I have a friend who's car shopping, and one thing I've noticed is that pearl white cars seem to cost extra.  On many cars it seems to be the only paint color that costs extra.  What gives?

— Mike, White City

That sparkly white paint is indeed an extra cost option along many makes, models and lines, though how much it adds to the sticker varies, even for cars within the same "class." The ever-popular Toyota Camry, for example, charges $395 for "Blizzard Pearl," while a similar Chevrolet Malibu charges $995 for "Iridescent Pearl Tricoat" and a Mazda6 sedan adds $200 for "Snowflake White Pearl Mica."

It's not universally extra, however. A "White Orchid Pearl" Honda Accord costs no more than equivalent Accords in other colors, though the finish is only available on higher trims. 

Are automakers working as an oligopoly to mark up a single paint color and keep the man down? Not exactly.

According to Consumer Reports, different automakers are passing along costs of a more labor-intensive paint finish to the consumer.  

Whereas a silver metallic finish typically has two layers above the primer, an opalescent paint finish such as pearl white uses three of them.

Pearl white paint starts with a white base coat, followed by a micro titanium dioxide layer to give the paint its luminescence, followed by a clear coat on top. Keep in mind that each layer is baked to ensure proper curing.

Another factor to consider: Consumer Reports advises that if the paint cost you extra at the showroom, it will likely also cost extra to repair after an accident. 

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