Whether getting a new car or customizing a vehicle, choosing the right color for your interior is crucial. I’ve made decisions based on the color of the interior, even when buying used cars.
I’ll try to help you with this challenge by sharing my experience picking colors and interior mods. We’ll talk about dark vs light interiors and different color combos. You’ll also see some tips and ideas.
These are the key factors you must consider when choosing the best car interior color:
- Is the car going to be a daily driver?
- Will you keep the vehicle in a garage?
- Do you have kids and pets?
If the answer to two or three questions is “Yes,” you’ll be better with a darker interior. That’s the most general advice I can give you after owning a dozen cars and having the perspective of both a single guy and a family man.
Want to know more? Let’s dive deeper into auto interiors.
Tips on Choosing the Best Car Interior Color
1. Match it with the Car’s Exterior Colors
If you’re leaning towards a black interior, it will go well with most exterior colors. Even black on black is quite popular. If your vehicle’s paint is dark, you have more flexibility. You can go for a lighter interior, creating a nice contrast.
My first BMW E46 was black and had a very uncommon light blue interior. It was a basic ride with a few options, and I wanted to customize it with some easy and effective mods.
After re-upholstering the steering wheel and wrapping the trim pieces in glossy black, the car popped. It looked much fresher than many Bimmers with a leather interior.
2. Get Familiar with All Color Options
Auto manufacturers offer various options for their car interiors, ranging from classic neutrals to bold and bright colors. Most car dealers won’t spend too much time with you on those; trust me on that. Instead, they’ll try to sell you dealer options, as that’s where they make the most money.
Take the time to research and explore all options in advance and see how each color will look and feel inside your car. Often, more colorful interiors will be available with higher trim levels. So, if you have your heart set on a particular color interior, it might be worth spending a little extra.
3. Think About Your Style and Comfort
Once you’re familiar with all the options and how to match the exterior and interior, it’s time to think about yourself. I mean, we all like to look at our sleek rides in the parking lot, but we spend much more time inside the cabin. Therefore, feeling comfortable should be your top priority.
I’ve owned and built many vehicles, but I still take my time deciding on each car’s interior. Test-driving a particular model with a few different interiors works best for me. If that’s not possible, you can go to a showroom or a local car event and just sit inside a few vehicles.
4. Look for Some Inspiration Online
This tip applies to those looking to buy luxury cars with individual interior options where you can choose two or more colors. The easiest way would be to do a Google search with the brand and model of the vehicle. For example: “BMW G11 Custom Interior” and then select “images.”
I’d also recommend it to those doing a full or partial reupholstery of older cars. You can check my listicle post showing several nice custom interiors of vehicles from different eras. It will give you a better understanding of how you can combine materials and colors.
5. Consider the Climate in Your Area
The color you’ll pick for the car’s interior should be pursuant to the climate in your area. What I mean is that lighter interiors, like white or beige, reflect heat, while a dark interior will absorb it. You get the point, right?
If the climate is hot, but you fancy black leather seats, there is a solution. You can have your windows, including the windshield, tinted or ceramic coated. It will reduce heat and UV rays, preserving the black interior throughout. Remember that darker tints are often considered illegal modifications.
6. Keep in Mind the Car’s Resale Value
From my early cars to my BMWs and my wife’s Tesla Model 3, I’ve spent thousands on car mods over the years. One thing is certain: you’ll never get your money back when selling a modified car, but there are some things you can do to get the most out of it.
To reduce the chance of turning off potential buyers, stick with neutral colors like black, gray, and beige. Another fact is that dark interiors tend to have a higher resale value. If you want to add something bright, like yellow, do it with floor mats and seat covers. Hydro-dipping the trim pieces is very effective for those looking for uniqueness.
7. Don’t Forget the Cleaning Part
Last but not least, considering what it takes to maintain the interior is a major factor when trying to pick the best color. We’ll dive deeper into the dark and light-colored interiors right after I give you a few hints about the cleaning part.
Long story short, black interiors show more surface dirt, while stains are more visible on white interiors. Leather is easier to clean but harder to maintain in the long haul. The worst combination of color and material I’ve had is cloth seats in white. I spent way too many hours and money at the car wash during the two years I owned this Golf.
