On the SUV debate (kind of long)

Recently in this threadand this one there has been a lot of back and forth between the pro and anti SUV camps. I thought that this would be a good place to talk about the issue. Also to the Mods: I know that there are some similar debates on this issue, it is my sincere belief that this is different enough to warrant its own thread, and that it is “Great Debate worthy” if this assumption is wrong, please accept my apologies and move this to a better location.

On the pro side, there have been basically three main arguments made:
[li]It is a matter of personal choice.[/li][li]There is a legitimate need for this vehicle.[/li][li]All of the Fuel efficiency/safety issues have been more or less trumped up by the anti-SUV camp.[/li][/ol]

I want to be up front in that I am (within reason) pretty firmly in the anti-SUV camp. I decided to do a little research.

From the Ford website: the Ford Explorer gets around 17 to 21 Miles Per Gallon, The Windstar (a Mini Van) 17 to 23, the ford focus (couldn’t find model type, but looks like sedan to me) between 25 and 36 depending on the model.

OK, so just from a mileage point of view, it looks as if the Mini Van and the SUV are in the same ballpark. Based on just Ford it would seem that just from a fuel efficiency the argument that a Mini Van is preferable to an SUV can be debunked.

However the EPA website is rating the Ford Explorer emissions at around 4 (10 being best) the Windstar at 5 and the Focus at around 6 or 7. So, it looks as if the SUV is at least marginally worse for the environment.

From the National Highway Safety Administration the preceding vehicles stack up like so: Explorer mostly not tested, but rollover getting 2 or 3 stars (the more stars the better). Windstar Getting around 4 or 5 stars in front and side impact and around 4 stars in rollover. The Focus coming it at around 4 or 5 stars for side and 4 for rollover. Conclusion: at least from a rollover point of view, the SUV is quite a bit worse than the other cars that I looked at.

So much for the brief overview of the quantifiable data (the conclusion of which (as far as I can tell) is that the SUV is not really a great idea). The evidence seems to show that these vehicles are about the same as a Mini Van fuel efficiency wise, a bit worse for the environment and more dangerous (specifically in the propensity to roll over). Given that the Mini Van would meet the same need as the SUV for the Urban and Suburban driver, and is a lot safer, it seems the logical choice.

Personally, my experience is that these vehicles cause me greater distress that others. They are hard to see around, they tend not to see me and (from a simple physics point of view) pose a greater risk to me.

Socially, to address the choice argument, I will state that I have yet to have anyone give a convincing argument as to why it is ok for the choice of one person to eclipse that of the other. This makes me feel like a second-class citizen. I say this in the sense that if I do not wish to be creamed in a wreck and wish to be able to see the road, I will need to give up my safe and fuel efficient vehicle.

I am eager to hear the opinions of others

My opinion is that you can take your SUV (and your cigarette and your ego) inside your home and do what you want. But, please, do not bring them out in public where people, who associate freedom with responsibility, drive fuel efficient cars, not paying any attention to the display of your ego and show-off (which drives you to think “bigger is better”).

Sure, you rationalize that your SUV provides you with more comfort. But, just as your freedom stops when mine starts, your strive for comfort stops when my environmental and road safety concerns start.

If your just counting roll overs, yes SUV’s will do worse then cars and somewhat worse then vans. Read up on the front,side,rear, and other impacts and you’ll see SUV’s are safer in those types of accidents. Statistics are not everything either. SUVs are just built better. They are made on a real frame like a truck, all over much more solid. Minivans are almost allways a unibody construction, just an inflated automotive body. Putting it shortly, they are built as cheap as possible and are made like *hit.

Pollution wise they are almost the same as a van or full size car. Obviously they will allways be a little worse as they are heavier and and require more power to lug them around.

If you have so much trouble seeing around them, maybe stop tailgating or pass? I really don’t have problums with them and I have driven cars as small as a fiero (tiny 2 seater) to the full size saab I drive now.

If that does not help, this is America. If I want to do something that might somehow in convince you. Well guess what? I’m going to like it or not.

How much horsepower and torque do minivans have compared SUVs? How many passengers can you put in a truck compared to an SUV? What do you get when you mix the good qualities of a minivan with the power of a truck?


And how many cars can people afford on average? Less than one.

SUV’s are vulgar and common, and the cretins that buy them should be pilloried for their poor taste. And taxed extra as well - the money raised could be spent on something worthwhile, like subsidizing sportscars.

Absolutely. I own an Isuzu Rodeo and love it. It’s a manual transmission, and I get 27 mpg on the highway. My new job comes with a company car, and I thought I was going to get an Intrepid. I got, instead, a new Caravan.

