Does a Lighter Interior Really Keep Your Car Cooler?

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Woman feeling hot in her car
Adam Gregor /

We have all heard the logic: Dark colors do not reflect ultraviolet rays as well as lighter colors. So, if you live in a hot climate, you should buy a car with a light-colored interior because it will keep the vehicle cooler.

But is it true?

Consumer Reports took up the challenge of answering this question once and for all.

Test engineers parked two cars outside in the sunshine. One car had both a lighter-colored interior and exterior. The other had a darker interior and exterior.

In a story about the experiment, Mike Monticello, CR’s road-test manager, says:

“The temperature initially inside both cars was 78° F. Within an hour, they were both over 100° F. The darker car did get a little bit hotter, but only by a few degrees. And that was only after an hour, so think about how hot these cars would get for an even longer period of time.”

The bottom line is that the interior of both cars jumped to 100 degrees Fahrenheit relatively quickly. That means neither color rendered the car safe for pets, children or anyone else.

Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at CR’s Auto Test Center, notes that the cars heated up fast even though the weather was not especially hot.

Why did both cars heat up at roughly the same rate and to nearly the same temperature? Because it is the car’s glass that causes a vehicle to warm up so rapidly, CR says.

We likely still have a few dog days ahead of us, and if you’re looking for tips to keep cool, check out:

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