Can I Interest You in a Used Car? DOE/EPA Release New Fuel Economy Tool For Used Cars

, director of Clean Vehicles | September 13, 2013, 11:38 am EDT
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If you’ve been following auto industry news of late, you already know that new car sales in the U.S. are hitting heights they haven’t seen in years. This is certainly good news for the auto companies and auto dealers – but it’s also good news for consumers, as more efficient vehicle choices roll into showrooms thanks to the ramping up of fuel economy standards over the last several years.

New car buyers not only have more choices, but also have better information on which to base their new car purchase decisions, thanks to improved fuel economy labels developed by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011. So where does that leave someone looking to purchase a used car? Out of luck, when it comes to good information on how far that vehicle can go on a gallon of gas and what that might mean in terms of global warming emissions. That is, until yesterday.

Used car economy tool.

The DOE and the EPA just released a tool that helps evaluate the fuel economy of used vehicles.

The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency just announced the release of a new fuel economy tool for used vehicles. You can check it out at Consumers looking to purchase a used car, and auto dealers and individuals looking to sell, can use the tool to estimate the fuel economy and global warming emissions of any vehicle, based on the original EPA fuel economy estimate of that vehicle. The tool then generates a label with this information; the electronic version can be linked to online advertisements and a paper version can be printed and posted on a vehicle window. The tool is easy to use and it only takes about 30 seconds to get this important information – as I learned when I tried it out myself!

This new tool will help consumers find a used car that can save them money at the pump, reduce their oil use, and their global warming pollution – really a classic win-win-win situation. According to the Consumer Federation of America, some 75% of car buyers in the market choose used vehicles. With so many potential customers, the real question is whether these new labels will actually be put to use by used car dealers. As fuel economy standards increase over the next several years, so too will the value of accessible information about the fuel economy performance of vehicles in both the new and used car markets. But consumers can’t benefit from information they don’t know exists. Auto dealers have a great new tool in their toolbox – let’s hope they use it.

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  • Michelle –

    The fuel economy labels implemented in the 2013 model year removed extremely valuable information that existed in previous model years. Specifically, the good folks in Washington took away the city and highway ranges that were printed in tiny type underneath the big bold numbers. Why the EPA would do this is anyone’s guess. Why wouldn’t they want consumers to see that their mileage will always vary (YMMV!) depending on driving conditions and style?

    I wrote this up a year ago, when I first discovered it ( ), but these facts have been ignored by the media and lobbies, alike.

    It should come as no surprise that these “new” used car labels fail to provide the detailed range information that was present on the original window stickers. The label tool is VERY cool, but it should provide the FULL information that was printed on the original Monroney labels.

    Over the past five years, I’ve proven that many vehicles can exceed the big bold numbers when driven conscientiously. In some instances, the can do so by a considerable amount.

    We should encourage folks to save fuel. Not discourage it.

    In addition, the UCS should take note of the opportunities that exist to increase the fuel efficiency of older vehicles through ‘mindful maintenance’ and inexpensive aftermarket modifications. Low rolling resistance tires, synthetic fluids, and OBDII driver feedback devices are at the core of my current research (a.k.a. “Ain’t Fuelin'”).

    What if we could improve the fuel efficiency of 50% of the older vehicles on American road by a modest 10%?

    All the Best,
    Daniel Gray