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A Quick Guide to Comparing MPG

When buying a car, you have to evaluate a lot of factors to make sure you're getting the best deal possible. Sure it should have anti-lock brakes and power steering and all the other features you want. But one thing you may really want to consider is the MPG or miles per gallon. 

This piece of information comes in incredibly handy when comparing various makes and models of cars and could be the cincher that sways you one way or the other. 

The first place you'll want to look for MPG information is on the sticker in the window of a car. This only applies if you're looking for cars at a dealership, but it's still a useful tip. The EPA administers the numbers listed on this sticker. You'll usually find three separate numbers here that reflect the city, highway, and combine MPG this particular car is capable of. 

You'll want to throw out the highway MPG right away, since that's pretty much considered the ideal miles per gallon any car can achieve, but it's unlikely to ever be attainable unless you never stop and go, slow down, or vary your speed in any way. 

That's why it's best for you to use the combined MPG as the truest indicator of what a car can feasibly get. You may need to squint—the combined MPG is often printed smaller than the other numbers. 

Beyond the official window sticker information, you can also find MPG information about cars you're interested in by visiting FuelEconomy.gov. This site is run by the U.S. Department of Energy and provides a very convenient tool for comparing and contrasting miles per gallon across several makes and models of cars all the way back to 1984. And don't worry; pre-2008 cars have been adjusted to reflect the latest EPA fuel economy measurement system. 

Play around with this tool to customize the view. You should be able to get an accurate prediction of what your fuel economy will be like on a vehicle by factoring in how you drive and where you drive the most (highway or in the city, in stop and go traffic, for a specific number of miles a week, etc). 

Don't forget to stop by each car manufacturer's website to get more detailed information about fuel economy and what MPG they report to the EPA. It's likely best to get information on several makes and models of cars to compare in detail before you make a final decision. 


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