Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Cash for Clunkers

I just traded in my 1996 SUV with 15 mpg (EPA combined estimate) for a new 2009 compact SUV with 22mpg. Don't scoff: that's almost a 50% improvement. Also, it qualifies as a "partial zero emissions vehicle" meaning that the emissions are effectively at zero even though it is a fossil fuel vehicle (some fancy technology is involved). The government gave me $4500 for a vehicle that had almost no market value (my vehicle had "branded title"). What an awesome deal, both for me and for the environment, I think. Oh, and thanks to the stimulus bill, the sales tax (9.75% here) is deductible this year on the federal income tax.

As you may know, many business journalists pronounced early on that the program would never work. Well, the $1 billion was exhausted within about a week. I am starting to wonder why we gave $30billion or more to GM when we could have put $30 billion in the cash-for-clunkers program and stimulated business in a much better way that cleaned up the environment and stimulated consumer spending. We celebrated afterwards by going out to eat. It's been a huge success. And the dealership I bought from just hired a new finance assistant to keep up with the expected demand.

Yes, I love free money. No question about it. But this is also a lesson in what "targeted" tax credits and tax breaks are all about. They can be very useful in stimulating economic activity if done properly. Remember, I didn't just spend the $4500 - I bought the rest of the car too.
Of course, there is market distortion. I didn't look at vehicles with less than 20mpg, lease options, or used cars. No credit for those. All in all, though, the program is a huge success in the sense that it is accomplishing exactly what it set out to do: get old guzzlers off the road and get new cars off lots fast. Whether that was a worthwhile goal, I don't know. But I get the feeling that a lot of people are going to start rethinking their opposition to "fiscal stimulus" now that they see what it means for them, not just for Wall Street.


Raised By Republicans said...

The fact that your new gas guzzling SUV is very low emissions takes some of the obnoxiousness factor out of it. You'll pay for the wastefully low gas milage in higher gas bills but at least you won't be polluting at a high rate. ;-)

The Law Talking Guy said...

A compact sedan does not suit everyone's needs. I'm proud that the new vehicle at 22mpg is not far from the 25mpg combined estimated for a 2007 Honda Accord base model and the 24mpg combined estimate for the 2007 Toyota Camry. And most of those are not ZEV-type vehicles. You drive one of these cars, do you not?

[Note, all MPG stats were recalculated in 2008 to be much more realistic - i.e., lower - than previously reported. I am using only the new recalibrated statistics for all cars. So if you thought you were all environmentally awesome because your sedan got mpg in the 30s based on the old window sticker, check again at]

Basically, what RBR just posted reflects prejudice, not fact. There's a hippie/lefty/green bias against big cars, particularly those labeled "SUV" that is, frankly, mostly class anger. RBR usually doesn't pander to that, but he just did.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The right-wing business rags' cries of "impossible!" just show how out of touch they are with middle America. A lot of people have old cars that they need to trade in to afford a new one... We don't all have Mercedes or corporate cars!

Dr. Strangelove said...

RbR has a fair point that an EPA combined rating of 22 mpg is generally a poor rating for a car--but LTG is correct that 22 mpg is a good rating for an SUV. The very best non-hybrid SUVs in terms of fuel economy listed on only get 25 mpg. (Curiously, both are Jeeps--the "Compass" and "Patriot".) By contrast, the best scoring hybrid SUV gets 32 mpg.

It is worth noting that the "partial zero emissions vehicle" designation refers only to traditional pollutants other than greenhouse gases.
The estimated carbon emissions footprint for LTG's new SUV is still 8.3 tons per year. This compares to 12.2 for his old car--the 50% improvement you would expect given the 50% improvement in mpg.

Raised By Republicans said...

Geez, LTG, did I touch a nerve? I make a tongue in cheek comment complete with cheezy emoticon and you start flinging around the personal attacks about class bias and prejudice. Sheesh! Lighten up.

Yes, my Accord is a 2007. And when I bought it, it was advertised with the older, higher mpg numbers. My driving habits, however, compensate quite a bit. I only really drive it on weekends and not that much then. I use about half a tank of gas a month.

By the way, I'm curious about the class bias of anti-SUV attitudes. SUVs are a middle class phenomenon mainly, aren't they? Trucks are the working class thing. But then trucks aren't what we're talking about here.

The Law Talking Guy said...

What about my point that 22mpg is not far from the 25/24mpg for supposedly fuel efficient midsized sedans?

The "traditional pollutants" are the ones that cause smog.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Actually, RBR, your driving habits don't help that much. Simply driving fewer miles is not always better. The best gas mileage is on freeways at high speeds; low speed 'round-the-town driving gets you the lowest fuel economy. In other words, if I'm driving a gas guzzler, so are you. Yes, you touched a nerve. I get really really tired of people scoffing or sneering at SUVs while driving cars that are only marginally better in performance.

Raised By Republicans said...

The overwhelming majority of the miles I have put on my car since I bought it have been freeway miles. I mainly drive it when I leave town.

As for your point, I accept it - you have the data so what else can I do. But sheesh, "pandering?" "prejudice?" Harsh reaction to a little teasing.

Raised By Republicans said...

Oh, and my driving habits do help in the following ways.

