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I remember reading somewhere that the biggest buyers of SUVs (albeit compact SUVs) are mothers / young parents who think minivans are too ugly. SUVs have lots of space for kids and a large boot to take everything from bicycles to shopping. And of course the better SUVs do have lots of safety features.

Car manufacturers know this, which is why 7-seater SUVs are now a thing. Luckily they’re also working on hybrid and electric models.

These articles on female car-buying habits are interesting. These (and many other articles) note that boot space and seat comfort are big factors in making the buy decision.

[1] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/women-are-more-likely-to-d...

[2] https://abcnews.go.com/Business/time-car-companies-wake-wome...


There is also a thing where station wagons are less and less practical. If you compare a mid 90s Volvo 940 to the latest Volvo V90, the reduction in interior space, exterior visibility and in practicality is huge. Seems to be mostly caused by the trifecta of safer cars (thicker doors etc), better aerodynamics and more styling/design taking up space and making windows smaller.


Station wagons basically morphed into crossover SUVs. It's the same concept - hatchback body on a sedan chassis - but sits a bit higher and has different styling.


Crossovers are basically wagons with the exterior dimensions inflated to keep interior dimensions constant in the face of ever thickening pillars, doors and body structures.


No, I don't think so. If you look at the good ole' Volvo 940 wagon, you get 990 L cargo capacity with all seats in use. A new RAV4 (big crossover) has 580 L in the configuration with the biggest trunk. It's shrunk by 40%.


Unless you have 3+ children, why would you need anything larger than a five-door car for basic errands/travel with family?


7 seaters are intended for those who frequently do pooled trips with friends or family -- and won't buy a minivan. They're not necessarily much larger than 5-seaters, the extra seats fold down when not needed and use up the boot space.

As you say, 5 seaters are probably fine for most people.


I’m in the market for one. When you have two kids that are car seat age, two car seats eat up a lot of room in smaller cars. Then when you and your partner need to go somewhere, there’s barely any room for strollers and diaper bags.

If they made roomier cars I’d be all for it, but they don’t. So I have to buy something that offers room.

Some people don’t want to drive vans.


Station wagons have lots of space and better aerodynamics as well as being only slightly heavier than the same car as a coupé.


Sport wagons also look awesome, in my humble opinion. Euro and Australian sport wagons are surprisingly aesthetically pleasing. Not to forget the golden era of 90s Japanese sport wagons.

Granted the sport version power trains weren't always economically inclined, but there was always a standard option.


> If they made roomier cars I’d be all for it, but they don’t.

I drive a full-sized Volvo wagon. I've also driven a full-sized Ford Taurus wagon. Plenty of room for two tall kids (my son is 6'4", my daughter is well on her way to 6'), and in the days of my Taurus, it would carry a child, a baby seat, a stroller, even a bicycle and a trailer.

Besides a thing about SUVs versus car form factors, I have test-driven Volvo's equivalent SUVs, and while they often claim similar cargo volume to the wagons, I find the wagon's long and low profile more useful for the kinds of things I tend to carry. Bikes are a lot easier in a wagon, in my experience.

YMMV.

Of course, there are F-150s and Chevy Suburbans and extra-long Escalades for those who absolutely, positively want to drive a truck.


Families of four have comfortably taken even long journeys in VW Golfs in the past. I know, because my parents used to take us from northern Germany to Italy or Spain every summer.

Not to mention there are plenty of towns and cities where families get around by bike. Americans need to expect more from local governments!


>Families of four have comfortably taken even long journeys in VW Golfs in the past

New car buyer are skewing richer and richer so a larger fraction of the people OEMs have to cater to can justify the luxury of not doing that.


Maybe look at who’s buying those vehicles before you make sweeping generalizations about who the buyers are.


I believe "boomer" has already come to mean "anyone older and wealthier than me", so even though you're right based on the previous definition, their sweeping generalization is probably correct from their point of view.


Ride height and cool factor. Minivans have ~the same ride height and even more utility (space) if you don’t off-road but lack the cool factor.


I think the cool factor is mostly gone with SUV's. When every soccer mom drives an SUV, it's no longer cool. Yes, they're cooler than a minivan, but that says more about the minivan than it does about the SUV.


Compare the prices of minivans to crossovers. That's why people aren't buying minivans in droves.


I don't think there's a very complicated question to answer - SUVs are sooo much more comfortable to get into and drive than regular cars that it's not a surprise they have become the default vehicle type for many people. I'm only 29 and having developed some joint problems I'm now buying an SUV for myself, purely because getting into a regular sedan/estate is a bit of a struggle, but getting into an SUV isn't. The same applies to the driving position - even in the uber-luxury saloon like the Mercedes E class the fact that you're sitting much lower puts a lot of strain on my legs, but sitting with my back higher up in something like the LR Discovery makes driving much easier.

