30 January 2014

Vehicle Envy

So much change!

I've been a bad blogger. Since my last post, I've had a baby, become a WAHM, and reset my life goals. We'll see how things go now that I'm avoiding an 8-5 grind.

A friend sent me a blog link on Facebook that I found interesting. It gave helpful advice on how to pick a vehicle when considering the for for your kids' car seats.


What I found interesting was how many of the vehicles with problems are SUVs and trucks. In Canada, most of the parents I know insist they need a bigger vehicle for their kids, even of they only have one or two. This both fascinates and troubles me.

When I was pregnant, one of the first things people asked me was when I'd get a new vehicle. I'd just bought my first new-from-a-dealership-wow-I'm-the-first-owner car, a zippy Mazda 3GT, and it was only two years old. It gets great fuel economy, isn't super expensive to insure, and has a great maintenance warranty. I put on winter tires so I drive city roads and highways like I'm on rails. The cabin warms up fast because it's small. I park in stalls that make sedans cringe. I love this car.

And I have to give it up because I'm having a kid? I thought this was funny. "You'll see, they said knowingly, "Your car is so small, you won't fit a car seat! And all the baby stuff you have to carry, and then if it's a boy and he gets into sports... You'll be a minivan mom before you know it."

At this point the conversation would go on a tangent about why only a boy would get into sports or would get into sports that required a lot of equipment. But later I'd consider what they said, with a fair bit of dread.  I love my little car. A minivan? Ew. My mom had two kids, and the biggest vehicle we had was a small sedan. Also, I'm what I like to call a Prepared Minimalist Packer. Sort of a Girl Guide/Macguyver. I don't carry a ton of stuff; I improvise or I make do without, but I always carry safety/emergency stuff, especially in my car . How would that change with a baby?

It turns out that once I found my stride as a new parent, it didn't change how I pack. I carry a car seat, a stroller, a small or medium diaper bag, a baby car bag, and my emergency kit. My car seat is a Diono Radian RXT, so it's tall, narrow and will convert to a booster seat as my Minion grows. My stroller folds down very flat; it's a Bugaboo Chameleon so it separates into 2 pieces. I have a cargo box hoisted over the car from the rafters on case I need to carry a bunch more. I lower it on ratchet straps and clamp it on fast. No big deal.

But it made me think about Canadian's obsession with having a bigger vehicle. This is a fairly new trend. I think it started in the 1980s with the emergence of the minivan. The car companies marketed it as a perfect vehicle for families. That covered the Yuppies who wanted a new type of vehicle. What about the Dinks (Dual Income, No Kids. Don't get offended. I was proudly one until a year ago.) in comes the SUV. Bigger than a jeep and with a permanent roof. Enter the prevalence of the aptly-named Suburban.

Then in the following years, the two vehicle types sort of merged together to form a hybrid, 'mid-sized' vehicle. At the same time, despite populations moving from rural

Take the folks who "need" a giant truck for the occasional weekend pulling an RV. Renting a truck for that weekend is cheaper than the increase to your lease payments over one year, let alone three or five, and there's no wear on your own vehicle.

Consider the parents who "need" an SUV or minivan to haul their kids and their sports equipment around. A cargo box on top of a car does that just fine. That includes carpooling 2-3 kids and their hockey bags.

Is a Costco run the reason to supersize your vehicle? I do a Costco run with a car seat and stroller every week in a car. If we're getting something large, I get help hauling it. That happens once or twice a year, maybe.

And let's not start with the 4x4 argument. Most people don't know how to use 4x4 and rarely use it. Climb a lot of rough terrain in towns and cities, do you? For winter driving, you're better off to invest in winter tires than 4x4. Neither helps you drive to road conditions. Many people I know drive beyond road conditions, thinking their 4x4 makes them safer

Canadians are generally spoiled when it comes to our vehicles. That's good. But the "I need" conversation really needs to be changed. Marketing and the luxury makes people spend far more on their vehicle than they need to, making them a pain to drive or park. SUVs and truck "ride higher" but have weird blind spots that give them trouble. They are beasts to park; you don't see as many a-hole cars taking two stalls or park over the front or side lines.

Winter tires and a cargo box on a car with better fuel economy is cheaper to run and maintain, and easier to drive. Consider that there's a lot more families in Europe under similar driving and family conditions as North America, and a lot fewer trucks and SUVs. All I'm saying.