Thursday, January 05, 2006

See ya later, Navigator!

I hate SUVs. Long before I knew anything about their fuel burden and popularity as a status symbol, I simply thought they were ugly vehicles. Even now, they strike me as station wagons that didn't quite come out of the womb correctly, or trucks with cleft palates. On top of their general ugliness, they waste fuel, reduce visibility for other drivers and are often driven by very aggressive and inconsiderate motorists. Which, of course, is why SUVs are the perfect symbol of the New American Century.

The ongoing (if slightly ebbing) SUV craze is a testament to the resiliency of willful American ignorance. MSNBC solicited opinions from readers about the phenomenon, and the resultant comments speak volumes about the attitudes of the people with whom we share the roads. I could lie and say I learned something; but all this article did is reinforce everything I've always thought. Read these excerpts and judge for yourself:

These SUVs are all about excess and power, and worse than that they kill. When I look at these idiots trying to navigate a parking lot driving a Cadillac Escalade while talking on handheld cell phone, I’m ashamed to be an American.

I’m a 60-year-old female office worker and I love my Chevy Tahoe. I sit high, drive through the snow without any problems and take people to work who can’t get there when the weather is bad. I like its size, load capacity, and leg room for my passengers in the back seat (three can sit there comfortably on a long trip). The gas mileage is not of great concern given all the other features.

Big SUVs are a tribute to the stupidity of the American public. Poorly engineered, stiff chassis, rollover prone, crude suspension systems and incompatibility with other vehicles ... need I go on?

People tend to forget that SUVs can be very practical vehicles. I own a Toyota Highlander that gets 19 miles per gallon in the city.

Shame on the American automakers for ever marketing the oversized junk, and hooray for Toyota and Honda for bringing us fuel-efficient hybrids! Anything we can do to lessen our foreign oil imports is a win for the USA.

I live in Northern Michigan and the need for a large 4WD for five months out of the year is obvious. In addition, I’m 6’2’’ tall and I don’t fit in a shoebox-sized car. I drive an Avalanche that fits my needs perfectly and averages over 17 miles per gallon.

SUVs are nice, but they’ve gone too far with size. They are too heavy and get lousy gas mileage, and their center of gravity is too high so they roll over easily. A minivan is much more practical and cheaper to own.

I really enjoy my Explorer. It’s spacious and rides well, and I can’t see me cramped up in a small SUV, or a sedan, especially with kids.

My town is awash in huge trucks driven by small women who say they need an SUV to transport their children, but usually carry only one or two kids. So this must be either an ego issue or an illusion of safety for them, because these biggies are no fun to drive, impossible to park, and expensive to fill up.

I just purchased my first SUV. I spent many years as a parent with two kids trying to cram our lives into a midsize car, and it was not pleasant. I was unable to squeeze bikes and large purchases into my car and safely drive the family home; and deciding who had to stay behind on a trip to the store, or a vacation because of an extended family of aunts, cousins, or stepchildren was not pleasant. I believe the SUV is a necessity for many American households. Bigger families need bigger cars and the fact is most families consist of more than 4 or 5 individuals. The SUV has become essential to getting everyone together and through the daily trips to the store, school, camp, church, park, and anywhere else life takes the family.

They’re an ego trip for many of the wealthy interested in tax-deductions and impressing themselves, but they have little practical use.

We recently purchased a new, all-wheel-drive Chrysler Pacifica as a replacement for an older Jeep Grand Cherokee. My wife loves it!

It took an energy shortage, global warming, keeping up with the Joneses, rollover accidents (that took the lives of too many people) and too much testosterone in American culture to bring the behemoths down.

So, to recap, here's why you shouldn't own SUVs:

--They are not environmentally friendly
--Because of their excessive reliance on foreign oil
--They're tough to negotiate in tight spots
--You probably don't live in the tundra
--They contribute to the failure of American auto lines
--They symbolize testosterone and material excess
--And ironically, they're not even that safe

And now, the reasons why people like SUVs:

--Cargo space for all the expensive things you buy
--Because driving low is for the rabble
--All children need the equivalent of first-class airline seats
--Who cares if you wreck, as long as you're safe?
--They're rolling tax exemptions
--SUVs give you the traction you need for on-road driving
--"My wife loves it!"

Quite the toss-up, huh? I haven't faced a decision this tough since the 2004 election. Help me out here!


Nick said...

Maybe you should ask Teddy K and Barbara Striestand why they fly in private planes if you're so "fuel conciense." Also, most of us, such as people like me who need trucks, can't afford to buy hybrids. 55k for a truck just doesn't cut it for me.

Ian McGibboney said...

You know, I don't recall where I gave those two a free pass. And anyway, isn't a hybrid worth the saved fuel costs?

Nick said...

I recall a recent study being done where it was found that a person would need to drive 80-100 miles a day, at least, for something like 3 or 4 years to break even in cost of hybrid vs. gas for a regular vehicle.