First, the composite mpg number is based on typical drivers' combinations of town vs freeway driving. Since I drive most of my miles on the freeway, my actual composite milage over a year is probably higher than 25 mpg and little closer to the 31 mpg I get on the freeway. LTG, through no fault of your own (not a personal thing), you are forced to drive most of your miles in a fairly congested city. And even if you are driving on a freeway, traffic often makes it more like stop-start driving than actual cross country freeway driving (especially to and from work).

Secondly, there are two ways to reduce emissions in a gas powered vehicle. One way is to reduce the emissions per gallon burned. Your car has been modified to to do this. Kudos. I have said this is a good thing from the start.

The only other way to reduce your emissions is to burn fewer gallons of gas per unit of time (this is why high mpg is so desirable but it's not the only means to that end - driving less does it too). I guarantee you that I burn a lot less gas per month than you. So all else equal, I'm causing less crap to be put in the air.

But of course, the cars aren't identical. I don't know exactly the emissions difference between your car and mine. My Accord was certified as a "low emissions vehicle." That was actually a selling point for me. But who knows what that meant when I bought it in 2007. So part of the question would be is the emissions difference between the cars enough to wipe out the advantage I have in burning fewer gallons of gas per month. I looked it up on the EPA website and the 2007 Accord with automatic transmission and a 4 cylinder engine has two listings. One has an air pollution of score of 6/10 (not particularly good). The other listing has an air pollution listing of 9/10 (seems quite good to me). Both have Green House Gas (GHG) ratings of 7/10 and are rated by the EPA as "green way" models. I can't figure out which listing applies to my car. But given that it was sold to me as a "certified low emissions vehicle" I'm guessing I got the second, greener, version.

By comparison, the two top selling cars in 2008 were the Ford F-Series trucks and their full sized truck competitor, the Chevy Silverado. The F-150 has a combined fuel economy of 16 mpg, air pollution rating of 7/10 and a GHG rating of 3/10 (yikes!). The Silverado is even worse.

But those are trucks. What about some popular SUVs (not modified benign ones like LTG's). The Honda CRV has a combined fuel economy of 22 mpg. But it's air pollution rating is 6/10 and GHG rating is 6/10 and does not qualify as an EPA "green way" model.

Another top selling SUV, the Ford Edge, gets a composite economy score of 18/mpg, an air pollution score of 6/10 and a GHG score of 4/10.

So, your SUV is a much better option to another SUV. Good for you, LTG. But SUVs in general are still obnoxious cars.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I suppose I was expecting something more like, "Gee, I was really misinformed. I guess my car isn't much better than yours, and you didn't buy a gas-guzzler."

By the way, I don't do very much traffic driving. I drive about 4 miles each way to work on surface streets. When I put big miles on the car, it's usually long freeway driving only.

Pombat said...

I can't find any emissions details on the vehicle I want to get next (something like this, or even better, these, if I can find one in Aus), but anyhow*.

If it's not too personal a question LTG, would you mind explaining why it is that you need an SUV? You say that "A compact sedan does not suit everyone's needs", and in your last comment that you don't really drive that far generally. So I'm curious as to why the SUV is necessary for you, as opposed to something the size of the Prius** say? Also, is what you call an SUV what we'd call a 'four wheel drive', or is there some subtle difference?

This isn't a criticism, but an honest question: coming from the UK, where most people in cities have smaller cars, because they're fuel efficient (and petrol there is expensive!), good for stop-start city driving, and fit in parking spaces; to Aus, where city cars are generally much bigger, but are still pretty damned small compared to some of the SUVs I've seen, and never having had the urge to buy an SUV myself, I genuinely don't understand***. I find it easy to understand why country people would have Landrovers/tractors/utes, because they're vehicles that are perfectly suited to how they're used (good luck getting that sheep into that Mini for example), but I don't understand why city people need such large vehicles.

Thanks for the explanation :-)

*no, I don't think I could live in LA with just one of those. Nor would I feel safe on a lot of your streets on it. Too many SUVs ;-p
**nerd car. Yes, it's a hippie/greenie car too, but the battery/engine display screen thingo is cool.
***to be fair, I've never really had the urge to buy any car - I've always seen them as simply a mode of transport, and if there's a better way of getting somewhere, I'll use that instead.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The SUV has become the standard "family" car for middle-class households in the US, replacing the iconic minivan and station wagon. I presume LTG's interest in such a car is to carry two adults, one (or more) children, and all their stuff.

Incidentally, I am now the proud owner (well, lessee) of a Kia Soul. It's that car in the ads with all the hamsters.

Raised By Republicans said...

I've always heard that the typical American driver puts about 10,000 miles on their car per year. I've owned my car for nearly two years now and put about 11,000 miles on it (about 5,500 per year). So I drive about half as much as the average driver. Of those 11,000 miles, about 8700 miles have been on long trips out of town (to family events in other states or trips to conferences in Chicago). I don't know what the average ratio of freeway to city driving is but I'm guessing I'm doing a much larger share of my miles on the freeway than the average driver.

USWest said...

