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Do Cars With a Dark Interior Really Get Hotter in the Sun?

The difference between dark and light interiors might not be as substantial as you thinkBy Devin PrattThere’s a common belief that if you live in a warmer climate, you should opt for a lighter in…

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Interior lighting can make a huge difference, but it may not be as noticeable as you think.

Authored by: Devin Pratt

Research Make Example: Cadillac

It is commonly held that those who reside in warmer climates should select vehicles with lighter interiors because this will better reflect the sun’s rays, thereby reducing their internal temperatures. When comparing dark and light interiors, how much more scorching can one expect to feel in the former?

Consumer Reports’ road test manager, Mike Monticello, explains that the publication parked two vehicles, one with a light exterior and a dark interior, side by side. Both cars started out with an initial temperature of 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Both reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in under an hour. A few degrees more heat was generated in the darker car, but only slightly. Now imagine how hot those cars would get if left in the sun for a couple hours.

A lighter colored interior will be slightly cooler than a darker one, but when the temperature inside is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s still very uncomfortable. Even if it’s not the middle of summer, a car can still get dangerously hot, so parents and pet owners should be aware of this.

Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center, stresses the importance of never leaving a child unattended in a vehicle, even for a short time. “Our test results show how quickly interior temperatures escalate, regardless of whether your car is light or dark, even when it’s not that hot outside.”

No matter what color the interior is or how mild the outside temperature may feel, a car will get hot when the sun shines through its large amount of glass. It’s not significant enough to make you reconsider your car color or upholstery.

Black interiors don’t show dirt as easily as lighter ones, which is why you might want to go with them. Any smudge, stain, or grime on a gray, beige, or tan interior will stand out and may be difficult to remove.

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This piece was adapted from a segment of the podcast Talking Cars.