My Chevy Silverado was 25k. The same truck, but a hybrid, because yes, I did check to see if I could buy that, was 50k. That's double.

Nick said...

In regards to fuel prices, I'm now attempting to get some of that gas money back. OGM Land (they just made me an employee last week!! no more self-employment BS & taxes!!) like all oil & gas companies and brokers pays expenses. My mileage reimbursment is 48 cents/mile. However, that's only when I'm working, and Cherie has to buy gas for her vehicle.

Therefore, I'm currently invested in a Canadian oil company, which according to my research, recently bought the largest oil field in Canada. Right now, I've only made $14 off the 100 shares I bought last month. However, I'm looking at this as a year to 2 year investment, maybe longer if good. The Middle East and OPEC is way too volitale. South America is just about the same. Therefore, the US, Japan, and China (which is now willing to pay just about anything for oil) will have to look at Canada, and in particular the oil field that my investment owns.

I don't expect to make thousands off of this. However, turning the $375 I invested into hopefully $700-800 (low estimate) will at least allow me to get back some of my fuel money.

Phillip said...

but ian without a gigantic suv how am i going to compensate for my tiny penis?

i've always been partial to station wagons for some reason, especially the newer, sleeker ones. i can't explain it. i drove a '91 honda accord wagon during h.s./college and loved it. the gas mileage was good -- 25 mpg or something akin.

i wouldn't expect people to arbitrarily ditch whatever gas-guzzler they're driving in favor of a hybrid, but i would hope that when the time comes naturally to get a new vehicle they would consider a hybrid as an alternative. that's why i think the high gas prices last year were a good thing -- people were suddenly alot more conscious about mileage, which certainly stays with them when buying/upgrading.

nick, do you have a broker? what do you use? e-trade? i need a recommendation.

Nick said...


The problem is the hybrids are just too expensive, and I go fishing alot, so I need a truck for my dad or pawpaw's marsh boats. I had a '90 Accord and then a 2002 Accord before I bought my truck. The gas mileage is nice. However, I like being higher up on the interstate. Those 18 wheelers make me nervous, and I hate being next to them in a small vehicle.

I use e-trade. They offer different packages. My broker fee is $9.99/trade. However, it will soon go up to $12.99/trade b/c I don't make enough trades per quarter. I've only made 2 from when I started December 1. I'm just trying to learn some things about energy trading since I'm in the oil business. I'm following advice from a guy in Houston.

I really don't know anything about stocks and such. However, if you go to, Alam Lammey has set up stock and option tutorials and has a glossery of hundreds of market terms.

E-trade requires a minimum of $1000 to start up an account. However, you don't have to trade with the full amount. I only have $400 plus my 2 fees, so $419.98 tied up in stocks. I have no interest in dumping large sums into something that can be affected my terrorists blowing up NYC.

Ian McGibboney said...

It's interesting to see where these posts head. Sometimes.

Personally, I don't deal with investments. The original point of an investment was that you could buy stock in a company and, in return, influence the direction of said company. But it doesn't work that way anymore (if it ever did), and with the way stocks surge when layoffs are announced, I'm almost morally opposed to it. Anyway, it's ultimately gambling, and every economic downturn can be accredited to it. Also, I'm too broke to risk it.

Nick, a large hybrid vehicle is going to be expensive, because large vehicles are expensive. But also because here is currently very little money in selling alternative vehicles (thanks, Cheney!). But don't you agree that there should be some kind of short-term government subsidy or something to increase production and bring down the price? They can make any type of vehicle run more efficiently. But as long as we continue to buy the gas-guzzlers, then that's what they'll make.

I think every internal-combustion engine should have to be as loud as the fuel it wastes. Not Harley loud, but shrill loud, kind of like Alanis Morissette screaming. Because part of the SUV problem s that you can't even hear the engine when you're cooped up in it. It becomes a void.

Nick said...

Actually, if you know what you're doing, you can increase the fuel efficency of your vehicle. It can by programmed like a computer. Basically, you can hook up a laptop w/ a special program to tweek it. A co-worker of mine was good friends with someone who worked in the car making industry. His buddy helped him out and improved the gas mileage to his Ford truck by 4-5 miles/gallon. That may not sound like much, but when Ford trucks only get you 12-14/gallon, it's pretty significant.

As far as the stock market, I'm dealing with energy futures. I don't know how layoffs affect Wal-Mart type stocks, but in the energy business, layoffs usually mean bad news for every aspect of the business.

Nick said...

Buy the way, I made a whole $12 today with my 100 shares of UTS Energy. Like I said, getting back gasoline money. I've made $25.37 total since December 20 off of those shares, which is my only investment. Not much happened from 20th-Jan 2nd b/c of the holidays. However, since then it's been pretty good. I've turned $375 to $410.36. That means more beer money!!

jenny said...

