Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Gas vs. the SUV

Have you spotted any trends lately? People downsizing from the giant to the more reasonable vehicle, for example?

Locally, gas is up to $3.90 per gallon, which comes to $52 to fill each of our cars. Fortunately, we only fill each up about every 3 weeks, so we don't suffer too much. But how about people who have large cars and use them a lot. Well, you know the story. They're looking for any way to reduce their gas consumption.

A friend of mine was dropping his kids off at day care when he noticed how many people seemed to have switched over from big SUVs to cars or minivans (e.g., Honda Odyssey). My friend, who owns an Odyssey, gets about 19 city, 24 highway. Not fabulous, but his family outgrew a 4-door sedan and they get a lot of use out of the vehicle. They thought about an SUV, but in the end, they finally accepted that they were now minivan people, so they bit the bullet. And they love it. Funny how that happens.

BMW X5 gets 15 mpg / 21 mpg, per EPA mileage estimates. Chevrolet Tahoe gets 14 mpg / 19 mpg, per EPA mileage estimates. And EPA estimates are pretty unreliable since they're derived from perfect conditions. Real driving leads to significantly worse mpg performance.

Now I don't know if you remember, but I don't get SUVs. I figure if you need a large vehicle, minivans are much more logical because of how versatile they are (e.g., doors, seats). But SUVs are big, clunky and hard to drive. They use more gas than most cars, and honestly, I find the interiors aren't an improvement on cars. I figure people have chosen them for aesthetics and because they think bigger is safer, which is just not true. If you want a safe car, buy a safe car.

And don't get me started on the SUV hybrids. That's just a weak compromise.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure there are some places, circumstances, and people who genuinely benefit from an SUV. But by and large, the masses who buy them are people who think they look cool. And now that gas is climbing, climbing, climbing, looking cool is nowhere near as important as it used to be.

I'm just saying.


Chief Family Officer said...

Fuel consumption was one of the factors we considered when we bought our new car a couple of months ago.

I have a friend who's a broker/dealer (I don't know exactly what to call her - but basically, you call her and tell what car you want, then she obtains it for you, doesn't matter what the model). She said that business is booming because her customers are all buying fuel efficient vehicles.

Anonymous said...

The EPA testing procedure changed for 2008 to more accurately reflect real-world driving. They're still high, but not as bad as they were before. I wonder if the EPA artificially keeps the mileage estimates high so more manufacturers can meet the CAFE standards.

I can understand why SUVs exist and why some people buy them (combined towing, off-road, and people/stuff hauling abilities in a single vehicle), but there are certainly more people who buy them that would be better served with a different type of vehicle. People tend to buy vehicles based on emotions rather than logic and sound reasoning.

If you really want/need the capabilities of an SUV and are willing to deal with the tradeoffs involved, I'm sure you'll be glad that Chevrolet makes one that's a hybrid and doesn't give up towing or any other SUV capabilities. I'm all for improved fuel efficiency in all types of vehicles.

What bothers me the most are drivers who whine about gas prices and act as if their type of vehicle is being singled out. "It costs me $100 to fill up my Hummer, wahhhh!" Guess what, gas prices have increased the same percentage for everyone, no matter what they drive. Just admit you purchased the wrong vehicle, and next time use your brain when shopping.

MetaMommy said...

CFO - I've wondered about the local impacts outside of Santa Monica, which is full of posers. I'm seeing a lot of Prius' and Smart cars, but very few SUV hybrids, relatively speaking. It's interesting that your friend is noting a boom in all fuel efficient cars.

Anon - Are the new EPA testing results being reported on 2008 cars? I know a change was in the works, but I'm unsure of when consumers will start to benefit from the change.
I totally agree with you that people tend to buy vehicles based on emotions rather than logic and sound reasoning. But now that emotions are leaning towards using less gas, it seems people's preferences are naturally lining up with logic. Took long enough!
Hummer...LOL...spot on!