Don’t Believe the Mileage Rating on the Window Sticker

Forty-seven miles per gallon? Yeah, right. The figure automakers tout is rarely what drivers actually get in normal driving conditions.


Average fuel economy for new cars is at an all-time high, but maybe not as high as you think.

Cars sold in August get an average of 24.9 miles per gallon, based on their window sticker ratings, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute says. Too bad the sticker is often a rough estimate based on ideal conditions.

“If you are a Casper Milquetoast driver and hyper-miler, the last through an intersection and always driving below the speed limit, you could get really close,” Edmunds.com analyst John O’Dell told the Detroit Free Press. “The rule of thumb is to take 10 percent off the sticker for a gasoline engine and 20 percent off for hybrids.”

You can learn about hypermiling techniques that will bring you closer to that best-case-scenario sticker number in our story, “How to Increase Your Gas Mileage by 70 Percent.”

Automakers are eager to show off mileage improvements, but they sometimes get in trouble when their cars don’t live up to the numbers.

“Kia and Hyundai were forced to lower fuel economy numbers on several vehicle models after an EPA investigation found them to be inflated and unrealistic,” Time says. Honda was sued over Civic hybrid mileage, and Ford recently had to lower its C-Max hybrid claims from 47 mpg to 43.

On the other hand, readers writing in response to the Detroit Free Press story said their mileage stickers were accurate. And even if the stickers are wrong, they’re still a good basis for comparison when you’re car shopping, O’Dell told the Free Press.

Does your car get the mileage you were promised? Let us know on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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