I tell you, sometimes I see things that just shake me up. Just check out this picture that I took from a downtown parking garage that I sometimes use. It is a site I see pretty much any time I enter this garage, and recently I saw the person who uses this monstrosity to commute to an office job daily. Surprisingly, the owner is a young, thin, female, very pleasant and seemingly intelligent enough.
But let’s see if we can quickly note the problems with this vehicle choice from just a basic intelligence standpoint. Putting aside the tremendous difficulty that the owner experiences in trying to maneuver this behemoth into a fairly tight parking garage (can anyone say “ten-point turns”), we have to wonder why on earth a single person, of any gender, would even think about using such a vehicle for commuting. Like you, I of course see an armada of them on the road each rush hour. In almost each case I see a single person in each vehicle.
Do these drivers not realize just how much money they are blowing by this choice? I’m not just talking about the $50,000.00 vs. $18,000.00 purchase price or the 12 mpg vs. the 35 – 40 that a Toyota Corolla or Nissan Sentra would feature. I’m also thinking about the huge difference in insurance premiums and vehicle parts and maintenance. Why would any reasonable person with hopes of ever retiring make such a choice?
One of the more popular justifications is that people are somehow safer in SUVs and trucks, for example in winter weather. I’m sorry, but I and others have to call B.S. on that one. You really aren’t any safer at all. In fact, my experience has been that the people who drive these things tend to become overconfident, domineering drivers, thus increasing the risk of accidents. Besides that, do you really want to make a huge purchase decision and manufacture a huge debt burden for the sake of being better protected in a major accident that you are unlikely to ever experience (assuming you drive safely and while sober)?
Another rationalization is the “well, I sometimes have to transport my kids and their friends.” Really? You’re going to buy an oversized SUV or truck for the once or twice a week occasions on which you drive your kid and his friends to a ball game and practice? Does that make any sense at all? Similarly, why buy a truck to use 4 – 5 times a year to haul stuff home from the home improvement store. Wouldn’t you be better served making your decision on the basis of how the vehicle will be used 97% of the time, which is driving, alone, to and from work and related trips?
If you want to succeed with practical frugality, you have to be honest with yourself — especially with big purchases. Most times, as here, you will find there is no rational basis for the purchase or that a MUCH cheaper alternative will do just fine.