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Car Window Sticker Inaccurate Fuel Cost Estimates Due To Gas Prices

We found significant differences in the estimated costs shown on the window stickers of our recently tested cars compared to what owners will actually be facing right now. Below, we break down three examples of cars purchased in the last month and explain how the numbers are generated.

For the sticker, the EPA assumes a car travels 15,000 miles, and the calculation is based on its combined MPG rating, merging city and highway test results. The average miles used in the comparison found in the fine print on each label are based on vehicles for that model year, using a specific gas price.

For 2022 models, window decals say the new average car gets 27 mpg and costs $6,500 over five years. The 2022 cars quoted below use a price of $2.35 per gallon, despite the Subaru WRX using more expensive premium gasoline.

By contrast, our 2023 Acura Integra’s window sticker says the average new car gets 28 mpg and costs $8,000 over five years, based on $3.65 a gallon.

For our calculations below, we rounded the current national gas price averages to $5 per gallon for regular and $5.70 for premium.

Ford Maverick 2022
EPA Combined Fuel Economy: 37 mpg on regular
Estimated annual fuel cost according to the EPA: $950
Five-year fuel cost estimate from the EPA: $4,765
Annual cost estimated at $5/gal: $2,030
Estimated cost over five years at $5/gal: $10,135
Five-year difference between window sticker and reality: $5,370

2022 Subaru WRX
EPA Combined Fuel Economy: 22 mpg bonus
Estimated annual fuel cost according to the EPA: $1,600
Five-year fuel cost estimate from the EPA: $3,410
Annual cost estimated at $5.70/gal: $8,010
Estimated cost over five years at $5.70/gal: $19,430
Five-year difference between window sticker and reality: $11,420

2023 Acura Integra
EPA Combined Fuel Economy: 32 mpg bonus
Estimated annual fuel cost according to the EPA: $1,700
Five-year fuel cost estimate from the EPA: $8,010
Annual cost estimated at $5.70/gal: $3,885,000
Estimated cost over five years at $5.70/gal: $19,430
Five-year difference between window sticker and reality: $11,420

When fuel prices are relatively stable, these labels are an excellent resource. For now, buyers are better off using the QR code and fueleconomy.gov. And like most things right now, be prepared to spend more than expected.