It's interesting to see where these posts head. Sometimes.


Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, computer tweaking for performance almost invariably means you're making illegal changes to the smog controls. But in that case, it might actually be for the better. I don't know.

As for your beer money, you might need it in Mississippi as you said earlier :)

Phillip said...

for the first time in my life i find myself with disposeable income and i think it's probably wise to invest in something besides my own liver and kindey failure. maybe an ira or something, although i find sinking money into a retirement fund rather morose.

if you need a big vechicle and it's not economically feasible in today's market to get a hybrid, then fine. ian made a good point that alot of suv's have become something of status symbols driven by singles (big 4-wheel drive hummers on the streets of lafayette? seems impractical). those are the people who should honestly consider scaling back.

Nick said...

Yeah, hummers and their Lafayette drivers do piss me off. First of all, there's not reason what so ever to have a hummer in Lafayette. We have no mountains!! Or even hills for that matter. Second, the hummer owners I've come across on the road can't drive the damn thing. They're taking up two lanes on South College, driving 30 mph, and it pisses me off.

As for starting an IRA phizz, that's smarter than market investing. The money will always be there and will grow by the time you reach 55 or so. Also, whatever amount you put into the IRA, you don't have to report that for taxes. I put in 3k last year, so that was 3k less I had to report. As long as you wait until either 55 or 65, you won't have to pay taxes when you take it out.

Nick said...

Of course, being a liberal, maybe you want to pay more taxes? Either way, IRA is still the safest and smartest plan.

Phillip said...

i don't think anyone, liberal or conservative, actually WANTS to pay more in taxes, but if tax increases are necessary to maintain our infrastructure and other necessary public works then i honestly don't mind.

i'm not happy though when my tax dollars are used, say, to pay "news" anchors to carry water for one agenda or the other or million-dollar bridges-to-nowhere, or whatever pet pork projects. that's another topic i guess.

Murph said...

As an owner of a modest SUV - the Honda CRV (the crusin' roundabout vehicle) - I will say that SUVs do have their purpose. The problem comes from an excess of design.

There really is no difference between a Honda CRV and a station wagon: the car has 4 cylinders, sits on a Civic wheelbase, and gets about the same mileage as a wagon would. The problem comes from SUVs designed to signify conspicuous consumption - the Hummers, Escalades, Excurions, etc. These cars do not serve the utilitarian purposes of Nick's Silverado and the like (and these purposes are important and cannot be overlooked). This type of SUV is for show, the automotive equivalent of the buildings built in Los Angeles in the 1960s & 70s: fortresses, designed to keep people out and to look intimidating. They serve no other purpose that any other vehicle couldn't also serve.

So were SUVs made with more of a real purpose in mind, people wouldn't have a problem with them. There are some good ones out there, but they aren't the ones that get people's attention.

Nick said...


How do you like your CRV? I just bought a used 2003 CRV for my fiance. Are they as reliable as the Accords? I drove 2 Accords that were great, the only problem with them was the first one had some problems with the electrical system after 130k miles. I'm hoping the CRV will be just as good. The one I bought last month for her has 54k miles on it right now. Any info. would be appreciated.

Murph said...

Hey Nick:

We have a 2001 that we bought new almost 5 years ago. It has 37k miles on it now and we haven't had a single problem with it. It's my first Honda, so I can't compare it with other Hondas, but I really love it.

Michael said...

Nick, if your company requires you to drive a lot, it might actually be cheaper for them to buy a fleet of hybrid vehicles and assign them to employees as needed. The university motor pool where I work is something like 25% hybrids now, and they hope to have that up to 75% in another year. Considering the amount of traveling our faculty and staff do in state vehicles (to conferences and such, recruitment events, field trips, commuting between campuses to teach or provide services, yada, yada, yada), we put enough miles on them each year to reach the break-even point very quickly. And even given that as a public university we don't pay most taxes on fuel, the price rise is big enough that being able to save on fuel costs was enough of an incentive for the purchasing people to make the switch this fiscal year. Given the public allergy to tax increases, and the state legislature's unwillingness to allocate funds to us adequate to meet our ballooning costs, every penny we can save helps--doubly so since the same state legislature recently restricted our ability to raise tuition (our other main source of operating revenues).

oyster said...

The main reason not to own suv's is because most of them are still extremely "tippy" in accident avoidance situations, and are therefore extremely deadly in a rollover.

Also Suv's have been a cash cow to auto makers, as the maker (not the dealer) enjoys the biggest profit margin on suv's. Ford made 10k in profit on each Explorer, before the dealership received their cut.

Suv's also depreciate quickly, unlike trucks. They're not a great use of money at all, in my opinion. Ninety percent of the 4 X 4's never really go offroad. For the most part, they're a big waste of fuel and money-- and they pollute.