The Difference Between Light and Dark Car Seats Heating Up From Sunlight Is Marginal, According to Consumer Reports

Everyone knows dark car interiors get hotter than lighter ones. Or that’s the assumption, anyway. But is there any truth to that, or is it just a myth? Consumer Reports decided to put this theory to the test, and the answer might surprise you.

Do dark cars get hotter than lighter cars?

Darker cars don't get much hotter than lighter cars, Consumer Reports finds
Polestar 2 interior | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

Sometimes we take a fact from one situation and apply it to others. For example, someone wearing a black shirt will feel warmer than someone in a white shirt when the sun beats down on them. 

That’s because dark colors tend to hold heat better than light colors. On the other hand, lighter colors reflect more ultraviolet rays instead of absorbing them. You can even test this theory by having a friend or family member wear light-colored clothing and another wear dark-colored garments. 

But does this fact apply to cars too? Plenty of articles say so. For instance, Automoblog and Car Buying and Selling recommend avoiding vehicles with dark interiors if you live in a hot climate. On the other hand, if you live in a cooler environment, a lighter interior might leave you feeling chilly.

That theory makes sense. If it applies to dark and light clothing, why wouldn’t it apply to dark and light car interiors? Consumer Reports ran tests to find out the truth.

Consumer Reports found that cars with dark interiors weren’t much hotter than cars with lighter interiors

One of the main rules of science is to test a theory, so that’s what Consumer Reports did. Testers left two vehicles in the sun. The goal was to discover how much the temperature rose inside a car with a dark interior versus a light interior.

One car had both a light-colored exterior and a light-colored interior. The other had both a dark-colored exterior and interior. 

When the test began, the temperature was 78 degrees Fahrenheit in both vehicles. One hour later, when CR testers retook the temperature, it was over 100 degrees in both cars. 

But did the darker car get hotter? Yes, it did. However, the difference wasn’t significant, according to Consumer Reports. Both vehicles were over 100 degrees.

When it comes to temperatures that high, a few degrees don’t matter because you’ll feel hot either way. Plus, a lighter interior won’t keep the temperatures from becoming lethal.

Hot cars are dangerous

Whether you drive a black or white car, the interior can get extremely hot. Although it’s easy to assume that applies only to climates where the sun makes going outdoors miserable, it can happen in mild temperatures too.

Food left in a hot vehicle can quickly spoil. That can lead to food poisoning, which no one wants. 

People can also become burned as seats heat up, especially leather. The real danger, however, is to children and pets.

Hot car deaths can happen year-round, not just during the summer when most U.S. areas heat up. Only a few minutes in a hot car can kill children and pets. It can happen to older people, too, so don’t leave your loved ones unattended in a vehicle.

On a lighter note, the temperature in Arizona got so hot this past summer that one resident tried baking food in his vehicle. Some of his attempts included chocolate chip cookies, instant macaroni and cheese, and even pumpkin pie. Although the tests seemed to work, you shouldn’t eat food baked in a hot vehicle.

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