Trucks, SUVs Losing Their Edge

When it comes to owning a vehicle, more and more people are of the belief that bigger isn’t better.

According to a recent poll on Daily Fuel Economy Tip, sedans and compact cars accounted for 72% of our primary vehicles while trucks, SUVs and minivans accounted for only 28% of our primary vehicles.

Both sedans and compact cars accounted for 36% of the responses, trucks accounted for 18%, SUVs accounted for 7% and minivans accounted for 4%.

These numbers came as a bit of a shock to me, especially considering that during 2006 three of the four best selling vehicles in America were full-size pickup trucks – the Ford F-150, the Chevy Silverado and the Dodge Ram – not to mention the fact that the Ford F-Series has been the best selling vehicle in America for the past 24 years.

However, when you look at the broader picture, and the shift towards more environmentally friendly and fuel efficient vehicles, this seems to make plenty of sense. Over the past four years we have seen gas prices double, which has caused many people to give up the gas guzzlers they may have bought in the late 1990s and early 2000s and move towards smaller, more fuel efficient sedans and compact cars.

And with the average national gas price of a gallon of regular gasoline pushing $3 – and with many analysts predicting $4 gas this summer – it certainly seems like more and more people are going to be forced to give up their truck, SUV or minivan and move to a smaller car.


  1. The keyword here is “primary vehicle”. Many families own a pickup truck or SUV as well as a smaller car and are likely to list the car as the primary vehicle. I don’t have references to prove this, but I would guess that a large pickup truck or minivan is rarely the only vehicle in the household. So unless you have results of similar surveys from previous years those numbers are not very meaningful.

  2. The poll on this website suffered from response bias where the participation was voluntary. People who are concerned with fuel economy might not want to admit they drive an SUV. And don’t forget that most people who drive big trucks and SUVs probably aren’t overly concerned with fuel economy; at least not enough to frequent a blog about it.

  3. Looking around the parking lot where I work, there are an awful lot of people using big pickups and SUVs as daily commuter cars. And I’m not talking F-150s either, in a lot of cases.

    I have this argument all the time with my relatives. It seems to be a widespread belief that if you’ve gone to Home Depot once in the past year to buy lumber, you need a pickup truck, and if you go on one vacation a year with your family, you need a van or a big SUV. But a lot of vans burn twice the gas my Honda Civic burns. Some trucks and SUVs burn three times the gas. At $3/gallon, the difference could be $3,000 a year, if you burn a tank of gas a week.

    One could rent a pickup truck every single Saturday instead and save a lot of money. But in doing this, one would realize how infrequently one really does haul something substantial. It’s only about once a year that I buy something that I can’t fit into my Honda Civic, though I’ll admit sometimes I have to be a little creative.

    Using vacations as an excuse to justify a van or SUV is even weaker. You spend $1,500-$3,000 a year extra on gas just so you won’t have to take an extra vehicle on vacation? Why not drive a fuel-efficient vehicle and rent something bigger to drive on those one or two vacations a year? The $1,500 you save will pay not only for the rental, but it will probably also pay for a nice chunk of your vacation.

    So the other households in my extended family are spending $3,000-$4,500 more per year on gasoline than my wife and I spend. (We both drive Honda Civics.) It seems like most people would do almost anything to have an extra three or four grand to spend every year, but I guess giving up big vehicles isn’t among them.


  1. […] Trucks, SUVs Losing Their EdgeAccording to a recent poll on Daily Fuel Economy Tip, sedans and compact cars accounted for 72% of our primary vehicles while trucks, SUVs and minivans accounted for only 28% of our primary vehicles. … […]

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