By on August 13, 2019

2017 Toyota Corolla XSE interior - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

Cars, like their drivers, often fly so far below the radar that they may as well not exist at all. Despite the best intentions of designers to stimulate (but not over-stimulate) loyal buyers, a great number of vehicles roll off the drawing board and into reality with an exterior tailor-made to avoid being noticed.

Some vehicles are nothing less than rolling anonymity. Which, depending on your line of work, may be just the thing you’re looking for.

For criminals and private detectives and a good number of others, going unnoticed has its advantages. The question today is: which readily available vehicle perfectly fills this role?

I know exactly which vehicle I’d choose if remaining unseen topped my list of buying criteria. Sorry, Toyota.

A previous-generation (pre-2020) Corolla sedan, specifically one painted Slate Metallic or Galactic Aqua Mica (such non-vivid colors do not show up in Toyota’s image library), may well be the most anonymous vehicle available today. 2019 models are still flowing off lots, so availability is not an issue. How did I stumble on this not altogether unexpected choice? I realized, while walking the other day, that I was surrounded by them.

They made noise and took up physical space, yet my eyes almost failed to register their presence. Remember the movie Predator? These Corollas wear the same invisibility cloak. An added bonus is that they’re so common, so ubiquitous, that only a paranoid individual would assume the off-teal Corolla spotted here or there was the same one seen earlier.

Runner up? A current-gen Nissan Sentra in Gun Metallic gray, yet even this personification of blandness somehow manages to telegraph its presence to a greater degree than the Corolla.

If you absolutely needed to go unseen, what model would be your first choice?

[Images: Timothy Cain/TTAC, Toyota]

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80 Comments on “QOTD: Maintaining a Low Profile?...”


  • avatar
    dividebytube

    My wife is an attorney who sometimes deals with child abuse/neglect cases and family law issues for the county. She used to drive a yellow Mini Cooper S with black stripes. She would go to court, and then wait for the clients to leave before getting into her car, fearful that they would easily recognize her vehicle again.

    She now drives a 2008 Infiniti M35x, though actually pretty rare, is bland enough – in silver – that is doesn’t really draw much attention to itself. She also feel better and safer with the extra weight.

    My own undercover car? Silver Camry V6 or a Taurus SHO (debadged).

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      “My own undercover car? Silver Camry V6 or a Taurus SHO (debadged)”

      Both good choices. I have some “noticeable” vehicles but when I want to slip by unnoticed it’s my black Camry XLE with light tint on all windows, or gray Odyssey with heavy tint on all windows. I swear you can get away with ANYTHING hehe.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Our silver 01 Hyundai Elantra was the perfect invisible car. They’re everywhere.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    A silver or white Ford F150. I see a lot more of these than a Corolla. Second choice would be some GM SUV/CUV in silver.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      There are so many shades of grey, four door, F150s in the parking lot at my job it looks like a Ford dealership. After all its the most popular selling vehicle. I think at last count 1 in 5 people I work with drive one.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      All PUps are like this. And nobody knows which one is 4/6/8 cyl diesel/gas, etc. Basically, I don’t even follow PUps because of this. They all look the same.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Nissan Versa, I looked up “generic car” on google and that’s what popped up

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      (chuckle)

      I can’t argue with that logic… nope, can’t think of anything to say against it. I probably would have done the same thing if I’d thought of it first.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    A silver Altima, about three to five years old. People will think it’s a rental.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Easy one – silver lower level Dodge Charger. Everyone in my area bets that you’re driving an unmarked police car. Now, some of you might be thinking about how this makes you low key. Ask yourselves, when an unmarked police car drives by, do you look at the driver? Probably not. So you’ll have a line of traffic part like the Red Sea with everyone thinking you’re an officer and not making eye contact because they are staring dead ahead watching their speed.
    Works for me…

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Answers will vary locally. Where I am I would say a Corolla or a silver Passat would offer anonymity. I’ve told this story before, but I knew a household, 2 doctors, that owned 2 VW Phaetons, chosen specifically because they were nice but would not attract attention or appear ostentatious.

