Be forewarned: When you start shopping for a 2008-model-year car next year, the mileage figures will be lower than they are for today’s 2006 and 2007 vehicles. That’s not because the automakers are doing anything differently, it’s because the Environmental Protection Agency has finally updated its testing methods to include higher highway speeds, the use of air conditioning and driving in cold weather to arrive at its official estimates.
The average difference between identical models will be roughly 12% for city-driving figures and 8% for highway-driving figures. Today’s most efficient cars will see more of a drastic dip in estimates, with hybrids likely to see a drop of 20% to 30% in city driving and 10% to 20% in highway driving.
While we applaud the newer tests, we’re a bit worried that buyers will be confused while shopping next year, when both stickers will be used simultaneously. Our best advice would be to look for these words at the top of the new sticker, shown above: “These estimates reflect new EPA methods beginning with 2008 models.”
If the sticker doesn’t say that, it’s most likely displaying estimates under the old guidelines, so expect those 8% and 12% drops in real-world driving.