Admittedly, after putting the first 900 miles on it in a week, 650 of it in one trip, and lifting boxes of hardback textbooks in and out, I was glad I got the minivan instead of the car–I feel safer on the interstate and it’s far better for my back to be sitting up straight–but it has its drawbacks. It gets worse mileage than my SUV, and it has absolutely no power.

I’m sure going to hate to sell my Rodeo, but what’s the point of paying for it when I’ve got the other for free?

You’re your own best argument, actually. You, after all, don’t want their choice to trump yours–you want your choice to trump theirs. You want people to not have them because you feel personally inconvenienced by them. You obviously believe quite strongly in the “eclipsing choice” argument, but only in your favor.

Good to see you posting back here again!:smiley:

I’m sure I’ll get pilloried for this, and I’m not sure of the best words to use, so I’ll just say it straight out.

Something about the choice of many people to buy SUVs strikes me as a little bit selfish or rude in some way. Maybe a form of conspicuous consumption, altho it is a little worse because you are somewhat inconveniencing (however mild) others and arguably society in general. What I’m suggesting is that folk who drive a significantly larger vehicle than they “need”, are using up more resources than they ought to. Which strikes me as mildly antisocial. Of course, this is just my personal opinion.

As examples of what I am getting at:

-Driving a truck/SUV takes up more room in traffic lanes and parking spaces, creating at least the illusion of congestion.

-They use significantly more fuel than needed to get around, which I find undesirable if you are not regularly hauling many people or gear.

-They increase their owner’s safety, at the expense of other vehicles they may collide with.

I am amazed, and a little saddened, when I see families - or even couples, who own 2 full-sized SUVs. Not at all uncommon where I live. Nor are families with 3 or more vehhicles. Even if you might occasionally need one for hauling, it sort of bothers me when I frequently see substantially larger vehicles than necessary used as primary commuters.

To me, this type of concern reflects much of what I think is the least favorable aspect of many Americans - they feel they should just go ahead and live whatever lifestyle they wish, without sufficient concern of the implications on others. I see this in so much conspicuous consumption, of consumer goods, energy, food, etc. Yes, one thing about America is that we have the right to make decisions for ourselves. But just because we have the right to be greedy, doesn’t mean wee have to succumb to the temptation.

I fear I have been unsuccessful in accurately expressing my thoughts. I hope some of the tenor of my intentions comes thru despite the shortcomings of my chosen words.

Of course, I am the kind of crank who rides the train to work, walks and rides his bike around town, mows his lawn with a reel mower, and would gladly support a $5/gallon gas tax. I don’t do these things to make any kind of statement, but just because they are my lifestyle preferences - plus, IMO such actions have personal and societal benefits.

For me, the biggest problem seeing around SUVs isn’t when I’m behind them, but when I’m next to one. I can’t see past it to see if any traffic is coming, and I have to wait for it to turn before I can safely turn myself.

Bravo and well said.

Nobody seems to hate mini-vans. I would say that they are just as hard to see around or through than an SUV.
My wife and I are a two SUV family. And we don’t have any kids. We need them because of snow. I use 4 wheel drive every day for about 6 months out of the year.

There are lots of reasons to choose an SUV.

  • 4 wheel drive
  • Ground clearance
  • Room
  • Power/towing ability
  • Ease of entry/exit. I’m 6’4" and I find that sedans are a lot harder to get in and out of. Too low to the ground.

I think that any one of these reasons are reason enough to own an SUV. My wife and I own them for all of those reasons.

A minivan with a better engine? A conversion van? I give up.

SUVs have illusory storage space, are built to go places people won’t take them, have just enough horsepower to give the owner an illusion that he can merge quickly (hint: you can’t! And your big-ass vehicle makes it even more apparent than your average Accord!), grant new meaning to the meaning of “blind spot”, and generally fill a gap that was not really necessary to fill (hint: buy a real van! They can pull boats!!!) by the above criteria. If i thought for a second that SUV’s were really the sporty solution to the family vehicle I might give it a second look, but it just ain’t. Single people drive those things (not to say they aren’t married, just that they don’t have any passengers), like most vehicles on the road.

[ul][li]If it is a family vehicle then you don’t need the capability to take it off road, unless you like subjecting mommy and baby to the dangers of off-roading, in which case please quit reproducing as there are enough diseases threatening the human race[/li][li]If it is a single vehicle then you don’t need a mini-van like vehicle at all, get a pickup truck or a damn Wrangler if you want to pull stuff and go off-roading[/li][li]If you want to merge with traffic quickly and efficiently then stay the hell away from big vehicles, period[/li][/ul]
I can’t stress that last one enough. You are not a race car driver. You are not a sports car driver. Do not weave in and out of traffic like you were on a motorcycle. Get a clue, please, that though there are bad drivers for small cars, too, you are that much easier to notice.