I am ambivalent about this program. I understand the intened policy. But it is less about the environment than stimulating the car makers and dealers. I suppose it's a win-win in that we are now paying people and car makers to do what they should have done to begin with; buy and produce more fuel efficient vehicles.

Consider the program. Your clunker turn-in must get less than 18 MPG. If the mileage of the new truck or SUV is at least *2 mpg higher* than the old truck, the voucher will be worth $3,500. If the MPG of the new truck or SUV is at least 5 mpg higher than the old truck, the voucher will be worth $4,500.

2 mpg? 5 mpg? This ain't about the environment people.Nor is it about energy indpendance or any of that other stuff.

In addition to that, I have 3 problems with this program.
1) rather than take LTG's old SUV, put a newer, more fuel efficient engine in it, and then exporting it to say Chad and selling it there for a cheaper price, or evne selling it to one of our own poor, they will take it and crush it, creating more waste. In fact,wrecking yard owners , who serve mainly the poor, cannot resell the engine since the dealerships destroy the them by pouring in chemicals which then require special disposal( what was that about the environment again?).You could have a whole jobs program associated with replacing old engines with newer, more fuel efficient ones rather than just subsidizing LTG's new car and helping out an auto maker who has way too many surplus vehicles.
2)The real beneficiaries of this program will be the auto insurance companies who will now be able to offer more expensive policies for the newer cars. HTe states may get a little help too in that registration fees for newer cars are higher.
3) They should have opened the policy to any consumer who improves gas mileage by 10 MPG. That means if I turn in my 1998 Mazda (which under old rules got 35MPG highway and under new rules gets and average of 32.5 mpg) for a hybrid, I should be able to take advantage of the program. Then they should reclassify SUVs as something other than regular cars.

Poor people won't be able to take advantage of the program because if they can get the credit to buy the vehicle in the first place, then then can't afford the additional costs of car insurance and registration. The good news is that the middle class is getting somehing for it, so that's nice. The middle class deserves something.

SUVs are NOT a hands down social evil. Traveling with a family or doing family weeked errands and the like in an SUV makes sense. (Wrenching your back trying to get kiddo into the car seat in a sedan is no fun). However, when I see one person driving around town in a huge vehicle made to transport 4 or 5, taking up 3 spaces in the parking lot, I have a problem with that.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The prius is surprisingly expensive and they don't tell you that hybrid batteries need to be replaced at a cost of several thousand dollars after 5 years or less. I was turned off by that.

USWest and Dr.S are right- the SUV is the station wagon of today. It's a total Dad car. It also makes shopping for big things easier. Lots of families have multiple cars these days, and they often want to have one larger car (SUV, station wagon, minivan) for toting lots of people/stuff. Mind you, I had an SUV when I was single too, but that was the 1990s when gas was under $1/gallon and they were just cool to drive.

An SUV need not be 4WD. Most probably are not, actually, since it's not a feature most people actually need. (Mine is, however - this is a universal subaru feature that is part of their general car design). They call it AWD (all wheel drive) rather than 4WD because the power is not equal to all four wheels, but is allowed to vary by condition.

The other thing about a big car is that's fun to drive a car that is high up and has a panoramic sunroof. It's great for sightseeing and touring around.

USWest- if the idea is to get a car with bad mileage off the road, then exporting the car isn't going to help.

The Administration released prelimnary stats today. The clunkers had avg 15.8mpg and the vehicles purchased have an avg 25.4 mpg, almost 60% better overall.

Raised By Republicans said...

Interesting information on the junk yard implications of this bill. To be honest, I had not thought about that at all. But it's just another case of nasty unintended consequences of otherwise well intentioned legislation.

RE: SUVs: I know a lot of people who have kids and manage just fine with sedans. The preference for SUVs is a style preference and little else. But style preferences are perfectly legit so I'm not bashing that in of itself.

And at least they are now making SUVs to be more like sedans in their mpg and emissions characteristics so people like LTG who like SUVs but don't want to buy gas guzzling smog machines, don't have to buy a converted truck with all the low milage/high emissions problems that go with it.

SUVs were originally devised to circumvent a lot of regulations about cars. Because they could be sold as "trucks" they could have lower mpg and worse emissions. That seems to be changing now or seems to have recently changed.

What really irks me about the SUV marketing and many of the people who chose them is the life style/affectation of it all. If you live your life in an urban/suburban environment, use your car mainly for commuting to work and going to the store, you don't NEED a car with 4WD and an extra high clearance (unless you live in a city that gets enormous amounts of snow - even then that what they have plows for). You might WANT a car with a higher profile so you can see over (and block the view of) drivers in sedans in traffic. And you may WANT a car that doesn't require you to bend your back to put something (or someone) in the back seat. But that's different. It's not like the suburban owners of Ford Explorers do anything in those cars that they couldn't do (and many people do do) just about as easily in a Ford Taurus or a "compact SUV" like the one LTG got (was it a Honda CRV by chance?).

For the record, I have much less, if any, annoyance for people who drive these kinds of vehicles because they use them for their work or drive them in areas with poor road or weather conditions (especially lots of snow). My girlfriend's brother-in-law drives a big gas guzzling Ford F-150. But he is a landscaper and needs to haul his equipment, pull a trailer with more equipment and sometimes to haul huge amounts of yard waste to the appropriate city facility. It would be nice if Ford (or some competitor) could figure out how to make the F-150 a greener car without sacrificing the capabilities he needs, but until they do, he has to drive that big dirty truck.

