The color of a car’s wheels makes a huge impact on the overall look of the vehicle, so it’s a really important decision to get right. Two of the most popular alloy wheel colors are silver and black, but which is the best option for you?
In this article I’ll compare the pros and cons of black and silver wheels and examples to show how they actually look on different color cars to help you decide which look the best.
The Quick Answer
Silver wheels hide curb rash and scratches and swirl marks better than black wheels. Both black and silver wheels show dirt very easily. Black wheels typically suit cars with a more aggressive look and black styling elements (e.g. roof, mirrors and pillars) whilst silver wheels suit cars with chrome trim.
Pros and Cons of Silver and Black Wheels
Before we consider how silver and black wheels look on different colored vehicles, let’s dive into the pros and cons of each color rim so you can understand what they’d be like to live with.
Which Color Looks the Cleanest for Longest?
If you drive your car frequently then you’ll need to consider which color stays looking the cleanest. The wheels are usually the dirtiest part of the car due to their close proximity to the road and brake disks. There are two types of “dirt” you’ll find being collected on your wheels:
- Brake dust
- Traffic film
Some cars produce more brake dust than others, with high performance vehicles being the worst for it. Silver rims highlight this brake dust more because they it is a grey/ brown color which stands out on the surface more compared to on a black wheel.
However, black gloss wheels also look dirty very quickly if brake dust builds up, especially if you are going for a gloss finish. Satin and matte finishes tend to be a bit more capable at masking brake dust build up.
Secondly, there’s the traffic film to consider. Traffic film is the name used to describe the dirt that collects on the wheels and lower sections of the car when driving in the rain as all that dirty water gets splashed up.
Silver wheels tend to be a bit better at masking traffic film compared to gloss black wheels where is quickly dulls the finish. Again, satin and matte finishes tend to be a bit more forgiving.
It’s also worth considering how dirty the tires get as well. On a black wheel there is less contrast between the alloy and the tire, which means that once the tire starts getting dirty, the overall wheel tends to look worse. On silver wheels, there is still some contrast between the tire and alloy even when they’re both dirty, so the overall look tends not to be as bad.
Either way, if you go for black or silver wheels, expect to need to clean them quite often if you want them to look good. Neither of these colors are forgiving compared to grey/ gunmetal wheels.
Hiding Curb Rash
Fingers crossed you won’t curb your fresh alloys, but accidents can happen and if you drive your car frequently, it could happen at some point.
Silver wheels are much better at hiding curb rash compared to black wheels. Curb rash exposes the metal of the wheel as the painted/ power coated finish is removed. Since the metal is silver/ grey in appearance, it contrasts less with silver alloys compared to black alloys.
Hence, silver alloys might be a better choice if you’re rocking flush tires and are a bit accident prone!
Hiding Scratches and Swirl Marks
Most wheels have a clear coat over the color coat which aims to protect the layer underneath, the same as the paint on the car. This clear coat is easily scratched though when washing the car. These scratches are very noticeable in direct sunlight, but also cause the paint to look dull in all conditions.
Silver wheels are far better at hiding scratches and swirl marks in the clear coat compared to black wheels. These minor scratches contrast less with the silver color coat underneath so aren’t as noticeable. Gloss black rims are the worst for swirl marks unfortunately and can make the wheel look quite dull over time.
Although swirls are pretty hard to avoid completely on wheels because the brake dust that builds up is so abrasive, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of them.
- Rinse and then pre-wash the wheel using an all-purpose-cleaner or contactless wheel cleaner.
- Use a soft microfiber mitt instead of brushes, and a well lubricated wheel shampoo to clean the wheel thoroughly.
- Keep rinsing your mitt frequently to prevent dirt building up and being rubbed into the finish.
- Apply a ceramic coating to the wheel so that the brake dust/ dirt is rinsed away more easily before washing.
- Try and wash your wheels frequently to avoid excessive build up of brake dust.
Which Wheel Color Looks the Best?
This is a very subjective question because the color that looks best to me, might not look the best to you. So, in this next section I’ve given some examples of black and silver wheels on different colored cars so you can see for yourself which is the best option.
In general, black alloy wheels have a more aggressive look and are typically more popular for sports cars and hot hatches. Silver wheels are a bit less “in your face” and although they still look great on sports cars and hot hatches, they still really suit family cars as well.
Black wheels look good on cars with subtle black styling such as the pillars, door mirrors and grills as it helps to tie the look together. On cars with chrome trim, silver wheels are a good option to keep the theme.
Silver wheels on a black car will provide more contrast and stand out more, whereas black wheels on a black car have a more stealthy appearance and blend in more. If the car has chrome trim then silver wheels can help to tie the look together and the contrast with the black paint typically works better. For cars with tints and black styling elements, black alloys look very good.
Black wheels on a white car provide maximum contrast for an aggressive look, whereas silver wheels blend in more on white cars and look a bit more muted. Black wheels are a good option if the car has a black roof, door mirrors, pillars or grill, to tie the look together, otherwise it tends not to work as well.
Silver wheels on silver cars are very popular as you still get some contrast from the tires, but they also tone in very well with the rest of the vehicle. Black alloys on silver cars are less popular but can look great on sports cars with more aggressive styling.
Black wheels on grey cars are very popular and tone in really well with the paintwork. Silver wheels are also still quite popular on grey cars and offer a more subtle look which suits really family cars and saloons.
Red cars and black wheels are a very popular combination, particularly for sports cars and hot hatches as it gives them a meaner look. Silver wheels also work well on red cars, but grey/ gunmetal wheels are usually a more popular choice.
Similarly, to with red paintwork, black wheels work really well on blue cars with sharp styling for a sportier look. Silver wheels are also very popular and contrast wheel with the paintwork. Personally, if the car has black styling elements such as the roof, grill and door mirrors then black wheels look great. If the car has chrome trim, then silver rims tend to be the better choice.
It’s not just the color of the wheel that’s important, but also the finish. Check out my comparison between gloss, matte and satin wheel finishes to learn about their pros and cons.