When car shopping, the window sticker of a vehicle is supposed to provide information about the car. Among the list of options, features, prices, and details, you’ll find the vehicle’s fuel cost estimates. This uses the EPA fuel economy rating to estimate what you’ll spend annually and over the course of five years on gasoline. However, it seems that those numbers are nowhere near accurate for the time being.

The fuel cost estimates are so far off because they reflect gas prices from two years ago

dealership fuel cost estimates are way off, says consumer reports

A dealership window sticker | Brandon Bell/Getty Images

It’s easy to assume that the discrepancy between the estimates and actual costs is because of the rapid increase in gas prices in 2022. However, that isn’t quite the full story. Luckily, Consumer Reports has the full inside scoop on the way these estimates come to be.

CR states that the figures are off by so much because of the way these numbers are generated. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides these figures for automakers to include on window stickers two years in advance. So, for 2023 model year vehicles, the EPA calculated these costs in November 2021 and provided them to auto manufacturers in December 2021.

dealership fuel cost estimates are way off, says consumer reports

Gas pump | Getty Images

Considering the fact that gas is over 60 percent higher than it was this time last year, this can make for some pretty substantial discrepancies. CR even did a bit of calculating and found that some vehicles’ five-year estimates are off by over $10,000. That means you’d be spending over $2,000 more per year at current gas prices than the window sticker estimates.

Specific examples include the 2022 Subaru WRX and the 2022 Ford Maverick. The WRX’s window sticker shows an estimated five-year fuel cost of $3,410. However, with current gasoline prices (and considering the WRX uses premium gasoline), the actual number is more like $19,430. So, the estimate is off by over $11,000. Similarly, the Maverick has a discrepancy in the estimate of over $5,000, with its grand total coming in at $10,135 instead of the advertised $4,765.

There is, however, a way to get a more accurate estimate of the cost.

Here’s how to see more accurate estimates when car shopping

dealership fuel cost estimates are way off, says consumer reports

Gasoline and diesel prices | Getty

Thankfully, the EPA does keep updated estimate figures on its website. So, car shoppers can still reference that website to see what overall fuel cost estimates look like with current gas prices. Additionally, window stickers on new cars feature a QR code that shoppers can scan with their smartphone to take them directly to the EPA fuel economy webpage for that specific vehicle.

Additionally, Consumer Reports keeps track of estimated fuel prices, too. CR updates its numbers any time the average price of gas shifts by more than 50 cents.

Ultimately, there are multiple ways to ensure you’re seeing a proper fuel price estimate if you’re shopping for a new car. Just remember, the number you see on the window sticker is out of date by two years. So, when shopping for a new car at any time, if there’s been a drastic change in gas prices in the past two years, you’ll need to dive in a little further to get accurate estimates.

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