December 12, 2002


The gratification of wealth is not found in mere possession or in lavish expenditure, but in its wise application.

Miguel de Cervantes

An organization called the Evangelical Environmental Network has been pushing a slogan that says "What would Jesus drive?" Of course, everyone already knows what Jesus would have driven; he would have driven an ASS. It is part of a campaign to demonize SUVs (sport utility vehicles) as gas guzzlers.

Now I wouldn't dream of suggesting what I think of the organization and their slogan.

Even though little in human endeavors is determined by logic, many people, including me, choose their vehicles by what they will be used for.

I have a '92 Toyota pickup, which I use for things that I need a pickup for, such as hauling my recyclables to the recycling center and picking up building materials from the building supply store. I also use it to haul firewood from where I have cut it to my house. It also serves as a spare vehicle, when needed. In the winter, weighted down with boxes of sand, it gets me through snow.

My wife's car is a Toyota RAV4. It is, in many ways, a school teacher's car. It has a rear door that opens like an ordinary door, which makes it easy to load and unload small amounts of stuff. I like to use it for our weekly grocery shopping. It is considered a small SUV and its gas mileage is similar to a medium size sedan. It has 4 wheel drive and handles well in the snow.

Our third vehicle is a '92 Nissan Sentra which we do not keep at home during the winter. We park it in town. It gets close to 40 miles per gallon on the highway. We use it almost exclusively for long trips to the San Francisco Bay area. It has two advantages: 1. Fabulous gas mileage, and 2. It is not the kind of vehicle that city thieves steal.

It should be obvious that the intelligent choice of a vehicle depends on what you intend to use it for. A carpenter needs a different kind of vehicle from an accountant. A family with 4 children needs a different vehicle from a retired couple. Someone who lives, as I do, at the end of 8 miles of dirt road needs a different vehicle from someone who drives only on paved roads. Someone who hauls a trailer or has a camper has different needs from someone who uses motels when he travels. A person who has to drive on snowy mountain roads has different needs from someone who lives in southern California.

Whenever I need to buy a vehicle, the first thing that I do is check out Consumers Union Reports. They have been in the business for a long time and about the best thing that they do is to evaluate motor vehicles. I read their reports carefully, searching for my own particular needs. I chose the Nissan Sentra because of its excellent gas mileage and the fact that it handles well on rough roads; plus the fact that it was cheap (about $10,000 new). I would have preferred 4-wheel drive to boot, but that wasn't an option at the time. They also rate vehicles for their repair frequency, which is especially important when buying either a used or new car.

At any rate, this business about demonizing SUVs is silly. It is the people who choose their automobiles as status symbols rather than for their utility who deserve to be ridiculed, not the vehicle itself.

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