Our Broken Car Culture

The US is a car culture. I get it. As much as I talk about bikes I know that driving, and owning a car is a necessity for most of us. But do they ALL have to be so big, and so expensive?

My Honda Element is easily the best vehicle I’ve ever owned. It’s soon to be 20 years old, and it’s got 225k miles on the clock. At some point I’m going to need a new car. I would like something that has the same functionality, and I wouldn’t mind if it were a little smaller.

During one of my trips to Ft. Lauderdale I saw a small van driving down the street. When I say small what I mean is it was tiny. It was something I had never seen before.

Now, I’m a sucker for all manner of small things, so I had to know what this was. I ran out to the street for a better look. Right hand drive? A Honda badge? A small amount of searching, and I discovered it was what’s called a kei van. A category of vans and trucks sold in Japan. Color me smitten.

From a distance these things look ideal. Small engine, better than average mileage and plenty of storage. I wouldn’t want to drive one cross country, but for running around town I think it would be ideal. They seem to be a very popular vehicle category in Japan and other parts of the world.

So what’s the problem you may be asking. Well, like a lot of things we can’t get them here in the US. Correction. You can as long as you’re willing to buy one that’s at least 25 years old. That’s another story.

American customers allegedly don’t want small vehicles. There were 3 small vans available in the US up until a couple of years ago. Ford, and Nissan quit making theirs. Dodge still makes one, but it’s $30,000.00. You can buy a new kei van in Japan for about half that price.* They lack some of the luxuries of new American cars, but I don’t care about that. My average trip by car is about the same as the national average, approximately 6 miles.** I don’t require luxury for trips like that.

I understand supply and demand. I also believe that I’m not the only person who would want a vehicle like this. In fact, I’ve found many people online that have purchased, and imported the old models. I just don’t really want to trade my 20 year old car for a one that’s 5 years it’s senior.

Do I wish that automobiles weren’t status symbols? Yes. Do I wish fewer people drove humongous vehicles just to go grocery shopping? Sure. But do I begrudge anyone wanting to own an expensive vehicle? I really don’t. I just wish I had the option to buy something small and simple that would carry me, some bikes and/or boats. It follows my philosophy on riding a bicycle. I don’t care if you ride. But don’t make it impossible for me just because it’s not important to you.

*I understand that the dollar is at an all time high against the yen, and I also admit that I have no understanding of what those prices mean in relation to the average Japanese salary.

**I wanted to link to an article that had data, but they were all over the place. Some from websites that had an obvious bias toward EV’s. 6 miles seemed to be the number that came up most, and was also used in a US Transportation Dept. study from 2018.

What I'm Reading

The Power of Myth: Joseph Campbell/Bill Moyers

Basically a transcript of the PBS television special of the same name. Storytelling is in our DNA, and Campbell was not only the preeminent authority, but one heck of a story teller himself. (afflilink)

Barefoot Curious?

I've talked about barefoot shoes until I'm blue in the face. I don't know that I'll ever be able to go back to "normal" shoes again. If you've been on the fence, Xero shoes is having a sale. Up to 70% off select styles. Free your feet!

SUPPORT MY CONTENT ON PATREON: https://www.patreon.com/dcwiggins

MAKE A ONE TIME DONATION VIA PAYPAL: PayPal.me/thepsychicderailleur

Ditch your overpriced mobile plan. Try Mint Mobile and get great service, and 4gb of data per month for $15! http://fbuy.me/qo2f-

The following Amazon links are not only some of my favorite non bike things, but a cost free way to support my work. When you use one of my links to make a purchase (any purchase), I receive a small commission.


I tend to use the Kindle Unlimited store as much as the library. If you haven’t tried it, there are hundreds of books that are free to read. Get a free trial here: https://amzn.to/3c474Zf

Prefer audio books? Audible Plus is a brand new all-you-can-listen membership that offers access to thousands of titles, including a vast array of audiobooks, podcasts and originals that span genres, lengths, and formats. Try it free! https://amzn.to/3qKO9WN

Back to blog