mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Love song for an Escalade...

I have a dark secret. Something I don't feel comfortable revealing to many of my friends, especially those whose politics move towards the left, or the faculty members at the college I work for. I like SUV's. The bigger, the more expensive, the more completely ludicrous the better.

It's a view not shared by many of my coworkers, even those who lean more conservative. Or, as one of my coworkers (who recently quit smoking and has been a little testy) commented recently:

I hate hybrid owners. But I hate SUV owners too. I'm not sure where that leaves me...

I also stumbled across this recent post on Amazon's Car Lust blog. Most of the pro-SUV comments were rational, people who felt that owners should be allowed to choose what vehicle they drive, and who understood that fast sports cars with honkin' V-8 engines aren't exactly Gaia's favorite mode of transportation, either. But the anti-SUV owners had nothing but insults for SUV owners, including one who claimed he once took a poop on the hood of a Hummer.

I'm a big believer in personal choice - that people should have a large amount of liberty in decisions that affect them, including what to drive. If people want a Pigovian Tax on gas to better pass on the costs of it, I could probably live with it - but given the complaints about high gas prices, my guess is people don't really care as much about the environment as they claim they do - or at least they care, as long as it doesn't cost them money or force them to change their lifestyles.

When I bought my current vehicle - a 2006 Ford Ranger XLT 4x4, I thought about getting an SUV, but I wanted something truck-based (on the theory that it would be tougher and stand up to Baltimore City potholes better), and in my price range there was exactly one SUV that fit that - the Nissan XTerra, which was more expensive and was a new model with uncertain reliability. The Ranger has served my purposes well, but every now and then I wish I had a back seat or a covered cargo area. My next vehicle will probably be either an SUV or a 4-door pickup/SUT type vehicle.

Pickups - both smaller ones like mine and larger ones - have managed to duck most of the criticism that SUV's get, probably because many are used for work. But many more are daily drivers like mine. I use it for carrying loads of stuff now and then - hamfests, auctions, the occasional large purchase - but most of the time it's empty. But the flexibility of having that space, and of having four-wheel drive when it snows, is worth it to me. Sure, I could rent a van when I need to haul stuff, but I sometimes go to auctions or stores not knowing for sure if I'm going to be buying a lot of stuff or not.

I do have to admit that, with the price of gas being what it is, I sometimes wonder if I would be better off buying a second, smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle and just using the truck when I need it. But with registration, insurance, and maintenance, it's probably not worth it. I've also put some thought into what my next vehicle will be - I've toyed with the idea of buying a used sports car as a second vehicle and keeping the truck, or maybe in a few years trading the truck in for a stupidly expensive gently used SUV (Escalade, Range Rover, Cayenne). By the time it comes time to replace the Ranger, I'll probably have changed my mind about what I want - or my needs will have changed. While an expensive SUV would be fun, it would probably get me some weird looks at work, and would be tough to use for hamfests or yard sales, where it's often to one's advantage to look poor.

But whatever I end up getting, I want to be able to pick from a variety of vehicles that meet my needs, and chances are that will include some SUV's. I think they combine a lot of practicality (4 wheel drive, lots of enclosed cargo space) and are enjoyable to drive (I like being high up). If some people prefer something else, be hit hybrid or sports car, I think they should still respect that others have different views.


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