How to Read a New Car's Window Sticker

Look for these nine things on a Monroney label to better understand the car you’re buying.

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A car’s window sticker (also known as a Monroney label) is more than a simple price tag—it actually gives new-vehicle shoppers a lot of useful information about the car or truck for sale.

Here are nine things you should to know how to read on new vehicles’ windows:

1. Vehicle Identification

By law, each Monroney sticker is printed for a specific vehicle. That’s why a window sticker will not only describe the make, model, trim level, paint color, and powertrain of the vehicle in question, but also provide a specific vehicle identification number (VIN). The sticker should match up with the vehicle it’s attached to—if the details listed aren’t in line with the actual car or truck (the wrong VIN, for example), exercise extreme caution.

2. Standard Equipment

Each Monroney label starts with a list of features and equipment included with the vehicle’s base price.

3. Optional Equipment

Optional features or equipment—which likely carry additional costs—are itemized in this section. Although vehicles usually leave the factory already equipped with most of the listed options, some accessories are ordered through the manufacturer then installed at the dealership. If you’re buying a vehicle with dealer-installed options, make sure they’re in place before heading home with your new car or truck.


Window stickers were created to clarify vehicle pricing, which they do by breaking down the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the vehicle and its options, along with the applicable destination charges (i.e., the cost to ship a vehicle from factory to dealership and prepare it for customer delivery). That said, factory-produced window stickers won’t include details like available incentives, sales tax, or titling and registration fees—all of which can affect a vehicle’s final purchase price.

5. Addendum Stickers

Dealers add secondary addendum labels to cover non-factory extras they may have added (like fabric protection and alarm systems), in addition to “market adjustment surcharges.” Be careful; sometimes these addendum labels look very similar to the official window sticker. Don’t mistake the price they list for the MSRP, which will be on the official Monroney.

6. Warranty Information

Window stickers also list how an automaker warranties a new vehicle, and usually spell out the terms of applicable comprehensive bumper-to-bumper coverage, as well as powertrain-specific coverage.

7. Where It’s All From

Most window stickers indicate where a vehicle was assembled, along with how many of its parts were sourced from within the U.S. and Canada—valuable information if you care about the origin of your car or truck.

8. Fuel Efficiency

With the exception of heavy-duty trucks and vans above a certain weight class, new vehicles are required to show Environmental Protection Agency estimates for city, highway, and combined fuel economy. Because your driving habits and cycles will inevitably vary from the agency’s test procedure, these figures are best used to compare the fuel efficiency of different models, not as a guide to your own fuel-consumption figures. Window stickers for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids offer an estimated fuel economy rating in MPGe—a calculated attempt to provide an equivalent rating—along with estimated range and energy consumption per 100 miles.

9. Safety Ratings

If a vehicle was tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s New Car Assessment Program at the time of production, the window sticker will provide ratings for frontal- and side-impact testing, rollover performance, and an overall score. Five-star ratings represent the best score possible.

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Evan McCausland
Car, truck, train, or bus—if a vehicle has wheels, chances are Evan McCausland is interested in it. More importantly, he’s interested in helping others learn more about cars and trucks, especially when it comes time to make a decision on their next vehicle purchase. For nearly two decades, he’s been fortunate to have the opportunity to do just that, writing for major automotive publications, automotive clubs, and automakers alike.