Gah. I cannot be civil about these things, and for that I must apologize in this forum. Others can carry the torch about the environment, I (unfortunately) rarely care about that one.

Why do people only say this about SUVs? Surely you can’t see around minivans either?

We own two vehicles. One’s a car and the other’s an SUV. We bought the SUV for the same reason we bought the car: we liked it and we wanted it.

Neither vehicle gets great gas mileage. When I’m in the car, I have trouble seeing around minivans and SUVs. I deal with it. I can’t see around tractor trailer either, but I don’t complain.

*Originally posted by erislover *

[ul][li]If it is a family vehicle then you don’t need the capability to take it off road, unless you like subjecting mommy and baby to the dangers of off-roading, in which case please quit reproducing as there are enough diseases threatening the human race[/li][li]If it is a single vehicle then you don’t need a mini-van like vehicle at all, get a pickup truck or a damn Wrangler if you want to pull stuff and go off-roading[/li][li]If you want to merge with traffic quickly and efficiently then stay the hell away from big vehicles, period[/li][/ul]


What about the family that likes to go off roading/car-camping? And off-roading really isn’t very dangerous. It’s a heck of a lot safer than any city street.

A truck would probably suit me too. Oh wait, I already have one. Yep, we own two SUVs and a four wheel drive truck:eek:. But, the truck really isn’t very road worthy anymore. We use it to plow.

I am almost always by myself in my Pathfinder. But its better for me than a truck since I can carry my dog in comfort, keep my stuff locked up and have passengers if I CHOOSE (that seems to be the operative word).

A big problem here is that the auto industry doesn’t make a universal height for vehicle bumpers. This would save many lives and auto repair bills. Unfortunately, this would result in less profit for the industry so it won’t be done.

Considering this, I would rather be in an SUV which has the higher bumper and bigger size. It’s worth paying more for gas to be safer, IMO.

<sigh> I guess that my social point here was lost. I will try to state this in a different way. In truth, I have been thinking about this a lot, and am starting to conclude that this issue may have a lot more to do with class conflict than anything else (with the disclaimer that I still feel that the SUV is not as safe as advertised (especially in terms of the rollover accident), consumes more fuel and is harder on the environment.

All of that being said, I find it sad and unimaginative that this has to be viewed in terms of which choice will eclipse another. Is the case that we really can’t find a middle path?

I think that in a nutshell my problem has more to do with the fact that these vehicles are not necessary (as far as I can tell), quite a bit more expensive than the compact car that I drive, and are artificially creating a need for more folks to buy them (by the dimple expedient of killing the driver of a car that is not an SUV when hit by an SUV).

Where the class conflict element enters is that I simply am unable to afford one of these behomiths and so my choice is to either be a pedestrian, take public transportation, or take my life in to my own hands when I drive. That this choice is artificially being forced upon me by folks with greater economic means than I is a cause for resentment.

And I find this somewhat insulting. You obviously don’t know much about off-roading or the people that enjoy it.

While these vehicles may not be ‘necessary’ for some of the people that buy them they do obviously fill a certain niche. The reason it was purchased may not always be obvious. For instance, a family may buy a big SUV instead of a Pickup to tow the boat and a civic for Dad to take to work.

Would you buy one if you could afford it? Just curious.

You didn’t ask me, enipla, but I’m answering anyway. I could easily afford one, or two, or several, and cannot imagine buying one.

I do not tow, I do not care for how they drive, I often use two-track dirt/sand roads in Michigan in summer and winter but do not offroad, I have never needed 4WD or high clearance, and I find a minivan has more effective people/cargo/dog carrying ability.

My personal preference is a smallish wagon/hatchback with front wheel drive.

First of all, what the hell is a dimple expedient? Should be simple!:o

And this is just it. I don’t want one, find them aesthetically displeasing and an example of conspicuous consumption. However, I feel that I am basically being forced to buy one because I do not want to die!

Simple physics are that if my teeny car is hit by one of these, their bumper gets scratched and I am being sopped up with a sponge.

Also, I do want to be clear in that I am not a rabid anti-SUV kind of guy. I can see that there are some cases where there is a legitimate need for this class of vehicle. I do not expect or demand that every one that I see on the road be filled with a carpool of 8 that are recycling their sandals. I will, however, maintain that a significant portion of these vehicles are driven by folks with no legitimate need for them and that this is having a negative impact on my life.