An EPA sticker for a plug-in hybrid

If you're shopping for a new car, it's easy to find the estimated miles per gallon rating -- it's staring you right in the face in the window sticker that's required on all new cars.

If you're one of 40 million consumers buying a used car each year, on the other hand, you may have to dig deeply to find the information -- although car dealers are being given the opportunity, starting today, to provide easy-to-understand information about the fuel efficiency of the cars and trucks in their used inventory.

A new online tool from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) makes it easy for dealers to create consumer-friendly labels that list the gas mileage and the CO2 emissions levels of used vehicles sold in the United States since 1984.

“Providing gas mileage information to consumers will be a giant step forward in protecting American pocketbooks, addressing the nation’s dependence on oil, and reducing pollution,” said Jack Gillis, Consumer Federation of America’s Director of Public Affairs and author of The Car Book.

Currently, seventy-five percent of car buyers in the market choose to buy used vehicles. Because the information is hard to find, very few have any idea of the fuel economy of the vehicles they are considering.

“Consumers who are in the dark about a vehicle’s fuel economy are buying blind. They don’t know how much they’ll have to spend on gas until they’ve already made a significant purchase and a potentially costly mistake,” said Gillis.

The information is available online but many consumers don't have access to the Internet when they're looking at cars, or simply don't think to look there. We went to and did a comparison of four admittedly profligate cars just to see how the online system works.


Optional for now

The new labeling tool is currently being offered to dealers as an optional resource, but that could change if dealers fail to adopt this easy-to-use consumer information program.

“Used car dealers are being given the chance to jump on one of the most important rating programs available. If they fail to provide their customers with this easy-to-access information, the Consumer Federation of America will push hard to mandate the labels on every used car,” said Gillis.

A powerful tool for car buyers, the new labels will also motivate carmakers to move quickly to meet recent federal standards to increase the average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg by the year 2025.

Why? Dealers know that consumers these days are scrambling to buy higher mileage cars and they want the used models of their vehicles to maintain their value. 

“Vehicle fuel efficiency is an increasingly critical factor for car buyers and, if the dealers take simple steps to inform buyers, American families will reward them with their dollars for the most fuel efficient used cars,” said Gillis.  


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