But the people who live in upscale urban or suburban neighborhoods and drive their Escalades (a luxury converted GMC truck) or Navigators (converted Ford trucks) to and from the local Whole Foods make me want to barf.

Dr. Strangelove said...

RbR mentions that SUVs block the view of people in sedans. I suspect this is 50% of why those who own sedans have a beef against those who drive SUVs. The next 25% has to do with parking abuses. Often I see SUVs parked in "compact" spaces, effectively taking up three slots because they squeeze out the cars on either side.

Raised By Republicans said...

Dr. S. That's a big part of it for me (the view blocking thing). I see them as a menace to navigation. I can't see well when I'm surrounded in traffic by SUVs. And the view obstruction and parking is linked in that when parked between two SUVs it is nearly impossible to see on coming traffic in a parking lot when backing out of your spot (even if the spots are wide enough for larger cars and SUVs).

But I'm still bothered by the whole, "I need a vehicle with these capabilities for my lifestyle" affectation one sees in the aforementioned upscale neighborhoods.

USwest said...

LTG wrote: USWest- if the idea is to get a car with bad mileage off the road, then exporting the car isn't going to help.

LTG, I mentioned in my post that it would wiser to replace old guzzing engines with newer, more fuel efficient engines in older model vehicles and then export them, or re-sell them with an engine warranty. That does help get guzzlers off the road with less waste over all. I just keep seeing WallE world when I think of all the crushed cars. Consumption, and more consumption.

The Law Talking Guy said...

RBR - the revulsion you feel at people in "upscale neighborhoods" driving their SUVS "to and from the Whole Foods" is exactly the class rage/prejudice I was talking about. This is less about the actual qualities of the vehicles but the perceived qualities of the drivers. You don't like "those people." And I don't like being called one of "those people." It should shock you that your sedan is only 10% more efficient than my SUV, which you labeled a gas guzzler. For all the moaning about converted trucks, RBR, ask yourself who is really the victim of false advertising: I, who knew what I was buying, or the purchaser of a midsized sedan who, it turns out, gets gas mileage not much different than the SUVs he despises.

(I bought a Subaru Forester, fyi, cherry red, although they call it camellia pearl or some such nonsense. I dislike the Honda CR-V because my neighbor parks one in front of my house every night and sleeps in it for reasons known only to him.).

SUVs do not block traffic views any more than every pickup truck on the road. Why the anger is directed at SUVs rather than pickups I do not know. Well, I do...

Raised By Republicans said...

First, I made a point of distinguishing your compact SUV with green modifications from the typical SUVs (in fact I mentioned specific models of vehicles neither of which you own). So please stop trying to make this so personal. As for my initial comment that set you off, I WAS TEASING YOU! That's why I put the cheezy "emoticon" symbol for "I'm teasing you" at the end of the comment. But you took it very seriously and decided to get personal. Since then I have taken pains to agree with you that the particular car you have is better than the stereotypical SUV. But you still want to throw words like "prejudice" around.

Second, you seem to be trying to use your particular model to defend the entire class of SUVs even though it is not really representative of the models I mentioned.

Third, please go back and read my comments about those cars. It was all about the characteristics of the vehicles - high clearance, 4 wheel drive, large, trucks with luxury conversions. These characteristics are wholly out of step with what up scale drivers in most suburban and urban neighborhoods actually need - even if they want to ride in the lap of luxury.

Fourth, why don't you follow the distinction between the big SUVs I mentioned and the tucks from which they were converted? Your Subaru (non-sleeper package) is NOT a converted truck. Rather it is essentially a medium sized station wagon that LOOKS like an SUV because it's higher profile. But the full sized SUVs like the models I singled out started out as luxury conversions of working truck chassis. Or were designed to be off road vehicles.

Finally, a 10% improvement in greenness is significant but that's not really what I want to focus on. As I said earlier, from my point of view all your arguments about your Subaru proves to me that your car is an exceptional SUV. It does not convince me that SUVs in general are wrongly maligned by classist prejudice. Both of our cars are much much greener than more stereotypical SUVs like the Navigator, Expedition, Explorers, and the like.

Pombat said...

USWest - I was going to make exactly the same comment to LTG! That your entire point was to put a MORE EFFICIENT engine in the car before exporting it. And yep, Wall-E world is exactly where I feel like we're heading too :-(

LTG: people driving pick-up trucks (or white vans, or whatever actual 'utility' vehicle), of the dirty, chock full of stuff, clearly bought because their full capabilities must be used every day variety, are obviously driving those vehicles precisely because they need those capabilities every day.

You're driving an SUV because you think it's cool. That's what it comes down to, and you've said it yourself - even though you are now justifying owning one on the basis of your lifestyle (regardless of the fact that plenty of other people who have the same number of people / amount of stuff to carry manage perfectly fine in smaller cars; and even though most of your driving is to work, which I assume means JUST YOU in the vehicle), you also admit that you drove one when single, because you thought it was cool.

