The window sticker displays the mileage ratings for an unsold...

The window sticker displays the mileage ratings for an unsold 2007 Prius hybrid sedan at a Toyota dealership in the southeast Denver suburb of Centennial, Colo. (Feb. 25, 2007)

When a car or truck is built, it's issued a window sticker. Information on this sticker verifies its make, model and year and provides its suggested retail price -- thus, its "sticker price" -- and a comprehensive list of its standard and optional equipment. Below, the vital window sticker information.

Sticker price

The window sticker's primary piece of information is the vehicle manufacturer's suggested retail price, or MSRP, including the delivery charge. But remember, prices are often negotiable. Most dealers will sell a vehicle for somewhere between MSRP and its invoice price, which is usually higher than the dealer's actual cost for the automobile.

There are exceptions: high-demand models could actually sell for more than MSRP, while less-popular vehicles could be coaxed away for less than the invoice price. The delivery charge, however, is non-negotiable. In this case, the dealer is assessed the same amount as the customer.


Included with the year, make, model and trim level found along the top of each Monroney sticker, you'll find a listing of the vehicle's essential characteristics. These items include the engine's size, configuration and number of cylinders (whether it's powered by a 2.4-liter inline-four-cylinder or a 3.0-liter V-6, for instance), as well as the transmission type and the number of forward gears. The vehicle's drive system (two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive) is also listed here.

This part of the sticker also lists interior and exterior colors. Some cars may offer more than one version of even the most basic colors. Knowing the exact nomenclature can come in handy should you ever need to have bodywork performed.

You'll also find the model's vehicle identification number listed at the top of the sticker. Check to make sure it corresponds with the VIN that's affixed to the driver's side of the dashboard, adjacent to the windshield. It if doesn't, consider another vehicle.

Standard equipment

On the left side of every new-vehicle window sticker, you'll find a thorough rundown of the model's standard features and its trim level. Most models come in two or more different trim levels, with higher-priced versions having more standard features such as upgraded engines and/or suspensions, larger wheels and tires, and an enhanced interior. For instance, the Honda Accord has three trim levels: DX, LX and EX.

This list will display tire size and wheel type (steel, aluminum, alloy, etc.), braking system (whether it's a front disc/rear drum or a four-wheel-disc setup, and if it includes antilock brakes) and safety features (front, side-impact and side curtain-type airbags; three-point rear seat belts; traction control or stability control; and so on).

Other information includes the model's standard audio hardware, climate control (dual-zone air conditioning or an air-filtration system), seating (60/40-split folding rear seats, power/heated front seats, cloth or leather upholstery), lighting (auto-on headlamps, theater-dimming interior lights and/or xenon high-intensity-discharge headlamps) and power accessories (windows, door locks, mirrors, moonroof and so on).

On some stickers, the standard equipment portion details the general terms of the manufacturer's warranty coverage for that model, expressed in months or years and thousands of miles (36 months/36,000 miles, for instance). This includes comprehensive coverage, which applies to parts and labor costs for covered repairs; powertrain coverage, which applies to such major mechanical components as the engine, transmission and axles; corrosion coverage, which applies to body panels that have completely rusted through; and roadside assistance, which rivals the benefits of auto-club memberships.

Optional equipment

Optional equipment is listed on the right side of the window sticker, including any pertinent option groups and packages. The options actually installed on the vehicle will be listed, along with the suggested prices for each.

Though not in every case, the aggregate price of all items in an options package will usually be discounted compared with buying each accessory individually. If this occurs, the applicable discount will be noted on the sticker. Even when an options group includes a factory discount, its transaction price is still negotiable at the dealer level.

Fuel economy information

The EPA mandates that a vehicle's fuel economy information must be disclosed to buyers, so mileage ratings usually appear on the window sticker. Trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 8,500 pounds (including large sport utility vehicles like the Hummer H2 and Cadillac Escalade) are exempt from this rule.

This data includes a vehicle's estimated fuel economy for city, highway and combined city/highway driving. The projected annual fuel costs for the vehicle are also included, and these numbers give the range of how other vehicles in its class fare for comparison.

Your mileage may vary from these posted figures. Fuel economy tests are conducted in a laboratory, and final results are calculated based on a formula of 55 percent city and 45 percent highway driving. Although EPA estimates may not be completely accurate, they provide at least a relative measurement for comparison purposes. In 2007, the EPA updated its testing procedure. The new numbers are based on more realistic driving conditions -- higher speeds, faster acceleration, air conditioning and colder temperatures.

Passenger cars that receive a combined city/highway rating of 22.5 mpg or less are assessed a gas-guzzler tax of at least $1,000 (and up to $7,700), which will also be noted on the window sticker. Pickups, vans and SUVs remain exempt from gas-guzzler taxes.

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