Evolution of the White Van Man

Once one of the most feared groups of drivers on our roads, the White Van Man has undergone a transformation in recent years, rejecting his trademark white for a classier palette. But will this change perceptions of this misunderstood motorist?

Since the term was coined by Radio 2's Sarah Kennedy in 1997, the White Van Man (WVM) has become a household name used to classify a certain group of motorist. The WVM became a perceived offender and victim of road rage epidemics across the country. But the myth that all WVM could be stereotyped as aggressive, power mad drivers was dispelled by the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) who proved there was more to this species of driver than meets the eye. An appreciation of classical music, health food and even scuba diving painted a very different picture of some WVM breaking the greasy spoon image. In the 21 st Century, these slightly more sophisticated WVM have sought to further distinguish themselves from stereotypes by evolving into… Silver Van Man!

White Vans Silver Vans
Number of Vehicles in the UK 1,685,078 183,764
% of vehicles in the UK 4.58 0.5
Birmingham Birmingham
Glasgow Stockport
Manchester Sheffield
Stockport Reading
Sheffield Redhill
% Automatic Transmission 0.21 2.9
% with Personalised Plates 4.13 9.4

Silver Van Man (SVM) is a new breed of motorist who although still appreciates the beauty and practically of a trustworthy van, wishes to add a touch of class to his vehicle. In fact new DVLA PARC statistics from automotive data specialists GMAP Consulting show that silver, aluminium and black vans have increased in popularity more than any other colour since 1990. In 1990 just 0.7% of all UK vans were silver/aluminium, in 2006 that figure had shot up to 12.5% making it the second most popular colour after traditional white. Although the SVM has a long way to go before he reaches the WVM's dominance of 57.3% of UK vans, the popularity of white vans is on a steady decrease from its peak at the turn of the century.

Pre 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006
Black 1.2% 0.7% 0.5% 0.3% 0.5% 0.7% 1.0% 2.9% 5.6%
Blue 19.6% 19.7
14.3% 13.1% 10.9% 11.2% 11.8% 10.9% 9.4%
Green 3.0% 2.2% 2.0% 2.5% 2.6% 3.3% 2.9% 1.7% 1.2%
Red 14.0% 16.0% 12.6% 12.1% 11.3% 10.4% 8.7% 7.0% 6.0%


0.7% 0.9% 0.8% 0.8% 1.2% 3.0% 6.6% 11.4% 12.5%
White 44.3% 48.3% 61.1% 61.1% 63.2% 64.0% 62.0% 58.8% 57.3%
Yellow 2.8% 2.2% 2.0% 2.1% 2.1% 1.7% 1.6% 1.5% 1.2%

The analysis also shows decreasing popularity of blue, green, red, and yellow vans as sophisticated silver and black lead the way in the reinvention of the van driver.

Not only is the WVM under threat of extinction from the SVM, he also faces growing competition from the Silver Van Woman (SVW). Women van drivers are more likely than male drivers to opt for a silver van with 9.62% of women choosing silver as opposed to 5.93% of men. In fact, women are proving themselves to be much more creative when it comes to colouring their vans. They are more likely than men to own vans in beige/buff, black, blue, bronze, cream/ivory, gold, green, grey, maroon, mauve/purple/violet, pink, and multicolours. Male van drivers do have their favourites though, being more likely than women to choose yellow, orange or red, as well as white. Both genders are equally likely to drive vans in brown or turquoise.

Van Colour Men Women
Beige / Buff 0.55 1.47
Black 2.21 2.52
Blue 13.58 16.32
Bronze 0.02 0.08
Brown 0.05 0.05
Cream / Ivory 0.12 0.18
Gold 0.13 0.38
Green 2.65 4.90
Grey 4.15 5.34
Maroon 0.14 0.21
Mauve / Purple / Violet 0.08 0.12
Multi coloured 0.07 0.08
Orange 0.25 0.17
Pink 0.00 0.02
Red 11.48 11.42
Silver / Aluminium 5.93 9.62
Turquoise 0.12 0.12
White 54.07 42.50
Yellow 1.49 1.26

Although the popularity of white vans is decreasing in comparison to other colours, it still remains favourite for the majority of van drivers. This is particularly true for company owned vans where 64.8% of drivers are WVM or WVW. If current trends continue then silver is set to be the new white, but if SVM is given the same stereotypes as the WVM of the past, perhaps a new colour will move in as desirable and the cycle will continue until there is no dominant colour and motorists will no longer have a white van man scapegoat on which to blame their road rage.

This analysis has been performed by GMAP Consulting using current market statistics from anonymised DVLA PARC data.