And that's why you get the anger - you're driving a vehicle that ranges from an inconvenience to an outright danger to others on the roads, just because you like the way it looks, and, presumably, don't give a flying fox about anyone else on the road. And it's that latter point that really gets people going I think - SUVs have become a symbol of me-me-me arrogance/lack of care for others.

As a cyclist, I hate SUVs (or more precisely, I hate being on the road with them). Firstly, there's the fact that visibility around/over the damn things is practically zip, and visibility is VERY important to a cyclist. Then there's the fact that they're so flipping wide that they can frequently be found blocking bicycle lanes, meaning that I can't use my provided lane, safely or otherwise. Then there's the attitude that seems to come with them, which is something along the lines of 'I'm invincible, and way more important than you, get the hell out of my way or I'll run you down' (it's either that or they just don't bother looking, because they feel invincible). Of course, that last point could be somewhat influenced by the SUV driver who nearly ran me down at a traffic light/crossing last night, then beeped his horn at me several times, despite the fact that I was riding completely legally.

(and to be fair, I get road raged by other cars too. It sucks. Cycling is not dangerous, proximity to motor vehicles is dangerous)

Now, LTG, how about you address the issues raised by all of us about the fact that you don't actually NEED an SUV for your lifestyle, you just WANT one, rather than trying to divert the argument onto one purely about mpg?

Anonymous said...

The SUV we just bought is pretty small by SUV standards and seems to have better visibility than most SUVs (which I generally dislike driving for a number of reasons). I do agree that there is a measure of "self-sorting" among the drivers of various cars, though my current ire is mostly for the drivers of Prii in Southern California and middle-aged women driving luxury cars (neither seems able to use turn signals).

As for cyclists, I try to be quite cautious around them and stay on the lookout for mopeds and motorcycles (esp. since many LA cyclists seem to think helmets are optional). That said, I get might annoyed when a cyclist is in the road, then bikes into the crosswalk and onto the sidewalk to take advantage of the "walk" signal. It seems rude and it can be dangerous for driver and biker alike.

-Seventh Sister

Pombat said...

Re cyclists & helmets:

Cycle helmets are designed to protect the head in solo crashes at up to 15-20km/h (possibly mph, not sure, not hugely fast anyway). That is the only thing they are actually designed for. And as a half-decent cyclist, I haven't had a solo crash. I've been riding five years now, and have had a few close calls with unobservant drivers - that's it.

Cycle helmets do not provide any protection for the rest of the body. Cycle helmets have not been shown to provide significant protection for the head as compared to bare-head in crashes (inc with motor vehicles). In some cases they have been shown to increase injuries, due to rotational upper spinal cord injuries thanks to the back of the helmet hitting the ground and twisting whereas a bare head would just bounce. These spinal cord injuries often lead to brain damage and or paraplegia.

When it comes to being hit by a motor vehicle, especially at any kind of speed, a cycle helmet would be bugger all help, to be perfectly frank. Smashed bones and internal injuries are not helped by helmets. If helmets really were helpful, car drivers would all wear them (like racing drivers do), especially since head injury is so common in car crashes.

And as I keep telling people, cycling is not dangerous, proximity to motor vehicles is dangerous (proximity includes travelling *in* them, which I also do sometimes).

With the crosswalk/sidewalk thing, yes, I know what you mean about it seeming rude, but it's not always dangerous, and is often simply a cyclist making safest possible use of the woefully inadequate infrastructure provided. For example, after I leave work, I have to go up a hill to a traffic light, with 2-3 lanes of traffic merging into two once through the lights. I need to turn right at these lights (which is of course equivalent to American drivers turning left, as we drive on the left here), into a smaller street. The cars in the right hand lane will be a mix of those turning right and going straight on. It is actually safer for me to ride across with the walk signal, rather than sitting in the middle of this junction, trying not to get hit by all the other traffic (quite a few of whom will try and overtake me turning right - if I want to stop them doing that, I have to sit square in the middle - not pleasant!).

When it comes down to it, I ride in a manner that is most likely to protect/maintain my safety, whilst bearing in mind that the most vulnerable (and unpredictable!) infrastructure users out there are pedestrians - if I'm on the sidewalk, I'm going slowly.

Don't even get me started on people who don't signal though! ;-p

Dr. Strangelove said...

I hate to nitpick, but LTG is mistaken when he writes, "SUVs do not block traffic views any more than every pickup truck on the road."

Pickup trucks typically have a low side profile, so one can see around them much more easily. (Of course the "monster trucks" are an abomination.)

USwest said...

The real problem with visibility is the tinted windows. That is true of any vehicle. You can't see through them. If it's a big Expedition or something of that sort, it's especially bad. I've had more trouble backing out of parking spaces with visibility when it is a long bed truck. The SUVs typically don't bother me. But as a driver, I have nearly hit a car that is backing out from behind a larger car, even at 15 MPH, it can dangerous.

Raised By Republicans said...

It's the tinted windows combined with the high profile and the long body. Often the bottom of the SUV's windows are about midway up my windows. So when I'm sitting in my car, I can't see through the SUV with or without the tinted windows.

