Car window stickers, explained | Pursuit

When buy new car, you may have noticed that, in addition to the price tag, there is a large car window sticker on most (if not all) vehicles on the lot. This sticker can tell potential buyers quite a bit, so let’s learn a little more about what it can tell you about your upcoming purchase.

What is a car window sticker?

Car window decals are required by law to be present on every new car listed for sale in the United States. They are formally known as Monroney labels, after the senator who advocated them as a way to make the car buying process more transparent to consumers. While most people usually only notice the gigantic price tag on a car, it can be very helpful to pay attention to Monroney labels. They provide you with a quick way to answer some of your own questions about the car.

How to read a new car window sticker

While the exact layout of these decals may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, here’s a quick rundown of how to read a new car window decal:

Model information:

In general, somewhere near the top of the label is information about the make and model of the vehicle. It usually also includes information about the car’s exterior and interior colors, trim levels, engine details, and powertrain layout.

Warranty information

Monroney labels must disclose warranty information. This includes details about your manufacturer’s warranties (such as the powertrain warranty, for example). If there are manufacturer’s roadside assistance or maintenance packages, they will also be listed here.

Equipment and options

There are sections of the Monroney label that list the equipment offered on that particular vehicle. This includes equipment already installed, such as security alarms, airbags and more. It also includes a list of optional equipment you can add, such as performance parts, upgraded wheels, or special services. Knowing the equipment and options in advance allows you to make more direct comparisons between different cars on the lot.


This section contains relevant details that affected the price of the car. This includes things like transportation costs to get the vehicle to the dealer and the price of any optional equipment. It may additionally offer a manufacturer’s recommended retail price (MSRP), but this may also exist as its own designated section.

Please note that the suggested retail price is only a manufacturer’s suggestion. Dealers may charge more or less than that price at their discretion. Despite this, it is still useful to know the MSRP as it can serve as a reference point during negotiations.

Fuel economy

The fuel economy section, also known as the EPA label, provides an estimate of the vehicle’s fuel economy and emissions. Fuel economy is usually shown in miles per gallon for highway and city driving, plus a “combined mileage.” This information can be a useful way to compare different cars on the lot. Trying to go green can also help you find cars with better efficiency and lower emissions.

Safety Ratings

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts annual safety tests on new cars. Cars are given star ratings based on the results, with five stars indicating the highest scores. Sometimes the car window sticker has additional ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Note that the NHTSA does not test every car on the market, so the safety section may be left blank. In this case, you may still be able to look up the car in the IIHS database.

Other types of car window stickers

Sometimes there are car window stickers that are not Monroney labels, but look the same. There are two main types of alternative labels you can see:

Additional labels

As the name suggests, these stickers contain additional information typical of the dealership, such as additional costs or dealer-supplied accessories already on the car.

Buying guide stickers

While the Monroney label is only required for new cars, most used cars have their own version: the Buyer’s Guide sticker. This is similar to the Monroney label, but also focuses more on warranty details, such as what is covered and how much the dealer pays for repairs.


When you’re car shopping, information is your best friend. Car window decals like Monroney labels help potential buyers get a lot of crucial information about a car at a glance. They also let buyers rate different cars against the same criteria, for a more apples-to-apples comparison.