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      What vehicle did they have to actually drive while those were in the shop?

      • 0 avatar
        spookiness

        I haven’t been in touch so I’m not sure what they drive now. At the time, they were only doing regular maintenance- but religiously. A kid arrived, so who knows maybe a V10 diesel Toureg? Funny thing though– Phaeton #1 was in the shop for regular maintenance when Phaeton #2 happened. It had just been traded in. I think they were both V-8’s.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          VW Phaeton, anonymous? That’s like driving a Rolls Royce because everyone thinks it’s one of those Beetles with a Rolls Royce kit, yeah, sure

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            Actually, true. Phaeton is like, “oh look – passat.. no, Audi… $#1t – this Phaeton.” Another cal like this – Chevy SS. “Oh – Impala, no Maliby… ah, SS. Ok”

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            If you don’t know what it is, it just looks like a Passat.

            Which is why they appeal to me so much. If I had any need of a “going out to dinner” car, I would have one.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I have a neighbor who has one and you’d really have to be unfamiliar with VW design to mistake it for a Passat, it’s pretty big

          • 0 avatar
            spookiness

            99.275% of the population has no idea what a Phaeton is. It just looks like a big sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      That’s why doctors used to drive Buicks. In the old days they used the same platform as Cadillac, but without the flash. Oh, and slow Toyotas is strictly local, as you say. Drive in L.A. or Boston and you’ll see them keeping up with the pack.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Almost any pickup truck, especially in silver or white, along with almost any CUV of any brand. I would, however, except Lexus, as that gaping “Predator” grille is highly noticeable.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    When I was a licensed P.I. our preferred ‘surveillance/tail’ cars were Honda Civics. Enough around that they are rarely noticed. Reasonably comfortable for sitting long hours. Fuel efficient. And ‘peppy’ enough to be able to follow/keep up with most drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      cprescott

      And since most Honduh and Toyoduh drivers tailgate, you won’t even be given a second thought tailing someone. I loathe both brands now because either their buyers are stupid when they buy them or the brands make them stupid once they own them.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Gee. Most of the high quality car resenters claim Toyotas are driven too slowly at all times. If they’re tailgating you, that would have to make you some sort of rolling chicane. Or maybe the people who buy the best cars aren’t incompetents after all, and you and Fredo Grazi don’t let reality mess with your comments.

        • 0 avatar
          spookiness

          This. When I need to change lanes in busy traffic, I intentionally look for Toyotas because they are often way far back from the vehicle in front of them.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Toyotas are all over the place. Why? Because not all Toyota drivers slow-pokes. Around where I live, they’re as likely to be overly aggressive as they are to be hanging back. I’ve seen Subies hanging back farther than Toyotas (while my neighbor has ripped out four rear diffs and one transmission in the last 6 months on his Subie.)

            No, you can’t stereotype any one brand’s drivers as slow or fast; the people driving them are just too different. To be ‘invisible’ you have to have a bland car and drive in a bland manner–meaning exactly like the majority and not too fast OR too slow.

          • 0 avatar
            duncanator

            Sooo correct on that point.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Oh snap! :D

      • 0 avatar
        JoeBrick

        @cprescott-
        “And since most Honduh and Toyoduh drivers tailgate, you won’t even be given a second thought tailing someone. I loathe both brands now because either their buyers are stupid when they buy them or the brands make them stupid once they own them.”

        Wow, that is pretty HARSH.

  • avatar
    gtem

    My current commuting is in a slate grey Camry, way under the radar. Similarly, our dark red Town&Country is a dime a dozen and not catching anyone’s eye.

  • avatar
    TheDutchGun

    Any cuv in the Edge/sante Fe/cr-v segment. Literally everywhere you look, especially cr-v.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    Sonata from a couple generations ago, 2009 ish, virtually invisible.