I'm trying to offset the emissions aspect by buying a plug-in hybrid SUV - so at least my plan is to do 100% work commute on electric power alone.


Huh.

I'm over 70, with ~severe arthritis, and I still love my Civic. Getting in and out requires some leverage on the wheel and seat. But driving is as comfortable as relaxing in a recliner.


This is anecdotal of course, but I don't think it's just boomers who are buying SUVs. I'm 30, I see a lot of people my age and older who are buying SUVs. Unfortunately, I don't think concern for the environment rates high among other generations when push comes to shove. They buy Mercedes SUVs without a second thought when the economy is doing well for them.


Why are you assuming it's boomers? SUVs and pickup trucks are popular across the entire age spectrum for a variety of reasons (perceived safety, cargo capacity, space and features to haul kids and their stuff around, better road visibility, etc.).


Also for some people their main car and their work care are one in the same. They need to haul their tools in the back of their truck and other things as well.


As a 30 year old, I buy an SUV (well, a crossover, technically) because its a good average between efficiency and carrying capacity. I don't want to have to rent a U-Haul every time I move something bigger than a breadbox.

Two adult homes can presumably have a big car and a small car, and prefer to take the most efficient choice for the given trip (and have the shorter commute take the less efficient vehicle), but generally, people need to occasionally move stuff around.

It is, also, safer. I've seen what a minivan does to a Corolla, and I'd much rather be in something the size of a minivan. I sit higher, have better visibility, etc.


> It is, also, safer. I've seen what a minivan does to a Corolla, and I'd much rather be in something the size of a minivan.

Looking at a crash between two vehicles of very different size isn't a fair test. Smaller cars are much more able to avoid getting into wrecks in the first place. We fully expect, simply based on mass, that vans will be better at passive safety, and worse at active safety.


Sometimes there's nothing you can do to avoid an accident with another driver. You can get in a crash standing still at an intersection. In an accident, the biggest car will win. If the average car on the road was a Mini Cooper I wouldn't worry about it. But with the prevalence of SUVs, anyone driving something smaller than a crossover is taking a big personal risk.


From the research I've seen, that's not a significant factor. People aren't dying in their compact cars sitting at intersections. Sure, sometimes it happens -- and sometimes a semi or train hits you and even an SUV won't help.

According to the IIHS, for example, the little 2-door Honda Civic has about the same fatality rate as the safest large SUVs.

People in small cars aren't "taking a big risk". About as many people in America die of influenza as car crashes, so if you're driving an SUV but haven't gotten a free flu shot, I don't believe you're doing it out of some calculated risk assessment.


Flu deaths are concentrated on the very young and very old, though.

The fundamental connection: people who drive SUVs and people who skip flu shots don't care about externalities.


Indeed true that I'm extremely low risk for flu complications, though I live with someone at high risk, and should get flu shots now.

It's not that I don't care about externalities, but that I'm going to weigh them against direct concerns. It's true driving an SUV might have a small percentage impact on the environment. It's also true that it slightly increases my chances of killing someone else in an accident. But if it significantly decreases the chance the person killed in said accident is my wife/kid, I'm going to prioritize that over the "dangers" SUVs provide to others.


Not sure why you are getting downvoted. I am in the same situation. If all electric SUVs werent priced for the upper class I would probably own one.

Also if you have a big enough family there is no way to haul them around on a tiny car unless you shove some kids in the trunk.

Besides. I am no boomer either.


>I don't want to have to rent a U-Haul every time I move something bigger than a breadbox.

Thanks to ever more stringent rollover requirements modern vehicles can carry some pretty big things on the roof. You just have to ignore the part where people judge you for it (so I understand why people don't do it).


Congratulations for being part of the problem, then! This is a great example of how some people aren’t willing to trade even the smallest possible inconvenience, like having to rent on rare occasions, for public good.


I’ve avoided accidents due to sitting higher in a SUV or truck by seeing what is in front of the driver ahead of me.


That only works if the vehicle in front of you is lower than your own, right? So people will have to get into an arms race and buy higher and higher vehicles to keep that advantage.


True, but that's mitigated by other factors, the simplest of which is that above a certain height it will become a royal pain to get in and out of the vehicle (and not just yourself: that includes helping kids in the backseat, and baggage).


And I've avoided accidents by looking through the rear window of the car ahead of me.


This is the reality. You also get cut off way less and that alone avoids plenty of accidents.


I drive a fair bit, and I'm here to tell you:

The type of person who cuts another driver off does not do a lot of thinking about the relative consequences. I've seen plenty of tiny sedans with oversized tailpipes, wings and a dozen mod stickers cutting off big SUVs.

Heck, they even dart in front of semis on the highway. They do not care if you're in an XC 90 instead of an S60.




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