Other writers ponder questions like the meaning of life, but what I've been wondering about lately is this: Why it is that people who drive Hummers and other big-ass SUVs always drive slower over those little speed bumps in parking lots than everyone else? I mean, isn't that probably the closest they'll ever get in their lifetimes to an "off-road experience," the only logical reason why they bought a tank instead of a car in the first place?
I'll confess upfront that I don't understand why people drive big vehicles, particularly Hummers. It seems to me to be a tremendous -- and, in my opinion, obnoxious -- waste of the Earth's resources as well as one's personal financial resources.
A rule of thumb often cited by personal finance experts is that your monthly car payment should be no more than 15% of your monthly take-home pay, and that's assuming that you're not already overburdened with other debt. That means that in order to afford a Hummer H2 priced at say $63,000, you should probably be earning at least $200,000 per year. Remember, that's not household income either. Assuming that your family owns more than one vehicle (as most American families do), your total car payments for all vehicles owned should be under 15% of your household take home pay.
Since I've never understood why anyone would chose to buy a Hummer, I was fascinated by a research study recently published by the Journal of Consumer Research that shed some light on the issue. I guess I assumed that Hummer owners were oblivious to the moral implications of over-consumption, or at least they couldn't care less.
But surprisingly, through a series of in-depth interviews with Americans who own Hummers, the researchers found that Hummer owners "consider Hummer driving a highly moral consumption choice. For Hummer owners it is possible to claim the moral high ground." What the fu_ _? (I mean "fuel," BTW.)
According to the study, "Hummer owners [or I'm assuming, more accurately, people who are at least making their $1,200 monthly payments on a Hummer] adopt the role of the moral protagonist who defends American national ideals." That's right. From the perspective of a Hummer owner, they're the good guys, standing strong against environmentalists and others who dare question the sanctity of traditional American ideals like the "rugged individualist" and the "boundless frontier." The more Hummer owners are criticized, the more they feel vindicated as righteous crusaders, battling to preserve the American way of life (or, at least, the American way of spending).
To each his own I suppose. But in a nation that spends more than $200,000 per minute, 24/7, buying foreign oil, it seems a stretch to frame ownership of a gas guzzler as an act of American patriotism. It also seems like an unwise financial decision for most people.
Heck, if the $60,000+ sticker price doesn't make you stop and think, maybe this will: According to a 2009 article in Consumer Reports, Hummer drivers get almost five times as many traffic tickets as the national average. I guess that, too, must be a matter of attitude.
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