  • avatar
    Pianoboy57

    We recently got a 2008 Corolla in silver. It had a real low income look to it with no wheel covers and it was really bland, I mean seriously bland. My wife likes the idea of blending in but I couldn’t take it. A window tint, some wheel covers and chrome license plate frames makes it look a lot better. Even though I didn’t really want the car I cannot complain about its performance. It does what it is supposed to do very well.

  • avatar

    I drive a metallic grey 2018 Corolla SE with premium package

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    One of the most prolific and successful cocaine dealers in US history rolled around in a silver minivan 24/7, while they were looking for him in a Lamborghini, Rolls or something.

    To many bland choices out there, but of the pickups, the fleet white, regular cab, 2wd F-150 with silver steel wheels, any year, would get the least attention.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      That would draw my attention because it’s rare, especially if it didn’t have a company name on the side. A crew cab would blend in a lot more

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        They’re more common than you think, and not rare at all. It’s just that you don’t notice them like you do the 50 to $70K sparkling 4X4 crew cab trucks lathered in chrome and stuff that command your attention.

        And that’s the beauty of them, when you’re trying not to get noticed.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    A 2013 – 2015 dark grey Honda Odyssey is both ubiquitous, and invisible.
    At the current rate of purchase, Jeep Wranglers. Heh.

    And if I was going to rob a bank and needed to make sure no one, ever, would be able to know exactly what I was driving, I would drive a debadged early 2000s Hyundai XG350.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Silver Rogue Sport.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I’ve always gone for vehicles that are relatively low key but uncommon. My daily driver is dark green Land Rover LR4 – somewhat different, does not really blend in, but not flashy at the same time. Honestly I like the LR3 appearance better without the chrome grille.

    On the flip side if I was to commit a crime I’d take my wife’s light brown Honda Odyssey.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Nearly any sedan or compact to midsize CUV in silver, gray, white, or black.

    My Granite Gray 2nd gen Highlander never got noticed.

    If I wanted to commit a crime I’d do that in my wife’s 2016 (1st gen) Terrain. It is “Ebony Twilight” (one of the 3 shades of black I swear was available) and in my city of 20,000 (county of 75,000) I must see 5 similar vehicles in an average day without trying.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The correct answer: Top-selling vehicles.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Current Rogue or previous-gen Elantra. The recent Corollas stand out too much, mostly because of the LED headlights you can pick out from a mile away. If you’re outside of a city, a grey Silverado/Sierra crew cab from the last 10 years.

  • avatar
    SatelliteView

    There’s no need to be so scrupulous. 95%+ cars are invisible. Camrys, accords, Grand Cherokee, c classes, 3 series, Tahoes, F150, RAV4, CRVs, and so on and so forth, are invisible in any urban area

  • avatar
    jkross22

    All late model Volvos. Current models are nicer and stand out, but even the most recent XC60 before the redesign gathers little interest… unless it’s painted brown, and then I’ll go and check it out.

    Huge benefit of outstanding seats, good stereos and reasonable prices on the used market.

  • avatar
    JoeBrick

    I have a pretty good under-the-radar car, a Honda Civic. Blends into traffic with all the other similarly-shaped sedans. Perfectly stealthy and unobtrusive in most ways, EXCEPT IT’S RED. OOPS !

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Dodge Grand Caravan.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Why would anyone want to do anything but stand out?!

    My favorite cars have always been the colorful and stylish ones. Its my signature. I keep a neutral daily driver/runner— and something newer and more fun as a trophy.

    The vintage one stays in the garage where it belongs ☺️

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “My favorite cars have always been the colorful and stylish ones.”

      Yes, those Neons really are distinctive

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Personally, I prefer unique and distinctive over conformity. Problem is that being unique is difficult in this day and age of auto sales. All the dealerships want bland because they sell right off the lot; bright and colorful might sit a month or four.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Pretty much any pickup truck. Especially, white

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Here in Seattle, no question the answer is Prius, Corolla, or Civic in a bland color. Subaru Forester or Outback are also a decent choice. If you need something bigger, Pilot, Highlander, or RX350 in a bland color.

