Reading (and understanding) a window sticker

Consumers shopping for new cars are no doubt familiar with the stickers plastered on the side windows of vehicles at dealerships. These stickers are loaded with information and are designed to describe the vehicle and its various options. Learning to read the window sticker in depth can help guide vehicle purchases and give consumers a good understanding of the vehicles they’re considering.

The window sticker, known to auto industry professionals as the Monroney label, is required by law to be the same across all manufacturers in regard to the information it includes. However, the automotive resource Edmunds notes that the layout of the sticker can vary depending on the automaker.

The following is some of the information shoppers will find on the window sticker, as well as a rundown of what that information means.

Model information: The top of the sticker will contain the model information, which includes the model, year and style of the vehicle. Also included are the engine size and the type of transmission. Exterior and interior colors also will be included.

MSRP: One of the prominent components of the window sticker will be the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. This does not necessarily represent the amount a buyer will spend on the car, nor is it what the dealer paid for the vehicle, which is the invoice price, says Cars.com. Many buyers try to negotiate a price lower than the MSRP.

Standard equipment: This section of the window sticker lists all of the features and items included in the vehicle. Categories will include exterior, interior, safety/security, comfort/convenience, and mechanical/performance. This section can be used to compare vehicles of the same trim level.

Warranty information: The warranty information is usually found next to the standard equipment information, offers YourMechanic. This will include the comprehensive warranty and those specific to certain elements of the vehicle. This warranty information is what is included in the base price, although customers can purchase more extensive warranties if they choose to do so.

VIN: The vehicle identification number will be located on the sticker as well. The VIN on the sticker should match the one on the dashboard to ensure it is the right vehicle.

Optional equipment: This is a list of the factory-installed options, which may be bundled into packages, states Edmunds.

Mileage and safety: The window sticker also will showcase the fuel economy and environmental impact of the vehicle. Safety information may include ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. If the car was released before being rated, the sticker will indicate it has not yet been rated.

Vehicle consumers can consult the window sticker and make a list of the key features they desire in their new car or truck, and then compare them against similar features in other makes and models.