Dark Vs Light Colored Interiors
As we concluded, the main factors you need to consider when deciding on a light or dark interior are maintenance and climate. In this section, I’ll go through the rest of the benefits and drawbacks of each option.
When you say dark interiors, most people picture black. Sure, there are some darker shades of gray and brown, but you don’t see these as often. I don’t think there is an automaker that doesn’t offer a black interior as a standard option, and there are quite a few reasons for that.
Let’s see why people like black interiors on cars:
- It’s not hard to clean and gets no stains from spillage
- A classic appearance that goes with all exterior colors
- Makes leather seats with basic designs look luxurious
- Easy to customize with accents matching the exterior paint
- Better chances to sell on the used car market
I have a black leather interior in my recently acquired BMW E38. The only thing that bothers me is the sun during the summer. Not because it makes the cabin too hot but because it will ruin my leather seats. Window tints are due, and the problem is solved.
Some folks would argue that leather seats in darker colors don’t age well, but that’s not the case. Any genuine leather will get cracks if exposed to the sun for years and not properly maintained.
The only disadvantage I see of having a dark interior is if it’s in a black car that you keep in the open and the climate is hot throughout the year.
I’ve owned a few cars with lighter interiors, and yes, they have a few disadvantages. However, if you’re well aware of your preferences and weigh the pros and cons, a light-colored interior can be a great choice. Here is why:
- It makes small cars feel more spacious
- It makes bigger vehicles more elegant
- It makes seat design patterns pop
- It creates an appealing contrast with a dark exterior
- It attracts less heat and doesn’t fade as quickly
Obviously, the biggest drawback of a light interior is the maintenance. It gets even worse if you have cloth seats in an older vehicle. With time, the fabric absorbs a lot of dust, and even tiny drops of water or rain will leave stains.
I wouldn’t recommend it for a daily driver or SUV. Mud, dirt, kids, and pets will make you regret it. If you really want it, look for vegan leather seats like the ones used in Tesla interiors. That’s what we have in our Model 3, and it’s much easier to clean.
Best Car Interior Color Combinations
Congrats, you made it to the final stage. First, we’ll look at several examples of interior color combos. Then, I’ll give you some basic guidelines on combining colors and making your ride stand out.
Color Combos Used in Luxury Cars
The photos below show the interiors of a Bentley, Mercedes S-Class, Porsche Panamera, and Rolls-Royce. As you can see, all the luxury car manufacturers have chosen lighter interiors in white, cream, beige, and tan.
Some use two tones, while others have one color combined with wood accents. The hardwood veneer has been used in luxury automobiles for decades.
I’m lucky to have the wood trim in my 1999 BMW E38 still looking new. In fact, the very well-preserved black leather seats and veneer were one of the main reasons I bought it.
Color Combos Used in Sports Cars
In this section, I’ll show you the interiors of two high-end sports cars (Bugatti and Lambo) and two in the mid-price range (Mustang S550 and BMW M4). You can see that black is present in all four vehicles in combination with bolder colors like red and yellow.
When it comes to sports cars, you can go wild with color combinations. For an even more attractive appearance, add some carbon fiber, alcantara, and custom stitching that contrasts with the dominant color of the interior.
How to Combine Car Interior Colors
Choose a dominant color that will be the main focus of the interior. It could be something dark like black or gray or a lighter color like beige or white.
Then, add accent colors to create depth. These can be brighter or bolder than the dominant color. Use it in smaller amounts throughout the interior.
Another popular trend in car interiors is the use of two-tone color schemes. To create a stylish and bold look, you must combine colors that complement each other.
One way to do it is using both colors on the seats, then one of them on the door panels and steering wheel and the other on the center console, trim, and carpets.
You can get creative and spread them inside your car any way you like. You can’t go wrong if the colors go well together.
A few examples of good color combinations for car interiors are orange or blue with white, red or yellow with black, and dark grey with mustard or teal.
Time to wrap it up. In case you’re in love with a car, but the interior color turns you down, check out the post below.