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The Amazing Monroney Window Sticker

I live in Wichita Falls,Tx with my overly tolerant wife. I attended Texas A&M (talk slow - I'll catch up). I love cars & fast motorcycles.

A famous Hollywood movie star from days gone by? No, Mike Monroney, the guy responsible for that sticker on the window of every new car.

A famous Hollywood movie star from days gone by? No, Mike Monroney, the guy responsible for that sticker on the window of every new car.

It is time to buy a new car. What is one of the most important things to look at? Why the Monroney sticker, of course!

The Monroney sticker is what they call that great big sticker on the side of every new car and light duty truck sold in the United States. You likely call it the “window sticker.”

It's basically a label that is required by the government to be displayed on all new automobiles. The sticker is required to list certain specific information set forth below. The sticker was named after Oklahoma Senator Almer Stillwell "Mike" Monroney, who sponsored the Automobile Information Disclosure Act of 1958. It mandated that certain information be openly made available to any prospective buyer.

The sticker was required to provide the following information:

  • The manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP)
  • Engine and transmission specifications
  • Standard equipment and warranty details
  • Optional equipment and pricing for the options

In more recent years additional requirements have been added. Now the sticker must also provide the fuel economy metrics provided by the EPA. This can be a great deal of information, particularly if you are looking at a hybrid, electric, natural gas, or other type of non-traditionally fueled vehicles. There are special stickers for many of these types of vehicles.

Additionally, the sticker now provides more than just city and highway mileage figures. Clearly posted is information concerning the fuel efficiency and details on the greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution information. The sticker must also provide the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s crash test ratings.

A typical modern window sticker

A typical modern window sticker

So that is the basics of the window sticker. It was originally mandated to provide shoppers with basic information in a clear and standardized format. Since then it has evolved to provide more comprehensive information about efficiency, fuel costs, and air pollution. The process has been evolving for years and was recently overhauled. Focus groups and government agencies worked out the best way to present the information in both straight numbers and small graphs or charts to visually provide information.

As more and more cars are relying upon non-traditional fuels they had to develop a means to compare these vehicles. Miles per gallon of gas is an exceptionally poor metric for an electric car. It was a long and slow process, but eventually a solution was reached. The new metric is miles per gallon equivalent or MPGe. The new labels will have 3 or 4 different tools for the consumer to compare. As energy consumption and emissions becomes more and more important to customers, it is good to know that the information is readily available.

Another change is that the newer stickers will indicate the amount of fuel needed to drive 100 miles. The idea is to provide consumers with a better number for using in comparisons between vehicles. The EPA has long been dissatisfied with the miles per gallon technique as it is simply not very accurate and poorly designed for comparing different vehicle’s economic performance.

Finally, they are adding a QR code. That is that funny little 1-inch box with the dots in it. You can scan that into your phone and actually enter your personal driving habits and see some real-world application of the data on the sticker – as it applies to you.

That is not everything there is to know about the window sticker – but it gives you some history and hopefully will get you to look at it and use the information that is there for evaluating various models.

the-amazing-monroney-sticker-window-sticker

So, next time you are car shopping, take a minute and look at all the information that is provided. If you are concerned about emissions there is great comparative information right there. Are gas costs more important to you? Well, they are there and presented in different formats to give you multiple tools to use in comparing various models. Is safety number one on your priorities? The various test results are there and presented in an easy one-star to five-star system, that can be used in determining which car or truck is right for you.

I personally think it is great that the information is right there on the window. The internet is awesome and provides an endless amount of information. That information takes time to locate and may not be in a form that is usable for comparisons between vehicles. With the window sticker you have immediate access to information that is presented in a standard format. That is good for you. Although if they keep adding things to the sticker, sooner or later it will cover the whole side of the car.

And just for fun, why not ask your salesperson to see the Monroney sticker. It might give you a good indicator as to how long that salesperson has been in the business. It will also tell them right from the start that you know something about cars and the buying process.