Reading a Window Sticker

You might be familiar with the term “sticker price,” but there is a lot more information available to you on a window sticker. You will find the standard options on the vehicle, the optional equipment added to that specific vehicle, estimated miles per gallon, annual fuel cost, comparisons to the average fuel cost, smog and gas ratings, and safety ratings. Every brand’s window sticker looks a little different. I’ve provided an example of what a Chrysler (Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep) and Ford window sticker look like at the bottom.

Looking on the Ford window sticker for instance, you’ll find all of the standard equipment that goes on any 2016 Ford Explorer Base model 4WD vehicle in the upper left hand corner. This means that any 2016 Ford Explorer Base Model 4WD vehicle, no matter where you find it, will have those features. Below these standard features (below the line on a Ford sticker) are optional features that this specific vehicle has. There are group packages* or standalone options available on most vehicles.

When comparing prices from dealership to dealership it is incredibly important to be able to understand how to read this portion of a window sticker. It is one of the biggest mistakes buyers make in the buying process. We have seen many times where a customer is looking at our vehicle, sees a feature on it, shops elsewhere, and thinks they are getting that vehicle cheaper at another dealership with all of the same features. For example, the Explorer window sticker provided shows that this specific vehicle has Sirius XM radio as equipment added to it over the standard base model. The XM radio costs an extra $195. A person might go to another dealership, not get the XM radio, get a price that’s $195 cheaper, and think they saved money at that dealership. If a person does not want XM radio, then they did save money, but what happens too often is that they bought the vehicle for $195 less THINKING they got XM radio only to find out later that they did not. This example is a pretty minor one, but imagine thinking you’re getting a rear view camera or navigation and you didn’t!

There are other things that might be important to you on the window sticker as well. You can see that the mpg estimate* on the Explorer are 19 combined, 16 city, and 23 highway on the upper right. Make sure you compare these 3 numbers equally and that you don’t mistakenly compare the city mileage on one vehicle to the highway mileage on another. You can also find an estimated cost for fuel in a year, and how much that vehicle’s gas will cost you more than the average new vehicle. Another piece of information is the smog rating and gas rating of that vehicle on a scale of 1 to 10. Anymore, unless it’s a hybrid or an electric vehicle it will not be very high.

Lastly are the safety ratings of the vehicle on the bottom right. These are all usually pretty high on vehicles anymore no matter the brand. That’s why you don’t see as many commercials about safety ratings anymore. There might be another reason for that though. I’ve been in the business for less than a year and we always get these reports on what the most important things are to a buyer in their search for a new vehicle. One of the things that always tops that list is safety features, yet in my time in the car business I have not had one single customer asks me about safety features in a vehicle like crash ratings, air bags, etc. Either car companies have figured this out or customers are catching onto the fact that, safety wise, these vehicles are all pretty well the same quality*.

Ford Window Sticker

Chrysler Window Sticker

NOTE: An * by text means that this item will be discussed further in a future blog post


One thought on “Reading a Window Sticker

  1. R Balke says:

    Very informative! I’ve always felt a little overwhelmed by the “sticker” on a vehicle. Thanks for the clarification on the various aspect of the window sticker. I will be better prepared the next time I go vechile shopping.


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