Trucks often have the same features but - again - I'm less annoyed by a working truck being used for work than a truck built for work being used to fulfill some fantasy for a wannabe. In the small town I live in, most of the long bed trucks I see are actually being used for work - often on farms. SUVs on other hand are typically owned by the local in-town people who really don't need that kind of power/torque and clearance.

Pombat said...

LTG: my question from 4:20pm (according to the comment stamp I'm seeing) still stands btw:

Can you please explain why you NEED an SUV, or go ahead and admit that you just WANT one?

The Law Talking Guy said...

I scarcely need any of the purchases I make, Pombat. Neither do you. Even the food I purchase, well, I could buy other food.

So yes, I wanted an SUV. But I had reason for wanting it. I wanted one because I consider a spacious car a more comfortable way to drive around a growing family, and it is a more pleasant way to drive, with a higher and better view. I wanted a vehicle that I could use to take home large-sized purchases that don't fit into the trunk of a smaller sedan. I wanted a vehicle with easy rear access for tailgating.

A smaller sedan would not suit my needs nearly as well. I was choosing in my own mind between an SUV and a station wagon, and I found out that when it comes to gas mileage or size, there's basically no difference: an SUV is just an upright station wagon. And it was marginally less expensive than the equivalent Subaru Outback which lacked a nice sunroof.

The Law Talking Guy said...

"You're driving a vehicle that ranges from an inconvenience to an outright danger to others on the roads."

Huh? Let's stop using our seat-of-the-pants-I-hate-SUV mentality and get some facts. Are there statistics on SUV involvement in accidents? I can say that according to the US govt, the fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles has declined from 1.73 in 1994 to 1.27 today, as SUVs have come onto the road in droves. The decline has been substantial in passenger deaths. The only category of deaths that has increased (doubled, actually) is for motorcyclists. Deaths for pedestrians and bicyclists are also down. That's circumstantial.

From the State of Georgia, "43 percent of car occupant deaths in 2006 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, and 57 percent occurred in multiple-vehicle crashes. By contrast, single-vehicle crashes represented 65 percent of crashes involving SUVs and 62 percent of crashes involving pickups." When SUVs and pickups are in accidents, they are LESS likely to be in a multiple-car accident.

The suggestion that SUVs have a bigger footprint than other vehicles is also false. The ordinary SUV is neither wider nor longer than a midsized sedan! A 2007 Honda Accord is 71.7" wide. The legendary GMC Suburban, which is much larger than your typical SUV, is 76.7" wide, a mere five inches wider. My Subaru Forester is 70.1" wide, marginally narrower than a Honda accord. The length? My Forester is 179.5" long. A 2007 Honda
Accord: 191" inches. That's right folks, the 2007 Honda Accord is both longer and wider than my SUV. The difference is in the height. Mine is 66.9" high, the 2007 Honda Accord is (wait for it) 57.2" high.

The Nissan Armada, which is a "large" SUV, is 79" wide. That's eight inches longer than the Honda Accord. Eight inches is not nothing, but it's not going to squeeze bicycles off the road, spill over two lanes, or what have you.

So let's review the facts. Aside from the fact that people personally dislike SUVs for personal reasons, there are no facts that support the idea that all SUVs are (1) more dangerous to other drivers (2) wider or longer or (3) get substantially lower gas mileage than a midsized sedan.

Some SUVs do have these problems, in that they are at the very, very large end of SUVs. But they are not the norm for SUV or SUV drivers. My previous Nissan Pathfinder was 69" inches wide, FYI.

You are all simply demonstrating my point that the anger at SUVs is misdirected anger at yuppies, not something based on actual facts about taller vehicles. And almost everyone on this blog is actually a yuppie, btw, no matter how you would prefer to think of yourselves.

Raised By Republicans said...

LTG, I think there is a problem in how we are all debating this SUV thing.

SUVs are now a fairly varied class of vehicles. What we call "SUVs" include what you rightly describe as "upright station wagons" (like your subaru and the Honda CRV, Toyota RAV 4 etc.).

However in your zeal to defend the entire class of vehicles you are ignoring the real problems that the larger models in this class have. These are serious problems with design that have nothing to do with yuppie bashing (or self loathing).

Your Subaru has little in common in terms of its fuel and emissions performance with a Chevy Tahoe yet both are "SUVs."

You are correct that your new car is very similar to my Accord. But you are not justified in extending that comparison to a conclusion that ALL SUVs are being unfairly maligned by yuppie haters who are more concerned with the nature of the drivers than the nature of the vehicles.

For my part, I have tried to make these distinctions between individual models (see data presented in the related thread). I'm waiting for you to admit that there are reasons to criticize many SUV models - including some of the most popular models - that have nothing at all to do with socio-cultural resentments of certain demographics.

Raised By Republicans said...

The 2009 Lincoln Navigator is 223 inches long. It is 78.1 inches wide (with a wheel base of 131 inches) and it is 78.3 inches tall (a dimension left out of your defense of SUVs but the dimension that obstructs other drivers' views the most). The Suburban is 76.1 inches tall. By comparison, my 2007 Honda Accord is 58.1 inches -- a foot and a half shorter than the Navigator and Suburban.