    I have a silver Highlander and it’s totally unnoticeable. If I get in it I disappear.

  • avatar
    Lockstops

    I’m thinking that a Lambo Huracan or Aventador is really low, so will go unnoticed in many situations. Then add an urban camo wrap (or regular camo wrap if you plan on driving your Lambo in the countryside) and you’ll be almost invisible.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The obvious answer is a plain white van. Get some fake magnetic company logo decals to throw on it for good measure.

  • avatar
    whydidithavetobecars

    Seattleite here also. Downtown? Prius. Suburbs? Odyssey. Sticks? Pickup with a ladder rack. All silver.

  • avatar
    Dan

    The easy answer is Rav4/Camcord/white XL truck, because they’re everywhere, but if I did notice you shooting out of the window of one I’d at least be able to testify as to what kind it was. So go generic. Even as a car guy I can’t tell one Korean compact from another. Ditto Nissans and Mitsubishis if they still exist and Chevys.

    Describe the getaway vehicle: “It was grey.”

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    if you want to be upscale-ish anonymous: Kia Cadenza. Or if you want RWD, the pre-Genesis Hyundai Genesis aka G80 or K900.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    I like my Golf R for being inconspicuous. It’s nice enough looking, but basically just a tidier than average hatchback. It’s also ridiculously fast.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’d keep my Mazda if I was assured it wouldn’t get blasted or damaged. Otherwise, I’d take a 2003ish Taurus in denim blue with just enough body rot where people wouldn’t look twice and comment on the good nick it’s in.

    99ish Cavaliers would work too, but they’re thinning out and people would notice that one was still running.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’d keep my Mazda if I was assured it wouldn’t get blasted or damaged. Otherwise, I’d take a 2003ish Taurus in denim blue with just enough body rot where people wouldn’t look twice and comment on the good nick it’s in.

    99ish Cavaliers would work too, but they’re thinning out and people would notice that one was still running.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      “I’d keep my Mazda if I was assured it wouldn’t get blasted or damaged.”

      What are you talking about? Who don’t let you keep your Mazda? Your mom?

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        I took the question to mean that the car would be involved in illicit activities. As such I wouldn’t want the Mazda to get murder death killed. A Taurus wouldn’t break my heart if damaged.

        Though when I was younger I kind of liked them for some dumb reason. Specifically the generation that was around in 1994, headgasket issues notwithstanding.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    This is a true story: last weekend a group of us were trailering at a friend’s cottage. Another couple, close friends, were coming for dinner on Saturday. I had been on the beach and didn’t notice that they arrived in their ’16 or ’17 Silver-ish Corolla. I saw my friend and even though I was no more than 20 feet from their car I honestly didn’t see it at first. It’s like the car had a cloaking device installed.

    (On the other hand, while driving I take note of and pay careful attention to Corollas, Camrys, RAV4s, RX350s, CR-Vs and most Subarus since to not see them puts you at greater peril. I have no idea why, but people who can’t drive and have no desire to learn seem to gravitate to these cars.)

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    You can pick ANY silver or gray coupe – they all look alike anyway, and only car-savvy people can tell the make or model anymore.

  • avatar
    millerluke

    Dodge Journey. It looks like every other minivan/CUV/wagon on the road. I think it might be one of the few vehicles sold today that has nothing distinctive about it.

  • avatar
    denster2u

    Well, if you want a vehicle with anonymity, but doesn’t drive like an appliance, you can’t go wrong a VW Golf or Jetta.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    You guys need to think outside the box more. Horse-drawn buggy, simple, two wheels, slow moving vehicle sign/orange triangle on the back end, dress in black pants and a black jacket (no buttons), grow your beard out and look, you know… PLAIN. The dragnet will be looking for a car and you’ll slip right through everybody.

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