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Evil Women

6/21/2005 12:00:00 AM

Tags: cars

We just received this letter from Mary Jackson in Lincoln, Nebraska, and our editorial assistant, Karen Brock, said, 'Hey, aren’t you facing this same dilemma?' Well . . . as a matter of fact, I am. I’ve been noodling (loudly) about whether to renew the lease or purchase my Honda Civic Hybrid. I love the car—not only because it saves me money and lessens my impact on the planet, but because I really do consider it a mobile political statement. (For a while, I had a bumper sticker that said, 'Real Patriots Drive Hybrids.' I decided it was a little too in-your-face and removed it.)

My big dilemma is that the car’s just not big enough to haul around two getting-bigger-all-the-time kids, their friends, and the dog (groceries and luggage become luxuries). Is it better to keep it and drive two cars whenever the kids want to bring along friends—or to succumb to minivandom? Every time we look at a seven- or eight-seater, and I realize I’ll get less than half the gas mileage I’m getting now, my heart sinks. And every time I tell my kids, 'Sorry, we can’t invite friends along—there’s no room in the car,' my heart sinks as well. What’s a mom to do? This reader faces the same question. Anyone out there have the answer?

I’ve been debating writing for quite some time, ever since I read an article on buying used vehicles ('Just Ask,' Natural Home & Garden, May/June 2005). In that article, once again, I was branded EVIL. 

Two years ago I faced a dilemma that I will soon face again and would like to know how to fix it and not go to the Deep South (H*ll) when I die. My car—a 1998 Caprice Classic that got eight miles to the gallon (downhill in a strong wind)—died, and I needed to replace it immediately to get to work. I didn’t have time to spend weeks debating. 

We own a 105-year-old house that we’re fixing up to sell. At the time of the old car’s death, hauling lumber wasn’t too bad (you really can tote a four-by-eight sheet of plywood on the roof of a Caprice Classic). I also volunteer for a local no-kill cat shelter and routinely haul hundreds of pounds of cat litter. I needed a practical vehicle and wanted a hybrid. No matter how much creative visualization I tried, though, I couldn’t picture a Prius hauling either 400 pounds of cat litter or four sheets of four-by-eight paneling or even hauling a trailer with any substantial amount of weight. That meant I could buy a Prius (which actually was out of my price range, and there were no used ones then!) and rent a truck once a week—or get a practical vehicle. 

Practicality (for a builder) and hybrid cars were incompatible. There was one hybrid SUV on the market, for three times what I paid for a Mitsubishi Outlander, the best small SUV with the best gas mileage. For a drive, the Outlander’s great: good gas mileage, smooth handling, very stable. But it was false economy. 

We’re now building a new home. It will be green—able to drop off the grid if necessary, and we’re doing the finishing ourselves and building our own furniture. We will garden and eventually own horses and sheep. But now that we’re really building (not just remodeling), I’m in the exact same position. This vehicle is too small. So what do I do? Rent a truck once/twice/three times a week? The Prius (and other hybrids) simply cannot haul a trailer with any amount of weight, and it would be as practical as a Radio Flyer for hauling lumber, hay, and sheep. 

The earth is important to me, and I try with every effort to be green. I’m tired and a little hurt to be continually considered EVIL. I’ve actually considered not shopping at my local health food store rather than feel the shame of parking my SUV there. I try at every corner to be green—green laundry products, green cleaners, green building products, recycling. I loathe throwing anything out, so I buy with an eye to keep things forever. 

What do I do? Do I become green (and have a revolving pickup truck rental) or stay practical and EVIL? 

Mary Jackson
Duilliath Designs 
Lincoln, Nebraska

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1/20/2011 6:45:34 PM
One viable option is to buy a higher mpg car as well as an older, used truck. There are plenty of older high mileage trucks out there for $1500- $2000 or less that may not be your first choice as an everyday vehichle, but still have plenty of life left in them for trips to the hardware store or the lumber yard. They are not always the prettiest thing on the lot, but nothing beats an old truck when you need to haul a load of lumber or a scoop of manure or whatever. Do you really want to buy an expensive hybrid and then throw lumber etc. in the back of it? Also, you can get better gas mileage in non-hybrid vehicles with some driving habits such as shifting to nuetral when coming to a stop or going downhill, and driving 60 mph or slower (yes you will feel like a slowpoke but I have gotten up to about 50 mpg in an 06 Sentra doing this).

1/20/2011 1:40:39 PM
I am in the exact same place in my life!!! I absolutely need a vehicle that can accomodate my lifestyle and still be relativly green. Oh and not cost the price of a small house. The only thing that is the true answer to this is: (no I'm not crazy) to get a license to drive a horse drawn cart/buggy. Sure you will freeze in winter, sure you will sweat in summer. But you will be totally green. This is not a jibe at you. But until they really come up with a truly green vehicle?.... I'm going to have to get something practical, that uses as little gas as possible, that will last at least 10 years as long as it is well cared for. And just hope that in 10 more years I will actually have a viable option that will fit in my budget.

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