Do white cars stay cooler than black cars on a warm day?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

I recently purchased a black Dodge Stealth, which I believe to be one of the finest cars on the road. I have taken a lot of flack from my friends about black cars being hotter than white cars. I personally checked the interior temperature of a black car against a white car in the same parking lot at the same time of day. Both cars had the same color interior, and the interior temperature was exactly the same in both vehicles. Do you know of any scientific studies which will substantiate my findings?

RAY: Well, Lou, Paul Murky of Murky Research works for us, and as soon as we showed him your letter, he started filling out the National Science Foundation grant application!

TOM: But I suspect you're right, Louis. Everything we've heard about this subject tells us that black absorbs heat, and white reflects it. But the only part of the car that could absorb heat and transmit it directly into the passenger compartment is the roof.

RAY: And I would guess that the amount of heat absorbed by the roof isn't enough to make any real difference. First of all, it's not that large an area. And second, there's insulation between the roof and the interior.

TOM: But the really interesting question is whether the INTERIOR color has any effect on interior temperature. And here's my boldest prediction of ready for this??

RAY: Yeah. Wake me up when it's over.

TOM: I'll bet that the interior color of the car doesn't affect the temperature either!

RAY: That's your prediction, huh? Well, when the letters start pouring in from Physics Departments around the country, we'll see how much heat you generated with that answer.

TOM: Stay tuned. I can hardly wait!

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