Monroney Labels are changing the way cars are sold

Mike Monroney might not be a household name. But his legacy is written on every car window at every new car dealership across the country. The late Oklahoma senator wrote and sponsored the Automobile Information Disclosure Act of 1958, requiring that every new car carry a window sticker showing every option it carries, every feature and every bell and whistle bolted onto it at the factory. While most of us refer to it as a window sticker, the real gearheads call it by the name that honors that legacy: a Monroney label.

A Bluffton-based website is reinventing the Monroney label for the 21st century, ushering the labels into the digital age and making them available to everyone.

“It’s really a sophisticated VIN decoder … but the VIN number on a car doesn’t tell you what’s on a car. It tells you year make model and style, but it doesn’t tell you the options on a car,” said founder Dan Nielsen. “We built this business after realizing that, and knowing that when you trade a car one of the most valuable things you can have is a copy of the original window sticker.”

It comes down to helping sellers — and buyers — understand the cars on the market.


“It’s a really simple concept. If you can’t describe the inventory accurately, you can’t sell it,” said Nielsen. “We’re changing the whole industry.”

But he didn’t set out the change the industry. After spending years as a multi-franchise car dealer, his original goal was to transition into selling cars online. While automobile auction sites already exist, his goal was to create one that utilized his experience in the industry and offered buyers a chance to know everything about the car they were buying. Doing so required extensive build data on cars from a host of manufacturers, who all formatted their data differently.

The Don Ryan Center for Innovation in Bluffton helped him narrow his focus.

“When we first approached the Don Ryan Center, we were losing money with it. They really got me focused,” he said. “We were working on two websites at the same time and David Nelems said, ‘You need to focus on one or the other.’ ”

Working with the Don Ryan Center, Nielsen set his sights on perfecting the label part of the business and began making the rounds at the trade shows. Now, Monroney Labels is one of the industry’s great success stories. Working with a staff of just four people, the company has relationships with nearly 30,000 car dealerships around the country, who have begun offering like-new window stickers right there next to the Carfax report.

“If you go to a vehicle detail page on a website, most are missing the factory options,” he said. “We’ve taken it a step further and actually showing the as-built data as the car left the factory.”

Beyond that, the company has started working with banks and financial institutions to help prevent unscrupulous car dealers from attempting credit application fraud, a surprisingly common occurrence. Nielsen also is working with insurance companies to verify claims, creating more accurate assessments of a car’s value.

Monroney Labels also is making it easier for the public to buy and sell used cars by making more information available — and easier to understand.

And though his company has graduated from the Don Ryan Center, Nielsen said their relationship is still going strong.

“Every month they would come by and see what we were doing and make suggestions. It’s really taken off,” he said. “The business is doing really well, and it’s all because of the Don Ryan Center.”