UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Auto manufacturers have been required since the 1970s to submit cars for testing by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for overall fuel economy ratings. These ratings are prominently displayed on the window stickers that manufacturers are required to place on all new cars.
While the EPA has changed the way cars are tested in a major way twice: once in the 1980s, and again in 2008, they’ve never provided information on testing of used cars, at least not until now, which may seem strange, since 80 percent of all car buyers are buying used cars, and only 20 percent of auto sales involve new cars. That is a 4:1 ratio, so it seems obvious there might have been some sort of demand for these sort of stickers in the past.
The EPA now offers an online tool at their fuel economy website that allows buyers and used car dealerships to view and print window stickers representing the EPA ratings for a used car’s EPA ratings on fuel economy. The only requirement is that the vehicle must be one that was sold in the United States since 1984, as the database currently only supports models dating back to that point in time.
According to the EPA, a car’s fuel economy changes very little over the course of its lifetime, as long as it is properly maintained. Thus, the EPA estimates of fuel economy can be an accurate representation of the gas milage one can expect to receive with a used automobile.
The window stickers show the fuel economy ratings established by the EPA during their testing process. It includes city, highway and combined fuel economy ratings. The stickers also include a photo of the vehicle and all of the information about the vehicle’s actual build statistics, like engine size, transmission type, and fuel type.
The used car window stickers also include a QR code, which can be scanned by many smart phones for more information about a car by linking a customer directly to the specific vehicle’s information on the EPA website. There they will find more detailed information, including data on the vehicle’s annual fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions.