In the world of automobiling there is this peculiarly American notion that you should buy the car that suits not just your ordinary needs but also your requirements at their most extreme.
Ergo, the city couple who told me some years ago that they had to buy a Ford Excursion because they like to go away for a couple of weeks each summer with their two small children. “With the baby seats and the crib and the diapers, we just can’t get all our stuff in an ordinary station wagon,” they exclaimed, with that what can you do, give a hands-up shrug signifying befuddlement, but also meaning "Please don’t point out the ridiculousness of this position," we prefer not to think about it.
For, undoubtedly, there was something they could have done and it’s something we can all do now. It’s called the roof rack. Try using yours sometime. Some cars come with one and, for those that don’t, provision for one can be made relatively inexpensively.
Put aside the majestic landscape advertising -- the sort that puts you in mind of your vehicle’s rock-climbing ability – and ninety-nine percent of the time you can get by in the real world with a vehicle that’s smaller, more fuel-efficient and, for those who care about such things, fun to drive. Unless you’re moving refrigerators on a regular basis, a car will do. And for that one time every so often you do something that requires a truck, you can rent one and it’ll feel like it’s free because you’ll have saved so much not feeding a larger car, truck or crossover than you really need.
America’s attachment to maximum car is clearly fostered by the nation's enduring sense of limitless cheap gas supplies, a notion that no number of energy “crises” or unpredictable price spikes can disabuse us of. There is, too, the illusion that you’re getting more value and space in larger, high-riding vehicles. Not all of them are so spacious, it turns out, and all of them extract a financial premium for their four-wheel-drive, high-riding stance, in terms of initial and running costs.
But to the extent that they are actually larger, it is, often, like heating a house that is well more than you can use, a waste on many levels. It is not so far away from the impulse to have two double-wide freezers in the basement. Stocked to the gunwales for...what? The apocalypse? In cars and refrigerators, why not plan for regular life and not the worst case?
Instead, I propose, increase your car’s functionality overnight with a locking roof carrier or bike rack for those occasions when you need them. If you’ve ever driven around Europe, where gas is dear, you’ve seen the ingenuity people bring to living their often quite rural lives with smaller cars. Small cars tow small trailers and almost everyone uses their car’s roof.
There are other reputable brands, and some people will choose to fabricate carriers themselves, but I’ve always liked Sweden’s Thule brand, which celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary next year. Their stuff (carriers, bike and ski racks) looks high quality and progressively designed to me, but you could probably fool me, just because it works well.
Roof racks will make your small car bigger. And, if we are to be honest, they’ll make your large SUV even larger, which might appeal to some folk even more.