sucks in air at a rate of about 120 cfm, or about 2 cubic feet/sec. The enclosed space from which it gets it's air is around 1 cubic foot. So it's probably more like a half of a second exposure time. Probably still not noticeable. However, when you're sitting at idle waiting for a red light at around 500 rpm, then the air has on the order of 2 seconds exposure which may be enough to raise the temperature slightly to cause pinging on initial acceleration (only if it were near that point in the first place, however).
    One thing sort of related to this is the "Project MPG" being done by Performance Unlimited
    (see the website http://www.performanceunlimited.com for a great article). They taped insulating/reflecting tape around the entire air intake system and saw an improvement in mileage, torque and horsepower.
    The intake tubes and airbox is probably roughly the same volume (about 1 cubic foot) with a bit higher temperatures (maybe not, that sun-heated black-painted metal is sometimes too hot to touch), but note that they are already surrounded by insulating materials like plastic and rubber. Yet, the extra heat insulation did help. So in conclusion, yes this is a very small effect, but it is there, and it may even be measurable if not noticeable.
  • powerisfunpowerisfun Member Posts: 358
    They don't have the mileage, torque and horsepower
    results listed on the website. That's in the Four Wheeler article (August '99). The magazine is where I heard about the website. They do show the temperature differences though on the website.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    I understand the concept....but doubt the actuality of it.
  • z71z71 Member Posts: 67
    Are y'all serious about this? Y'all have taken my question a LITTLE too seriously... Oh yeah MGDVHMAN is right about the tint thing. I had a door repainted on my black 1994 Z71 after some one keyed it and it didn't match at all. The factory paint had a lot more red in it than the paint the body shop used. It was very noticable, even at NIGHT!
  • mfreemanmfreeman Member Posts: 37
    Man, I repainted my car in my garage without any problems. All I asked for was GM black, and the cool thing is it cost less than any other color.

    This was my first time to paint anything, and it really isn't that hard except for the clear coat. No problem, just required me to buff out a little orange peel, but for my first time I feel pretty good.

    Note: with the new polyurethanes you have to have a remote air source, and good ventilation. When I was setting this up, all the painters said just wear a good mask, but after doing some research on the isocyanides I choose a remote air source. This stuff is bad news, and will do bad things to your lungs. (no mater what they tell you, a mask will NOT filter this stuff out.)
  • z71z71 Member Posts: 67
    I would repaint it, but the person who owns it now would probably wonder what the hell I was doing...I have since found a body shop that can actually match paint. The old body shop even offered to pay for another shop to repaint it(!),but I got rid of the truck before I took them up on their offer. I did decide to take my future business elsewhere, though.
  • mfreemanmfreeman Member Posts: 37
    A shop that can't color match black paint... yea, I think I would take them off my list as well. :)
  • jbauerjbauer Member Posts: 39
    From my own experience: Place one hand on a black vehicle in the sunlight then place your other hand on a white vehicle. You'll notice the difference immediatly. White is cooler. I've owned both colors and will tell you this; you'll stay hotter trying to keep your black vehicle looking good. Black is most beautiful when it's clean but that's tough to do. White is much easier to care for. Little foot note: if you do get black you'll need a product like Mequires #7 to get rid of the scratch marks. You'll see them!
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    Black is by farr the best color...when clean.

    If you can't commit to what it requires....don't get black. Simple....ain't it?

    - Tim
  • lvstanglvstang Member Posts: 149
    Have a white F-150 with clothe and a black Cobra with leather. In Vegas they both cook but the bottom line is leather sucks. Impossible to sit on leather without towel or seat covers. Both cool down quick enough once rolling but the initial shock is from seating material. One side note to repeat what's already been said, black looks bitchen when clean but that's far and few between. (Hey i'm a poet and...... you know the rest)
  • rotorrayrotorray Member Posts: 42
    I've owned a black 91 Maxima since new. Wifee wanted black because the "car looks so good in black", and it does. I live in central CA where temp averages 100+ in the summer, so car does get hot. Problem with black is that is shows EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING. You will be spending more time on exterior maintenance with a black vehicle. That is the main problem with black. The A/C handles the interior temp problem just fine. Every small dent, dust, whatever, is my problem and I HATE BLACK for that very reason. White is cooler and, believe it or not, doesn't show the dirt as does black. Have had several white vehicles and am going back this year. If you want to spend your weekends cleaning your black car/truck FOREVER enjoy your choice because you will work for it, but it will look nice when you're done. PS My wifee has never washed the car, but what elese is new... My 2.5.
  • cr3cr3 Member Posts: 42
    if black is so hot why do professional engine builders & gm & most other manufactures paint there engines black ? one reason, black on a engine believe it or not actually dissipates heat. go figure.#&%$@$.but i would like to say that its a fact that dark color vehicles are not seen as whell as light colors on the road,especially small cars that are gray,dk brown,black,even silver.they are the color of the road & the surroundings,they have been proved to be more dangerous!
  • powerisfunpowerisfun Member Posts: 358
    The same physics that makes black so absorbant to heat also makes it more radiative. This can be very confusing, prompting the question, "When does it know when to radiate or absorb?" (That was what I wondered anyway). The answer is that it's always doing both. It's just a question of where it reaches equilibrium. It absorbs more when it is the colder thing and it radiates (or dissipates) more when it is the hot thing. On a sunny day, the truck metal is the cold thing and the sun is the hot thing, therefore the black-painted metal absorbs the sun's energy (and quite well!) until it gets hot enough to radiate at the same rate that it's absorbing.
    However, when the sun goes down, the black metal is suddenly the hot thing and it radiates all that heat away very quickly. Anyway, the same thing applys to black engines.
  • rrichfrrichf Member Posts: 211
    Some years ago, when I was living in Phoenix, my mother posed a question about the temperature of car interiors. It seems that an friend had a clothes rod in their car. When they stopped in Phoenix during a trip, the plastic hangers had melted and all the clothes hung on the plastic hangers had fallen to the back seat or floor. My mother wanted to know if it really got that hot in Phoenix. My answer was, "Well, a dark car, that had been running 50-60 miles with the A/C on and parked in the direct sunshine with the windows closed and the temperature at 115 or above; probably would get hot enough to soften the hangers." There's a significant source of heat beneath the car and all closed up, the car will heat up very fast. As it turned out, the car was black and it was parked for a few hours during the noon day sun in Goodyear/Avondale. So the temperature is 3 degrees hotter there than Phoenix.

