Sunday, July 06, 2008

Burning Money

I used to drive an SUV, back around 1995 -- a Jeep Cherokee. It was fun for a while, and the payments were a lot less than my previous car (a Mercedes), but I never felt all that comfortable riding way up high, so when my lease was up, I went back to driving a sedan.

Karen, on the other hand, went from a sedan (BMW) to an SUV (first a Mercedes, later a Lexus) once Rachel started pre-school. Her reasoning made sense -- as a stay-at-home Mom, she sometimes had to carpool Rachel and her friends to play dates, birthday parties, outings, camp, and so on. An SUV made that easier -- there was room for the kids and the paraphernalia that went along with them: strollers, diaper bags, lunch boxes. She also felt safer in an SUV, though we both knew that was an illusion -- for one thing, SUVs have a higher center of gravity and are more likely to topple over in a high-speed turn (never mind why a Mom with several kids in a car would be making a tight high-speed turn).

Karen continued to drive her SUV till Rachel was in elementary school, and Karen went back to work full time. Then she switched back to a sedan (back to a Mercedes; we're German-car addicts in the Conway household), mostly because she was tired of filling up her gas-guzzler twice a week. She'd also started to feel there was something inherently wrong about driving a road-hogging monster. Smaller felt better. Before getting her sedan, she even toyed with the idea of buying a Mini Cooper (but once we realized I'd never get my legs inside, that idea went out the window). She still wants a Smart Car, but for now, she's happy with her E-350.

I bring this up because I want it understood that I get why people bought SUVs back in the 1990s and early 2000s. What I don't get is why they hung on to them for so long, and why they kept buying new ones, when the price of gas was slowly edging up, and it was clear to anyone with half a brain that these energy-eating, road- and parking lot-hogging monstrosities were an economic and ecological disaster waiting to happen. It shouldn't have taken a doubling of gas prices in the last year to make people see what a waste of money and space these things are.

But I guess we see what we want to see, and believe what we want to believe, evidence to the contrary be damned.

This rant brought to you courtesy of this article in today's New York Times.

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