Understanding The Window Sticker On Your New Car

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The lowdown on the ubiquitous Monroney sticker.

Read in this article:

What is a Monroney Label?

Since 1958, the Monroney sticker has been compulsory on every new car weighing 10,000 pounds or less sold in the USA, whether it's a Toyota Prius, a Ford Focus, or a Ram 1500. But what is a Monroney label, actually? It is a car window sticker, required by law to be displayed on all new cars for sale that contains detailed information about the vehicle. It shows, among others, its price, optional equipment, fuel, economy, and safety ratings. The Monroney sticker has eased the car-buying process by providing:

  • An accurate way to compare car models
  • Pricing transparency
  • All the critical information to make a buying decision in one place
  • Easy identification of all the top cars on the lot that are likely to suit a buyer's needs
Monroney Sticker Lookup Ford

Where Does the Monroney Car-Window Sticker Come From?

Oklahoma senator Almer Stillwell Monroney was the driving force to get the legislation passed that made the sticker compulsory. The label became law, mandated by the Automobile Disclosure Act of 1958 that requires open disclosure of vehicle equipment, capabilities, and pricing. This is to protect consumers from being taken advantage of.

The Details Listed on Vehicle-Window Stickers

For the buyer's protection and convenience, the below information must appear on all vehicle window stickers:

  • Model information. This section covers the model's basic information, such as the model year, engine specs and transmission, trim level, and the interior and exterior colors.
  • The standard equipment fitted. The standard equipment is listed in this section, ie. the original equipment included off the factory floor. This list should be the same on all models in the specific trim level.
  • The optional equipment fitted. This section will differ by car and lists only the optional extras fitted by the manufacturer on the specific vehicle to which the sticker is affixed - and their cost.
  • Information about the warranty. Not only the duration/mileage of the bumper-to-bumper warranty from the carmaker is listed here, but also additional/extended cover, such as drivetrain warranties, roadside assistance, and maintenance plans.
  • Information on pricing. This section contains detailed pricing information, with a breakdown of how the base MSRP, options, fees, destination charges, and other fees make up the total price of the vehicle. Sometimes the total price is shown here; sometimes, it's in its own section entirely.
  • Parts content information. This section contains information about where the vehicle was built, often supplemented with information about which countries the parts come from.
  • The specific model's fuel economy. The section of the label states fuel economy information, with EPA-rated figures presented in miles per gallon (MPG and MPGe) in city/highway/combined format. Relevant emissions information is also added, and a QR code may be displayed here, too. Scanning the QR code with a QR reader on your smartphone takes you to fueleconomy.gov's mobile website, displaying comprehensive information on the scanned vehicle.
  • The car's safety information. The NHTSA's safety ratings of the specific model are displayed here and sometimes the vehicle's performance in IIHS safety tests too. This section is left blank if the car has not been tested.
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WindowSticker Ford

Finding any Monroney Sticker by VIN

There are online tools that you can use to enter any vehicle's VIN to access its full Monroney label. How to get a window sticker from a VIN number is even easier with a smartphone - there are smartphone apps available that can retrieve the Monroney sticker by VIN within moments. With these, you don't even have to type in the VIN manually; you can simply scan the VIN barcode and do the Monroney sticker lookup this way.

Monroney Sticker Ford

Conclusion

Monroney stickers for cars have become the most important piece of information on new cars for sale as they ensure complete transparency about the car's specifications and price. This helps to ensure that you are not swindled when buying a vehicle. Monroney decals are not required on pre-owned cars, but a similar sticker called a Buyer's Guide sticker is, and it shows similar info as well as potential issues to note.

The Monroney label allows you to compare apples with apples on the showroom floor, so you know what you pay for. Our tips in this post should help you decipher the window sticker with ease, and make buying a new car easier. For more guidance on buying a car, read our article about the process here.

FAQs

Where can I find my car’s VIN?

The VIN can be found on the Monroney decal, on the dashboard when viewed through the windscreen, or on your insurance card. We discuss everything VIN-related here.

Do used cars get Monroney decals?

No, Monroney stickers are only attached to brand-new cars. However, the used-car replacement for the Monroney label is the Buyer's Guide sticker. It must, by federal law, contain warranty information (length, duration, terms, systems covered, potential issues, etc.) and show that the used car is sold as is. Wisconsin and Maine have used-car sticker rules that differ from federal law.

Where do I find the Monroney sticker?

By law, the window sticker must be attached to the inside of any new car's side window, easily visible to anyone wanting to know details of the car.

What do I have to pay for a mobile app that can retrieve a Monroney sticker?

There are plenty of completely free apps available that can do this, so you don't have to pay anything to get access to this type of vehicle information. Check your smartphone's specific app store for more information.

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