    My direct experience is that a black car is hotter in the direct sun. I was traveling to Denver on a regular basis and that year there was frequent snow. On this particular trip I was given a black rental car. The first night in Denver it snowed about 6" or Denver's typical powder. The next morning was sunny and blue skys. I brushed as much snow off the car (roof too) as I could and drove the 6-8 miles from the hotel to the office. After the first half mile I was too warm and had shut off the heater/defroster. After another half mile I was even warmer and had to open the window a couple of inches. The temperature was still less than 30. I had been in similar situations with a light colored car but never experienced the warming of the dark car.

  • mmaskmmask Member Posts: 6
    If you paint the engine black it will not show the oil leaks as well. Don't forget engines used to be painted Red and Blue also.
  • obiggsobiggs Member Posts: 33
    1 stays (looks) cleaner longer
    2 stays cooler in the heat
    3 paint touch up yrs later match
    4 you are seen at night
    5 will not fade yrs later
  • grizzly1grizzly1 Member Posts: 111
    Obiggs- Couldn't have stated it better myself. I have a 1980 Chevy Van,white, (bought new) which spent 10 of those years in the Tahoe area, (Ca.)& the rest in the foothills outside of Sacramento, Ca.. Snow, salt, sand, mud, etc.. Can go for a long period of time before it looks like it needs to be washed... Definitely stays cooler inside than a darker color... Got keyed in Oregon, (thanks Oregon) the full length of my van, & when it was painted, you couldn't tell the old from the new. White vehicles are easier to see, & last but not least, when I wax my van, (which is twice a year)it shines like it did the day I bought it. No fading whatsoever. Blk. is beautiful, along with silver, blue, red, pewter, etc.. Whatever one likes! White is COOL!!!!!!!
  • dekingkdekingk Member Posts: 44
    I live in the great white north and when there is a layer of snow on the ground that covers a large area any meteorologist will tell you it is harder for the sun to warm the atmosphere. That is because the white snow reflects the suns warming rays back into space. On the other hand, if we get an extended period with no new snow, the snow starts to get a dark dirty look and when that happens a few sunny days will melt it all away. Doesn't it just make sense that the sun hitting a painted surface would work the same way?
    I've had vehicles of just about every color but my last 3 and the next whatever will be white.
  • gvmelbrtygvmelbrty Member Posts: 64
    I live in the middle of the desert, so I'm not familiar with the nuances of snow-country life.

    Is it a problem to *see* a white vehicle going down the road during a snowstorm, or even after a snowstorm, with a backdrop of snow-covered trees, houses, mountains, etc.?

    As far as heat is concerned, of course a lighter-colored surface subject to solar radiation will reflect more heat, therefore causing said surface to be relatively cooler than an equivalent dark-colored surface.

    Get two cars, one white, one black. Park them in the sun, in August, in Texas. Now, crack two eggs open and plop 'em down on each hood. The egg on the dark car will fry noticeably faster. Of course we could take a surface temp reading, but hey, this is more fun!

  • dekingkdekingk Member Posts: 44
    According to the insurance institute the safest color for a motor vehicle is white. The difference between the colors during a snowstorm is insignificant, especially if the driver has enough horse sense to have his lights on. Anyone who lives in snow country also knows the colors all will blend into grey after a few miles of salt and sand covered roads anyway.
  • meredithmeredith Member Posts: 575
    As a result of 30 or more days of inactivity....

    this topic is being "frozen." It will be archived or deleted in the next 10 days or so.

    Front Porch Philosopher
    SUV, Pickups, & Aftermarked and Accessories Host
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