Can the Red Color Theory Perk Up Your Car Life?

The red color theory is filling social scrolls and inspiring a pop of red in our car interiors or pop the color in our driveway with a glowy red exterior. Here's how to get yours.

Mazda 3 Turbo
The Mazda 3 Turbo will put wind in your hair. ? Scotty Reiss

This Trend Inspiring Home Decor Can Perk Up Your Ride

When red pops on TikTok, it gets your attention: A red vase with red flowers in an otherwise monochromatic dining room; a red coffee table anchoring a pale beige living room; how about a glowing red SUV popping against the winter landscape of your street?

I’m all in.

Especially the pop of color against the houses and yards in my neighborhood, a modern craftsman palette of limestone and taupe. We need color.

That’s why the red theory trend, which is filling the scroll on TikTok right now, got my attention. And to have it at home is one thing; to roll with it through your day is another, and one that automotive designers have long bought into: they love red.

Red choices in a car are distinct: Red exterior paint, of course; but red leather interiors, upholstery with red stitching is quite common. Plaid interiors with red running through it is both classic and eye-catching.

And then, there’s the red-when-you-need-it ambient lighting; a huge trend among carmakers is a lighting scheme with customizable colors so you can have red — or azure or teal or maize or amethyst— whenever you like.

Here are some lovely ways to get a bit more red into your life.

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The Bmw Ix Electric Suv Has A Wide, Strong Presence But Is Still Agile And Fun To Drive

The BMW iX electric SUV has a wide, strong presence but is still agile and fun to drive. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Go All Out With a Stunning Red Car

The first red that comes to mind is Mazda’s Crystal Soul Red exterior paint. It has foil-like glow with deep reflective properties; the name “Soul” truly fits; gaze into it and you can see deep into its soul, or yours.

There are other fantastic reds, too: Cadillac, Lexus, BMW all create gorgeous reds, from deeply reflective to luscious cherry to a happy poppy hue. Red looks stunning in any driveway or parking lot and catches everyone’s eye on the road. Or, put it in your garage and save the treat of gazing at this beauty for yourself — while keeping it dust and rain free.

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Red S Appearance Seats

The bright leather seats in the Chrysler Pacifica Red S Appearance package are enough to make the entire family feel special. Photo: Connie Peters

Bring the Red Color Theory to Your Upholstery 

“I bought a new handbag!” a friend excitedly exclaimed as she showed me the prized Prada Galleria Saffiano she’d had her eye on. “In red, of course!” She would never buy another color. Its the hue of heritage craftsmanship, and in cars, signals an interior designed for racing. Everyone else can have camel, brown or boring black. When your pulse runs fast, red leather is a must.

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The 2024 Chevrolet Trax Interior

The budget-friendly 2024 Chevrolet Trax has red accents to add a pop of life to your drive. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Red Color Accents Give a Hint of Hot

Fashion designers have long used contrast stitching to accentuate shape; white stitching along a jacket’s bias highlights the feminine shape of a menswear-inspired piece. Piping that outline the lapels and pockets add elegance. Auto designers have long been in love with contrast stitching and piping, too: blue to signal sustainability, white to offset a dark interior and red to give that hint of action and motion.

Overall, the effect is subtle: You don’t have to commit to a full-blown red interior, but get the effect all the same.

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Plenty Of Ambient Lighting Makes Things Easy To See At Night Inside The Jeep Grand Cherokee 4Xe. Photo: Allison Bell

Plenty of ambient lighting makes things easy to see at night inside the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe. Photo: Allison Bell

Red Light Sets the Mood

Feeling a little racy? Need a pick-me-up but it’s too late for a latte? Want to really live the full Beyoncé? Ambient lighting will do the trick. Some cars have more ambient lighting than others, with full strips under door handles,  lighting footwells, door panels, cupholders and the dashboard. Others limit it to a single strip and maybe a few subtle lights in the cupholders.

Either way, you should be able to change the colors and brightness on the multimedia system under vehicle settings and truly set your desired mood.

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Lexus Rx350H Forever! Photo: Sara Lacey

The taillight bar on the Lexus RX350h adds a distinct, posh feel. Photo: Sara Lacey

Yes, All Taillights are Red, But Which Are the Best?

Rejecting a car for its taillights is totally acceptable, so picking a car for this reason should be, too. And not all taillights are created equal. They can be attention-getting, they can elicit a subtle glow, beam like a bright beacon and dance as they come to life. They might even blip in sequence as a turn signal.

Picking your taillight look like and being intentional about what others see as you drive by is as thoughtful as making a statement with your front door or your winter coat: It’s what you want people to see.

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The Spot Behind The Passenger'S Seat Was Perfect For My Handbag. Perfect.

The spot behind the passenger’s seat in the Nissan Z was perfect for my handbag. Its red interior made for a nice contrast to the bright blue seats and accents. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Are Red Cars Lucky?

They can be if you’re paying attention, which is the point of the ‘red car theory.’ If you pay attention to what’s going on around you you create your own luck. This Instagram video explains:

I’d be more than happy to count red cars all day long if I was paid $50 for each one I see. But that’s not likely; what is likely, though, is changing your path by paying attention. I’m a big believer in the idea that you create your own luck; “the harder I work the more luck I have,” as the saying goes. But if a red car adds to that or inspires someone else to work for their luck, all the betyer.

Add a Pop Of Red To Your Daily Life

If you just can’t commit to a red car, a red interior or red interior accents, maybe my friend’s handbag strategy is the ticket. I love the red interior of my handbag; it brightens my view every day and makes it easy to find what I’m looking for. And it looks great in any car. Or, consider red driving shoes, a red jacket, a red phone case or a red cosmetic bag to pop into your center console. And brighten those long winter days with a pop of brilliant red color.

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss