If you're buying a new car, you've probably tried to read car window stickers. But these "Monroney stickers," named after the U.S. senator who introduced the legislation to create them, can be complicated. So how do you read one? We've provided a few tips.

Standard & Optional Equipment

The largest area of any window sticker is devoted to standard features and options. Under "standard equipment," most automakers list several items the vehicle includes as standard -- in some cases even obvious ones such as a windshield, tires and seat belts.

Options are typically listed to the right of standard features. A typical list first describes any option packages on the vehicle before listing stand-alone options directly below. Pricing is listed to the right of the option name, and the total cost is calculated below.

Occasionally, window stickers can have another space for optional equipment. Those are usually dealer-installed options such as sun visors or aftermarket wheels. In some cases, shoppers can have those items removed if they'd prefer to have the car without them.

Fuel Economy

Another major section of the window sticker is devoted to fuel economy. Gas mileage is typically listed as city and highway miles per gallon, though modern window stickers also list a combined figure. On hybrid and electric vehicles, the window sticker will include a "miles per gallon equivalent" calculation, along with an estimated range. Finally, the window sticker lists an estimated annual fuel cost, calculated based on 15,000 miles per year of combined city and highway driving.

Safety Ratings

Another major component of a modern window sticker is safety ratings. The federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates vehicles in frontal, side and rollover categories, and all are displayed on a window sticker. Above those ratings, the vehicle's "overall" rating -- essentially an average of all three -- is shown.

Parts Content Information

The last major item on car window stickers is a section entitled "Parts Content Information." This section tells potential buyers precisely how much of the car's content comes from the U.S. It also lists the country of origin for most parts, if it isn't the U.S. Finally, it shows the car's final point of assembly -- helpful information for shoppers interested in an American-made car.

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Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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