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How to Read a Window Sticker

While you shop for a new car, one of the main things you'll be doing is keeping an eye on the sticker price. Dealers are required to post certain information on the "window sticker," this information is also referred to as a "specification sheet."

What's on a Window Sticker?

A quick review of the components of the window sticker will help you understand exactly what you will be seeing:

Vehicle description:
This top section will give you the year, make, model and VIN number of this particular vehicle. It also lists the size and weight of the car, engine size, passenger capacity, color, body style, interior treatment, and kind of transmission.

Standard equipment:
Here is where you will find the type of basic equipment that comes standard on this car. These features listed will detail features such as air conditioning and heating, safety belts, sound systems and length of warrantee.

Manufacturer suggested retail price:
The manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) is rather like a subtotal. This is the price of the vehicle before the destination charges and any optional equipment included on this particular vehicle.

Optional equipment:
Within this section, you will find what special features this specific car comes equipped with, including such things as: sport packages; tilt steering wheels; cruise control; arm rests; power windows; floor mats; specialized brakes; and air bags. This is where the price usually escalates quickly; if you don't want these special features, ask to see a barebones model.

Destination charges:
This fee is the cost of shipping the vehicle from the manufacturing plant to the dealership. While this cost is passed along to the buyer and there is no way to get around it, this fee should be the same on all stickers at the same dealership.

Fuel economy:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines the standards for mileage ratings. Listed on the window sticker will be both the highway and city mileage per gallon (MPG). Remember that these numbers are estimates only and many factors go into the gas mileage you will actually receive.

Total retail price:
The total retail price includes the standard features, the optional equipment, the MSRP, and destination charges. Remember that this number does not include all applicable taxes, car registration, or title fees.

You can learn a lot about new cars once you decipher all the information that is found on a dealer's car window sticker.

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