By Martha C. White
September 28, 2016

Cheap gas has rekindled America’s love affair with the gas guzzler. Combined with upcoming changes to how a car’s mileage is calculated, it’s reversing a long-running improvement in fuel economy.

All of those SUVs and pickup trucks contributed to a first-ever decrease in the average fuel economy of cars sold in the U.S. this year, as measured by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the The Detroit Bureau reports. Next year, researchers say this trend will accelerate because of a change in how the EPA calculates mileage. The agency wants window-sticker mileage numbers to better reflect real-world driving conditions, such as temperature, wind, speed and road conditions, Cars.com reports.

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The difference will be most noticeable on high-mileage vehicles like the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Roughly 27% of 2017 model year vehicles will see at least a small drop in MPG ratings, according to Cars.com, although the dip could be just 1 or 2MPG for many.

The change in how MPGs are calculated could make car shopping more complicated for American drivers, since fuel economy between different model years won’t necessarily be an apples-to-apples comparison anymore. The EPA plans to update its website to make these comparisons easier for buyers, but people relying solely on window stickers might be confused.

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