Car Buying

How Do You Find Fuel Economy Ratings for Used Cars?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro April 2015

When you're looking for a new car, fuel economy numbers are easy to find. After all, the U.S. government mandates that they be included on every single automotive window sticker, along with pricing and options. But what if you're searching for a used car? Gas-mileage figures for used cars can be a lot harder to discover, so we're helping you figure out exactly where to look in order to get the mileage numbers for the used cars on your shopping list.

Start With the Source

The best place to start your search for data is on the federal government's own fuel economy website, since it's the government who provides the ratings in the first place. The site is aptly named fueleconomy.gov, and it's easy to use. Simply navigate to the "Find a Car" section of the site, and use the pull-down menus to find exactly the car you're looking for. Data goes all the way back to the 1984 model year, which means you should have no trouble finding fuel economy estimates for most vehicles.

Other Sources?

If you can't find your car on fueleconomy.gov, you aren't alone. The government doesn't rate all vehicles: Some specialty vehicles and larger vehicles, such as full-size trucks and SUVs, are left out. Plus, the government's site doesn't have any figures for cars made before 1984.

If you're searching for a vehicle that isn't listed on fueleconomy.gov, we suggest trying an Internet search for the make and model of your vehicle followed by a keyword like "mpg" or "fuel economy." If nothing pops up, consider searching for period reviews of your vehicle online. If you can find a 1970s-era review of your 1970s vehicle, for example, it's likely that fuel economy is covered somewhere in the text. Failing that, you can see if there are any online forums for the vehicle you're considering, where other owners may be able to counsel you about gas-mileage numbers.

Remember the Limitations

One important thing to remember when it comes to gas mileage is that the government's figures aren't always exact numbers. Instead, we suggest you use the government's gas-mileage numbers as best-case-scenario figures, rather than a typical representation of what you'll see in normal driving.

After all, testing for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ratings is usually carried out in labs, rather than on the roads where many variables can affect the figures. And sometimes, manufacturers self-report the data, which can lead to some optimistic numbers. Plus, used cars can have wear and tear that diminishes gas-mileage numbers over time.

Still, getting fuel economy data for used cars isn't as hard as you might think, and while the numbers may not be perfect, they give you a good idea of what kind of gas mileage to expect from a car you're considering.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
How Do You Find Fuel Economy Ratings for Used Cars? - Autotrader