By Environment Correspondent Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. car dealers and private sellers may now post window labels on used vehicles that show gas mileage and climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions under a federal government program to help buyers pick out more fuel-efficient second-hand vehicles.
Interest in fuel economy has grown amongst U.S. consumers due to more efficient vehicles and higher gas prices but information on miles-per-gallon has been hard to find for buyers looking at used cars at dealerships.
Until now, only new cars sold in the United States displayed miles-per-gallon and emission numbers on window labels.
Under the new program from the U.S. Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, dealers can print out fuel economy window labels for all vehicles sold in the United States since 1984. Prospective buyers can look the information up online.
The program is voluntary for dealers, although at least one consumer group has said it will push for mandatory fuel economy labels on used cars if dealers do not use the program.
New cars for sale in the United States are required to display such a label.
Consumers can view the labels online or print them at www.fueleconomy.gov, the two agencies said on Thursday.
The Consumer Federation of America said the labels could dramatically change used-car buying, since before now, fuel mileage and emissions information for used vehicles was available online but not on display on used-cars at dealerships.
"Used car dealers are being given the chance to jump on one of the most important rating programs available," Jack Gillis, a federation spokesman, said in a statement. "If they fail to provide their customers with this easy-to-access information, the Consumer Federation of America will push hard to mandate the labels on every used car."
The fuel efficiency and carbon pollution labels for used cars offer data on the vehicle's performance when new. The government stated that fuel economy changes little over a car's estimated 15-year lifespan if properly maintained.
The website warns that other factors can affect fuel economy, including quick acceleration, heavy braking, excessive idling, cold weather, and frequent short trips.
(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Karey Van Hall and Andrew Hay)