Fancy that unusual maroon or turquoise shade on you new car? It could cut your resale value by 10% compared to the same car in white.

In a study comparing second-hand values to new prices, car valuation experts, CAP, found that white cars typically hold around 5% more of their value than the market average for a used car. In fact, white is the only mainstream colour which generally increases the value of a car. This is quite a change, as white used to cut values, not increase them.

In the 1970s, white cars were notorious for showing rust, and then in the 1980s it became a bit "chavvy" – not that "chavvy" had yet been invented as a term. White cars went with white stilettos. Today, cars barely rust, and the associations with white Toyota MR2s and Escort XR3s have long been forgotten.

Blue cars are the ones to avoid – the trade calls it 'doom blue'. Dark blue used to be a favourite plain-clothes police car colour, but now the CID officers just have silver cars like the rest of us. Green is also unpopular despite its traditional associations with British Racing Green – in fact Britain only ended up with Racing Green because so many other countries have a superstition about green being unlucky, and the British racing drivers could not see what all the fuss was about.

Very distinctive colours can be OK, but only if they are on a sporty car. Few people are going to object to a Focus ST in orange, but a colour that strong will cut the value of a mainstream car. Even white needs some care. Small cars nearly always look good in white, but like people, big ones can just look bigger. The old Toyota Supra was universally known in the trade as the "White Whale".