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Green is the new red

Published: February 2017

Does the colour of your car have an impact on safety and security? Research has shown that there is a distinct relationship between vehicle colour and crash risk+. The research conducted by the Monash University Accident Research Centre showed that compared to white, darker colours such as black, blue, grey, green, red and silver which have lower visibility were deemed less safe during the day. The NMVTRC’s CARS project conducted analysis to determine any relationship between vehicle colour and theft.

In Australia (minus NSW), the top 5 colours of vehicles stolen in 2015/16, based on theft numbers, were: 1) White 2) Silver 3) Blue 4) Black and 5) Red. In 2011/12, white, silver and blue were also the top three colours, respectively (Table 1). Reporting figures based on the number of thefts may just be a reflection of the registered fleet (i.e. what vehicle colours are most popular), therefore theft rates per registered vehicles were calculated. (Table 2, Figure 1):

Method

The colour of all passenger/light commercial (PLCs) vehicles stolen in the financial years 2011/12 and 2015/16 were collected and linked to registration data. In turn, theft rates per registered vehicles were calculated.

This information was available for all states except New South Wales (NSW) and vehicle colours by theft rates were presented for colours with greater than 200 thefts in 2015/16. Regarding the top theft targets, vehicle colours with more than 3,000 registrations in 2015/16 were presented.

Key findings

  • In 2015/16, green had the highest theft rate with 3.58 thefts per 1,000 registered vehicles. This was followed by black vehicles with 2.96 thefts per 1,000 registered vehicles.
  • In 2011/12, red coloured PLCs had the highest theft rate with 3.30 thefts per 1,000 registered vehicles followed by white vehicles with 3.20 thefts per 1,000 registered vehicles.
  • Black cars have become increasingly popular to own in 2015/16 (+29% increase in registered vehicles since 2011/12), however they are becoming more popular to steal (+56% increase in thefts since 2011/12).
  • Although white PLCs accounted for almost 31% of all thefts, the number of white coloured vehicle thefts have decreased (-6%) since 2011/12 despite an increase in the white registered fleet (+13%) since 5 years ago. As a result, it ranked 4th in terms of theft rate with 2.65 thefts per 1,000 registrations in 2015/16 (down from 3.20 thefts per 1,000 registrations and ranked 2nd in 2011/12).
  • On the other hand, the number of silver vehicles stolen has increased at a greater rate than that of silver vehicles being registered since 5 years ago (+19% thefts versus +13% registered).
  • Silver and black vehicles had an increase in the number of both short term and profit motivated thefts while white cars only had an increase in the number of profit motivated thefts.

The top vehicle theft colours by market segment in 2015/16 by theft rates were as follows (Table 3):

  • Small passenger vehicles: Green
  • Medium passenger vehicles: Green
  • Large passenger vehicles: Black
  • Sports vehicles: Black
  • SUV/people movers: Green
  • Light commercial vehicles: Black

While differences between market segments are interesting, of possibly greater interest is the variation in the theft rates between the colours across the same make/model/series/year range. The top three theft targets in 2015/16 were Nissan Pulsar N15 MY95_00, Holden Commodore VE MY06_13, Holden Commodore VT MY97_00. Further insight into these vehicles by colour found (Figure 3a,b,c):

  • A red Nissan Pulsar N15 MY95_00 had the highest theft rate with 29.6 thefts per registrations and also shows a 46% higher theft rate than a blue Nissan Pulsar N15 MY95_00.
  • A black Holden Commodore VE MY06_13 had a 57% higher theft rate than a silver one.
  • A black Holden Commodore VT MY97_00 had 1.5 times the theft rate of the same car in white.

In general, there was greater variation between the theft rates by vehicle colour for profit motivated than short term thefts. This indicates that thieves may target particular colours, when stealing for profit, whereas colour is less of a factor in short term thefts, i.e. A black Holden Commodore VT MY97_00 was 3 times more likely to be stolen for profit than a red one however a black and red Holden Commodore VT MY97_00 had similar theft rates for short term thefts.

Table 1. Top 10 vehicle colours stolen, 2011/12 and 2015/16
Vehicle colour 2011/12 2015/16
White 10,374 9,722
Silver 4,249 5,040
Blue 4,228 3,631
Black 2,229 3,474
Red/Maroon/Burgundy 3,880 3,202
Grey 1,564 2,219
Green 1,976 1,671
Yellow/Gold 1,328 1,057
Beige/Cream/Fawn 422 229
Purple/Mauve 252 187
Figure 1. Top vehicle colours by theft rates and theft numbers, 2015/16
Table 2. Top vehicle colours by theft numbers, theft rates and % change, 2011/12 and 2015/16 (ranked by theft rates in 2015/16)
Vehicle colour Thefts Theft rate % change over 5 years
2011/12 2015/16 2011/12 2015/16 Thefts Registrations
Green 1,976 1,671 3.17 3.58 -15.4 -25.3
Black 2,229 3,474 2.46 2.96 55.9 29.4
Red/Maroon/Burgundy 3,880 3,202 3.30 2.81 -17.5 -3.1
White 10,374 9,722 3.20 2.65 -6.3 -13.3
Blue 4,228 3,631 3.01 2.61 -14.1 -1.1
Yellow/Gold 1,328 1,057 2.77 2.41 -20.4 -8.4
Silver 4,249 5,040 2.77 2.41 18.6 12.7
Beige/Cream/Fawn 422 229 3.06 2.00 -45.7 -17.1
Grey 1,564 2,219 2.03 2.00 41.9 44.1
Table 3. Top vehicle colours by theft rates and market segment, 2015/16
Market segment Colour Theft rates per 1,000 registrations per segment Average theft rate per 1,000 registrations per segment (all colours)
Small passenger vehicles Green 3.48 2.40
Medium passenger vehicles Green 3.80 3.14
Large passenger vehicles Black 5.16 4.33
Sports Black 5.16 4.78
SUV/People movers Green 2.99 1.94
Light commercial vehicles Black 3.79 2.86
Figure 3a. The Nissan Pulsar N15 MY95_00 top colours stolen by theft rates per 1,000 registrations, 2015/16.
Figure 3b. The Holden Commodore VE MY06_13 top colours stolen by theft rates per 1,000 registrations, 2015/16.
Figure 3c. The Holden Commodore VT MY97_00 top colours stolen by theft rates per 1,000 registrations, 2015/16.

References
+Newstead, S; D’Elia, A (2007). An investigation into the relationship between vehicle colour and crash risk. Report No. 263. Monash University Accident Research Centre.

Red* includes maroon and burgundy, Yellow* includes gold, Beige* includes cream and fawn.

Recovery status is as at 30 June 2016 for TAS and 31 July 2016 for all other states and territories.

The National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) acknowledges all police services, registration authorities, participating insurers, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Glass's Information Services and Insurance Australia Group for the supply of the data on which this report is complied. Theft incident data may be subject to later revision by the data providers. This work is copyright. Material may be reproduced for personal, non-commercial use or for use within your organisation with attribution to the NMVTRC. © 2017 NMVTRC. All rights reserved.

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