Starting with the 2013 model year, you will see a new and more informative gas-mileage sticker on the window of new cars for sale.
There are several changes, both graphic and informational, that are meant to provide consumers with more information so they can make more informed choices among different new-car alternatives.
One we applaud is the larger "combined mileage" number, which is a more realistic estimate of the overall gas mileage that any car will return over time in mixed use.
The earlier design had a small combined number, almost hidden, and much larger City and Highway ratings. The eye was naturally drawn to the highway rating, whereas now, the most prominent number is the most realistic one.
Instead of the old sticker's "estimated annual fuel cost" figure, there's a new number showing how much extra money you'll have to pay or how much the car will save you in fuel costs, compared to the "average" new vehicle sold--which the EPA pegs for 2013 at 22 miles per gallon. The annual cost is still there, but now it's downplayed.
EPA gas-mileage label (window sticker), design used from 2008 through 2012Enlarge Photo
Finally, we're delighted that the EPA has taken one small step toward displaying a vehicle's fuel consumption--the fuel it uses to cover a given distance--which is directly proportional to fuel cost, unlike the nonlinear miles-per-gallon measurement that U.S. buyers have been accustomed to.
Each label also now includes a QR code that you can scan with a smartphone to pull up more detailed information on the specific vehicle and its fuel consumption.
There are also two new variations of the 2013 label, one for plug-in hybrid vehicles and the other applying to battery electric cars.
The process of arriving at the new design was not without controversy; the EPA had originally proposed two designs, including one with a letter grade that ranked the car's fuel efficiency from "A" (the grade for vehicles that plugged in to run on grid electricity) down to "D" for the thirstiest sport utilities and supercars.
That design was widely loathed by auto dealers and carmakers, who exerted enough pressure that the entire concept of a letter grade was dropped.
The EPA has put out a somewhat superficial video of less than a minute (0:52) that gives an overview of the new labels--you can watch it here--but Consumer Reports got Transportation secretary Ray LaHood on camera to give a longer and more informative walkthrough of all three new label variations.
If for some reason, the embedded video doesn't load, you can also watch it at the link below.