When you’re shopping for a big-ticket item like a new car, you probably want to know exactly what you’re getting for your money. And when you’re on the dealership lot, that’s when the window sticker is of great help.
Known in the auto industry as the Monroney sticker, the window sticker is a white label containing essential information about the vehicle that must, by law, be displayed on the windshield or side window of all new cars sold in the United States.
To be specific, that means every new vehicle under 8,500 pounds, and it shouldn’t be removed before the vehicle is sold. Fines and other fees and penalties can be charged if the sticker is missing or altered illegally.
Almer Stillwell Monroney, a senator from Oklahoma, who was also known as Mike, is the man we have to thank for the window sticker. Monroney sponsored the Automobile Information Disclosure Act of 1958, which became law in July that year. Let’s take a look at the information the sticker now contains.
How to read a Monroney sticker
A new-car window sticker includes the following key pieces of information to help car shoppers evaluate a specific vehicle at a glance:
Manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) – The “sticker price”
As it sounds, this is the price the automaker recommends the vehicle is sold for, and it has become known as the sticker price. It’s different to the factory invoice price, which is what the dealer paid the automaker for the vehicle. The dealership may sell the car for more or less than the MSRP.
Engine and transmission specifications
These include the size of the engine and the number of cylinders it contains, and whether the transmission is automatic or manual and how many gears it has. For example, you might see the Monroney sticker on a new Ford Explorer listing 3.5-liter V6, six-speed automatic.
Standard equipment and warranty
This part lets you know exactly what comes as standard on the particular vehicle the sticker is attached to. It will include mechanical and performance information such as whether the car has power steering and what kind of wheels it has. It will also detail interior features, like an audio system with a touch-screen and six speakers, and exterior features which might include power-folding side mirrors, for example. Safety features, such as airbags, will be listed too.
The window sticker also notes the type of warranty offered, such as a basic, powertrain, unlimited or roadside assistance warranty, and there may be additional details like whether a complimentary loan car is provided during services.
Optional equipment and pricing
You’ll be able to see what the optional extras are and the price suggested by the manufacturer for each. Optional equipment can include the likes of a navigation system or premium trim package. The options and pricing section also shows the price of the vehicle including the options, plus a destination charge, which is the cost of transporting the vehicle from the automaker to the dealership.
Fuel economy and environmental information – The EPA sticker
The section headed “Fuel economy and environment,” sometimes called the EPA sticker, is a prominent part of the Monroney sticker. It contains ratings for fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants that cause smog, and was redesigned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to help consumers reduce fuel costs, harmful emissions, and enable them to compare vehicles more easily. The updated window sticker came into effect on 2013-model-year cars.
The fuel economy information displays combined, city and highway miles per gallon (MPG) figures, the annual fuel cost, how much you will save or spend on fuel over five years compared to the average new vehicle, fuel economy and vehicle emissions ratings (where the higher the rating means the cleaner the car), and a quick response (QR) code which shoppers can scan with smartphones to learn more and use tools to personalize their estimates.
The EPA label provides miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe) figures for electric and hybrid cars to help consumers compare the fuel economy of these vehicles with gas and diesel-powered cars.
Where data is available, safety ratings from the NHTSA will be included on a five-star scale. Ratings are given for the vehicle’s performance in frontal, side and rollover crashes, along with an overall vehicle safety score. Not all vehicles are graded by the government in this way, so the box on the sticker might be blank. Rest assured that all vehicles must meet certain government safety standards, however.
A new-car window sticker includes other details besides these points, with basics like the make, model and vehicle identification number on display, as well as information about where the car was assembled and its parts made, for example.
What about used cars? Understanding the Buyers Guide
Monroney labels only apply to new cars but there is something similar for pre-owned vehicles. The Buyers Guide is a used-car window sticker that’s enforced by the Federal Trade Commission’s Used Car Rule, requiring dealers to display the guide on all used models offered for sale.
The guide tells car shoppers whether the vehicle comes with a warranty from the dealer or is being sold “as is.” If a warranty is offered, the Buyers Guide must show its terms and conditions including length of coverage, which vehicle systems it covers and how much of the repair costs the dealer will pay. It includes other pieces of information such as the main mechanical and electrical systems in the car, potential problems to look out for, and advises consumers to get the car inspected by a mechanic, to get all promises in writing, and to keep the guide for reference if they buy the vehicle. Dealers in Maine and Wisconsin are exempt from the Used Car Rule and have to display alternative guides.
Financing for new and used cars
If you need financing for your next new or used vehicle, apply for an auto loan online with RoadLoans. We accept applications from consumers with all credit types and provide instant decisions. Qualified applicants can get preapproved and visit the dealership to shop while knowing the exact terms of their auto loan approval.
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