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By Jacob Davidson
June 17, 2015

One-third of Americans don’t believe their vehicle’s federal fuel economy rating is correct, according to a new AAA survey. But the automobile association’s analysis shows much of this skepticism is unfounded.

Staring with 2008 models, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sticker has appeared on all new cars and truck sold within the country listing estimated miles per gallon for city and highway driving. A significant portion of car owners might not believe the stickers, but AAA’s testing of three classes of vehicles—a 2014 full-size pickup truck, a 2014 large sedan and a 2012 medium sedan—found the EPA fuel rating to be accurate.

The AAA said any discrepancy was probably due to “driving behaviors, vehicle condition, driving environment and terrain.” Hard braking, driving fast and accelerating quickly can all decrease your average mileage per gallon. The AAA says driving 55 miles per hour instead of 50 was like paying extra 19 cents a gallon for gas.

An interesting wrinkle in AAA study is that self-reported mileage data, which drivers can send in to the EPA, was even better than the sticker numbers. After analyzing 37,000 records, AAA discovered eight in ten drivers said their vehicle’s mileage was above the combined city and highway EPA rating for their vehicle. The drivers who reported the most extra mileage drove stick shifts (a 17% gain over EPA numbers) and diesel-fueled cars and light trucks (a 20% gain). Minivans came in equal to or slightly worse than the sticker numbers.

The AAA notes that self-reported data has some limitations. Maybe the folks who drive stick—and report their numbers—just really like to show off their driving skills.

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