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Will new EPA label save you money on your next car?

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Posted: 9 am ET

In a bid to have fuel economy numbers make a bigger impact on car-buying decisions, the EPA is considering upgrading the fuel economy sticker it requires on all new cars with a number of new features.

One version of the new sticker features a prominent letter grade as well as a dollar estimate of fuel cost and money saved over a less thrifty model, similar to the Energy Star label you'll find on appliances. The other version has a bar that pinpoints where the car fits in comparison to comparable models when it comes to mpg, greenhouse gases and other air pollutants

A version of the new EPA label for cars with a letter grade

A version of the new EPA label for cars with a letter grade

A version of the EPA label for cars with fuel economy bars

A version of the new EPA label for cars with fuel economy bars

The agency is taking public comments on the proposed labels, which would also include an estimate of the gallons a car would need to drive 100 miles.

I think these changes will do a good job bringing home the financial importance of fuel economy during a car-buying process that often focuses on less practical concerns like power and styling. After all, right now gas prices are fairly low -- $2.68 on average -- but when they inevitably rise, those fuel savings numbers will really be eye opening for car shoppers.

Probably the most interesting thing about the new labels is the smartphone interactive code, known as a QR Code, which, when you look at the sticker through your smartphone's camera provides a link to a mobile Web page that gives you more emissions and economy information on that model. I for one am heartened every time I see the federal government embracing 21st century technology in an era when many government agencies are woefully behind the curve.

What do you think? Are the new labels an improvement? Which one do you like better?

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