New Fuel Economy Labels: What You Need to Know

The new design of fuel economy labels can help you easily understand vehicles’ emissions, gas mileage and annual fuel costs, and how those metrics compare to the averages among the competition.   


By Shelley Stonebrook 

Car shopping involves many important decisions — but now you can see at a glance how efficient a given car is and how much you’ll save (or burn) on fuel. Thanks to a redesign of vehicle fuel efficiency labels by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, you can now more easily than ever compare efficiency numbers among vehicles. Amidst a fleet of new green car options and at a crucial time (economic concerns, global warming concerns), the new labels provide a no-nonsense view of what a prospective car will mean to you in terms of energy used and money spent.

Starting with 2013 models, the fuel economy labels will be required on all new passenger cars and trucks. Some automakers have voluntarily adopted the new labels for 2012 models. The labels for different types of cars — such as conventional gasoline-powered cars, diesel cars, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles — will vary slightly in their designs to better convey the unique information about each type. For instance, the label for electric vehicles includes the time it takes to fully charge the car’s batteries.

Quite a bit of info is packed onto these stickers. To help you get the most out of the new fuel economy labels, here are the nitty-gritty details you’ll find on those for three types of cars: gas-only, plug-in hybrid and electric. Note that for the purposes of the fuel economy labels, hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles that do not have plug-in capability — such as a standard Toyota Prius — are classified as gasoline vehicles.