Almer Monroney, who went by Mike, may be the best friend you have never met. He was, in fact, a politician. It was Monroney, a Senator from Oklahoma, who in 1958 authored the Automobile Information Disclosure Act. From this action, it became a law that certain vehicle information must be affixed to the window of all new cars. It was the beginning of what we now know as the “window sticker” on new vehicles. This sheet of paper can be very helpful in your final choice of vehicles.
Most consumers, who walk up to a new vehicle to look at the window sticker, go straight to the bottom line price. When I attend auto shows, or walk into dealerships, I do the same thing. It is what we are all most interested in and curious about, but the truth is, there is a lot more information you should be looking at as well.
For instance, a car’s window sticker will not only tell you the EPA fuel economy estimates, but you can learn the estimated annual fuel costs, and how the car you are looking at stacks up against the average of all cars regarding your annual cost of fuel. You get the city, highway, and combined mileage of the vehicle, except in the case of three-quarter ton and larger trucks which are exempt from the EPA rules. It will tell you how many gallons of gas it will take to travel 100 miles, and of course it will tell you that your actual mileage may vary.
If the vehicle has been crash rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, those important ratings are on the window sticker too, with 5 Star being the top rating.
For those people worried about where the car was built and how many of the parts are made in America, that information is on the window sticker. For example, from the window sticker of the BMW X5 I reviewed recently, I can find out that 65% of the parts were made in Germany, and 5% of the parts were made in North America. The rest is unknown. I can also tell that the engine and transmission were made in Germany, and the vehicle was assembled in Spartenburg, South Carolina.
On every window sticker there are details of the different coverage of the factory warranty, including the bumper-to-bumper warranty, the powertrain coverage, how long you have roadside assistance, and emission coverage.
Other important things to note are the standard and optional equipment that is listed. You want to make sure that all the options are there that are listed on the window sticker, especially things that are easily removed. For instance, if the window sticker calls for 20” chrome wheels, you want to make sure the vehicle has those on there, or the window sticker price is invalid and you are not getting what you are paying for.
You hear me talk about rear axle ratios on the Car Pro Show all the time when talking to pickup buyers. The axle ratio will be on the window sticker, which is the time to ask questions about whether the rear axle ratio is better for towing or fuel economy. All the automakers that sell pickups and SUVs will having towing capacity or a towing guide on their website.
One new feature of window stickers is they have a QR Code on them you can read with your Smart phone, if you have a free app to read the codes. QR stands for quick response. Perhaps most helpful is that this code allows shoppers to instantaneously customize the information for their situation. QR apps are available for free and most are easy to operate.
As a savvy car shopper, you will want to spend time studying the Monroney sticker of any vehicle you get really interested in. Often, you can find window stickers online at the auto manufacturer’s website, and many dealership websites have the actual window sticker available to you, either on their website or it can be emailed to you. Study the window sticker: it will give you all the info you need for a good buying decision.