Reading your reply reminds me of the same mental calculations I was doing when deciding whether or not to purchase our Jeep
:). My experience is that the real life numbers are a bit different, though. So I have a Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is known for it's horrendous fuel economy. Trailblazers and the like typically do better. On the highway I get 19-20mpg (we just took a 4,000 mile trip and the overall average was something like 19.4). In town it's more like 14-15, but in town for me is never going over 30 mph and quite a bit of idling. Before the Jeep we had a 98 Camry 5spd that got about 25mpg in town and could get 33mpg on the highway. We average about 10,000 miles per year, which is probably about half in town and half highway. Using the 20mpg and 15mpg for the Jeep and figuring 5,000 miles each city & highway, the camry would use about 351 gallons in a year and the Jeep 583 gallons, a difference of 232 gallons. This past year I've been paying around $3.00 - $3.20 per gallon, so figure $3.10 and it's $719 more per year, which is a lot closer to the $500 mark. But our old camry got better fuel economy than most compact cars because it was a 5spd. So in 10 years, assuming gas prices don't skyrocket, we're looking at an extra $7,000 - $8,000 in gas. Add that to the the $7,000 and I've spent $15,000 in total. I could have purchased a new hybrid for $30,000+ but still would not come out ahead (unless gas surges to $10+ / gallon). Plus, the camry gave me back problems because it was very uncomfortable for a tall person. So I guess you could somehow factor in medical troubles. Add in all the advantages of the Jeep I mentioned earlier and it was almost a no-brainer.
I'll admit that there are a lot of people who really don't NEED an SUV. But I think that's a hard judgement to make. I really don't NEED an SUV. I don't even NEED a car. I could quit my job, live in a homeless shelter, and draw unemployment. In that case, there's very little I'd need. But I don't WANT to do that. And that's not a viable way for our society to survive. I can afford to drive my Jeep for now and it's been very helpful in many ways. I'm not generally speaking very wasteful. I save paper by doing things electronically. I save gas by burning wood fires. I conserve electricity, etc. I just don't think we should pick on the "SUV" crowd. They sell well for a reason. Perhaps we should be finding ways of making more efficient or even electric SUV & light trucks. That's what a majority of Americans seem to want, especially in more rural areas.
Anyway, thanks for the discussion.