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MPG estimates are optimistic at best

The window sticker on my brand new Camry, purchased May 27, says 25 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Now, after more than four months of driving, I'm averaging 19.74 mpg in the city and 33.75 mpg on the highway. It's a four-cylinder automatic, and I don't drive crazy or too fast. What's up with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ratings?

— Curt K., Medford

Curt, terrain, weather, the size of your load, tire pressure, as well as your personal driving habits, all play into your Camry’s fuel economy.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy estimates are calculated using a standardized testing procedure designed to predict what “a typical driver will achieve under average driving conditions,” according to the EPA’s 2015 Fuel Economy Guide.

Some of the factors that will reduce your Camry’s fuel efficiency include aggressive driving, excessive idling, stop-and-go traffic, cold weather, heavy loads, under-inflated tires, running your air conditioner, high-performance or snow tires, using a remote starter, variations in vehicle manufacturing, and driving in the mountains, to name a few.

And, according the EPA, some cars don’t achieve "maximum fuel economy until they are broken in (around 3,000-5,000 miles)."

Because there are so many variables, the EPA has come up with a repeatable laboratory test that will allow them to compare cars fairly. If only that test were based on the driving experience of a not-too-crazy/fast driver in Southern Oregon.

—Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.