And by the way, five inches wider can be a big deal in the right context. Certainly if I'm trying to park between two SUVs both of which are five inches wider than the average sedan and the parking space is designed for sedans, it will shrink the space I have to open my door. I can also imagine 5 inches making the difference to a cyclist in a bike lane.

But Pombat, I've noticed that one problem with SUV DRIVERS is that many of them have a very vague idea of where their front passenger side fender actually is. This not unique to SUV drivers but the lines of many SUVs seem to be such that this particular problem is exacerbated in the larger models (like the Suburban).

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG actually did mention the height of SUVs in his spirited defense of SUVs. He noted that the Subaru Forrester is just about a foot taller than the Honda Accord. So we can see there is, in fact, a substantial difference in height.

The one-foot difference is even more dramatic, however, because height is the one dimension for which the different shapes of the two vehicles truly matter. While all cars are basically rectangular from an overhead view--so it is straightforward to compare length and width measurements--the height profiles of the vehicles differ dramatically. The Accord only attains its maximum height in the passenger section, while the Forester has that height for most of its length.

There is no question that the Subaru Forester is a bigger vehicle than the Honda Accord. That is, after all, why LTG wanted it.

The Law Talking Guy said...

"And by the way, five inches wider can be a big deal in the right context. "

Of course it is in an airline seat or a doorjamb. But driving isn't one of them. Why is it? That's the width of a painted line. According to the California DOT, the average width of a lane is between 10' and 15' with most freeways at 12' and urban lanes at 11' (or 10' on multi-lane roads) (feet). An 72" car is *at least* 3 to 4 feet narrower than a typical lane. Five inches should't be a dealbreaker.

RBR - I do distinguish between car models and sizes, and you should go back and review my comments since you obviously just skimmed them and missed this. I don't provide data on every kind of SUV, of course. But remember, this started because you accused ME of buying a gas guzzler, then everyone began piling on me about why I would want such a horrible thing as an SUV. So defending my own vehicle is appropriate too. I also mentioned the height. You should read what other people say before you start blogging about what other people didn't say.

The Lincoln Navigator is 78" wide - 7 inches wider than a midsized sedan (I'm using the Honda Accord as an example). That's wider, yes, but not nearly as wide as I'm sure you and others thought.

Yes, the cars are bigger, but not all that much bigger.

Admit it, your real beef isn't with the vehicle, its with who you imagine is driving it.

The Law Talking Guy said...

My "zeal to defend a class of vehicles" is not the issue. It's y'all with the zeal to ATTACK a class of vehicles with no facts and lots of self-righteous anger about SUV drivers and their awfulness.

Raised By Republicans said...

"But remember, this started because you accused ME of buying a gas guzzler,"

Actually, no. This started because I TEASED you about bragging about being environmentally cool because you bought a newer kind of SUV. Then YOU overreacted. I didn't ACCUSE you of anything.

Pombat said...

My beef definitely is with the vehicle - SUVs obstruct my vision of what else is going on on the road, to a much much greater degree than any 'normal' car, which as a cyclist is VERY dangerous. They also obstruct other motorists' vision, meaning that they might not see me on my bike - again, VERY dangerous.

As an example, imagine you're cycling along a clearly marked bicycle lane down the side of the road. The bike lane is clear, so you're happily cycling along at a normal speed. The traffic in the lane next to you is stopped, due to lights, general congestion, whatever. Up ahead there's a side road, and the traffic in that lane next to you has left a gap so that other vehicles can access that side road. The vehicle at the head of the queue, the one with the break for the side road in front of it, is an SUV. A driver coming in the opposite direction sees that the traffic isn't moving, can't see me because I'm behind the SUV, swings into the side road, and SMACK - I'm either over the bonnet or slammed into the side of the vehicle.

Visibility is hugely important - you admit it yourself LTG, when you say that one of your reasons for choosing your SUV was the height & visibility. And as a cyclist, I get very irritated at people who don't actually need great big tall vehicles driving the damned things around and putting me at risk.

Now, earlier, I said that you're driving a vehicle that is "outright danger to others on the roads" - to be absolutely fair I should extend that to all motorists. All motor vehicles are dangerous, the stats of how many deaths they directly cause each year speak for themselves - I think the WHO estimate is 1.2million deaths worldwide annually. Which of course doesn't include all those people who don't die, but essentially lose their lives due to horrific injuries.

Now, this comment:
"From the State of Georgia, "43 percent of car occupant deaths in 2006 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, and 57 percent occurred in multiple-vehicle crashes. By contrast, single-vehicle crashes represented 65 percent of crashes involving SUVs and 62 percent of crashes involving pickups." When SUVs and pickups are in accidents, they are LESS likely to be in a multiple-car accident."

Those stats are badly written, but the way I'm reading it is that the bit about SUVs/pick-ups is also about occupant deaths, and tells us that an SUV occupant is more likely to die in a single vehicle accident than a pile-up. Does not say that SUVs are less likely to be in a multi-car accident. Also says sod all about risks to pedestrians & cyclists, who are much more vulnerable road using groups (decline in their deaths overall is probably due to a decline in the numbers of pedestrians/cyclists. Possibly due to a decreased feeling of safety on the roads; maybe linked to boom in SUVs?).

Pombat said...

