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New NHTSA labels in effect

November 17, 2010

New-vehicle sales staff must become familiar with new safety-rating labels required to be displayed in addition to Monroney labels beginning Sept. 1, and with potential consumer confusion the new labels may cause. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed a brochure, "Coming to a Window Sticker Near You," that includes sample labels and can help customers understand them. See 


Because the NHTSA’s New-Car Assessment Program assigns star ratings are based on test performance, the new safety information label is nicknamed "stars for cars" and features a 1-5 star graphic display. 

The NHTSA does not test all models nor does it always conduct all tests on a model. To the extent is has been tested, a vehicle’s label may include frontal, side, and/or rollover test results.


Consumers potentially could be confused by:


  • comparisons between model years—’08 MY Monroney label with safety data versus ’07 without for the same make/model.
  • unrated vehicles. Significantly, vehicles not rated are not unsafe because they must meet all applicable federal safety standards.
  • vehicles not covered. For example, ratings are not mandatory for trucks or vehicles that weigh 10,000 pounds.

vehicles with optional equipment. Since NCAP typically tests base-level vehicles, a vehicle of the same make/model with optional equipment might not have safety label information.

  • same MY make/models with different safety information on their Monroney labels, since manufacturers are not required to issue new Monroney labels with updated test results for vehicles already in dealer inventory.

the warning symbol used to highlight unique circumstances.


Critics of the new labels argue that NHTSA’s tests are tough enough in the first place, noting that nearly all vehicles get a four- or five-star rating.