Don’t Believe the Mileage Rating on the Window Sticker

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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,” 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.

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Comments & discussion

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  • Terry Sanders

    It’s inevitable that the obscene salaries paid to key players will leak to fees for those who choose to support this practice. You want to watch some hulk who gets paid more than all the teachers combined in his state? The shut up and pay for it.

    • stefen69

      This incoherent rant has nothing to do with this article.

  • stefen69

    This is most likey a cause of people having lead foots and not knowing how to drive. I drive an 08 Civic Si. Pretty sporty, high compression engine. The sticker says 27 city, 31 hwy mpg. If I drive the car in a spirited manner, I may get 28 combined city/hwy. Since I have matured a bit and realized that I dont have to race everyone to the speed limit after a readlight, and the speed limit is usually sufficient for my traveling needs, I get, on average 31 mpg combined. On straight hwy trips, I am pushing 35 mpg.
    As for hybrids, any time I see a Prius, its flying by at 75mph. No wonder they dont get the mileage the sticker says.