And finally, your comment about five or eight inches not making much of a difference. As a cyclist, I can tell you that it damned well does - for example that unawareness many SUV drivers seem to have of where their front passenger side corner is - often it's right in my lane, causing me problems. The difference between someone passing me twelve inches away, and twenty inches away, is actually massive (I would of course prefer a good three feet, but hey). And it's made even more so when the vehicle that is passing me is incredibly tall and intimidating - if I can see over a car that's squeezing me, it feels a lot less scary than when I can't even make eye contact with the driver (probably mostly because there's so much space under SUVs that I could wind up in).

But don't just take my word for it - you only drive four miles to work - you should easily be able to cycle that, in about half an hour I'd say (well, half an hour once you're fit, would probably take a bit more than that now, and of course I don't know how hilly it is - that could add a smidge more in the up direction).

Not only will you be educating yourself into being a better driver, and getting facts for yourself on my arguments in this thread, but you'll be saving yourself money. Not just by reducing your gas bills right now, but also by reducing your healthcare bills in the future - the classic middle aged spread increases risk on a whole host of expensive conditions such as heart disease, fatty liver disease, type two diabetes, even Alzheimer's and cancer.

Are you up for that challenge?

The Law Talking Guy said...

I have to arrive at work not sweaty and in nice clothes, often a suit and tie. Wearing work shoes on a bike doesn't work well. Bike chain grease has sullied up my pants when I have tried biking in nice clothes to work (tried it the last place I lived). We don't have showers at work or lockers - it's a law office. And if it is not too hot in the summer to bike uphill most of the way to work without sweating, it is too dark in the winter to travel safely on a bike, in my opinion.

Although it might be possible to make it work if I really wanted to, it would still be difficult. I would have to, say, try to bring a complete change of clothes including shoes in a backpack, they would wrinkle. Really can't bring suit and tie that way at all, btw. I would also have to leave home earlier each day to make it work, then get home later. I would have to drive anyway on days when I have to go to court or anywhere out of the office, which is at least once a week, or when I have errands to run to the dry cleaners or elsewhere either distant or requiring too much baggage.

Simply put, I do not view biking to work as a realistic option. If your job and lifestyle makes it feasible for you, congrats.

I'm done with this thread.

Pombat said...

I actually figured you'd be done with this thread *before* providing the list of excuses, sorry, 'reasons' that you just gave, but hey, I can be wrong once in a while.

To counter all your excuses, on the off chance that you do read this:

Firstly, bicycle panniers. These have more space than the average backpack, in fact plenty of space to take neatly rolled up clothes *and* a pair of shoes, as well as all sorts of other bits and pieces. Added bonus is that they help keep you cooler because they're not on your back like a backpack. The Deuter "rack pack II" also has built in super-reflective yellow rain cover, and the pair are large enough to take twelve bottles of wine and a six pack of beer, or at least six six packs of beer. Not that we'd ever be carting all that around you understand ;-p

Next, chain grease. Nice pic here of a bike with a full chain guard, the purpose of which is to totally prevent grease from getting on to the rider. And a guy here wearing cycling shoes, Amsterdam style.

As far as the sweating uphill in summer - if you started riding this autumn, you'd be fit enough by summer that you wouldn't be sweating. I ride about the same distance as you'd have to, and the only days when I arrive sweaty now are the 35C+ ones (95F+) - I find I don't sweat on the cold days, because it's too fricking cold. I do not recommend cycling on a 43C+ day, although if I ever get around to getting myself a lycra cycling top, which you can dunk in cold water before putting on, I may try it again.

Darkness in winter. Hard to tell without seeing where you'd be riding, but if there's at least some street lamps, then a good set of front and back lights, along with a nice high-vis fluoro jacket, and you're set. There's nowhere in Melbourne that is too dark to ride in the winter with this simple set of kit, I can't believe that there's anywhere in LA. Feel free to send me a Google maps link to have a look at where you'd be riding though.

Of course, given that you do need to drive some days (and when you actually need to drive to court etc, I think it's perfectly reasonable to do so, especially given the differences in PT between our cities), you could always take a whole load of work shirts etc to work in the car, and stash them in the office for the week. At the end of the week, you drop them off to the dry cleaner (I take stuff to the dry cleaners on my bike incidentally, but then mine's within my cycling radius, and I walk home with them rather than packing it all in panniers. I did cycle home with our cleaned doona/duvet/comforter though, whch was interesting :-) ), pick them up clean, stash back in the office. I know a few people in the office here who do that - you only need a very small amount of space for four days' of shirts, plus possibly a suit or two - I'm sure you could get some sort of locker or similar organised if you actually wanted it - it doesn't matter that you're in a law office, that's a complete furphy (good luck convincing me that lawyers in Copenhagen don't cycle). And of course if you don't need your work shoes at home, you just leave them at the office, and change into them once there, regardless of whether you've cycled or driven that day.

So, biking to work is a more than realistic option for you (albeit not every day), and you can make it work. Next time you see them, ask your doctor what they think of the idea.

ps if you do decide to try cycling to work, I'll be one of the most encouraging people you can talk to about it - I promise that you cycling to work would make me lose my argumentative attitude :-)