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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1996  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/1996   
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Contents >> Transport >> Special Features: Registered cars

Special Features: Registered cars

The number of passenger vehicles registered per 1,000 population has increased from 250 in 1965 to 465 in 1995.

The convenience and flexibility offered by the car has made it the dominant form of transport in Australia. The number of passenger vehicles registered per 1,000 population increased from 250 in 1965 to 465 in 1995. Passenger vehicles have become, for many people, essential to accessing employment, education, health services, shopping and recreational activities (see Car use). However, the use of passenger vehicles also has social, environmental and economic costs, including road accidents, smog and greenhouse emissions, depletion of fossil fuel reserves, and urban traffic congestion1.


Cars

The data in this review are from ABS motor vehicle registration collections and the Household Expenditure Survey.

ABS motor vehicle registrations data are obtained from state motor vehicle registration authorities. In these collections, passenger vehicles are defined as being constructed primarily for the carriage of less than 10 passengers (including the driver). They include cars, station wagons, 4 wheel drive passenger vehicles and people moving vans. Light commercial vehicles are defined as being constructed primarily for the carriage of goods and weighing less than 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass. They include utilities, panel vans, cab-chassis and cargo vans (whether 4WD or not). Both passenger and light commercial vehicles may be registered by an individual or by a private or public organisation.

In the Household Expenditure Survey, private cars are any registered passenger vehicles or light commercial vehicles that are usually garaged or kept by the members of a household and are not solely used for business purposes.


Passenger vehicles
At 30 June 1995, there were 8.4 million passenger vehicles registered in Australia. South Australia had the highest number of registrations per 1,000 population (515) and the Australian Capital Territory had the second highest (512). The lowest numbers of passenger vehicles per 1,000 population were in the Northern Territory (355) and New South Wales (415). The low rate of passenger vehicle registrations in the Northern Territory reflects the greater use of light commercial vehicles in rural and remote areas. The low rate in New South Wales reflects the many households in Sydney that rely on public transport (see Public transport use).

PASSENGER VEHICLE REGISTRATIONS PER 1,000 POPULATION


Source: Motor Vehicle Registrations, Australia (cat. no. 9304.0)


Light commercial vehicles
While light commercial vehicles are primarily constructed for the carriage of goods, many are used for the carriage of passengers. At 30 June 1995, there were 1.7 million light commercial vehicles registered in Australia. The Northern Territory had the highest registration of light commercial vehicles per 1,000 population (147) and Queensland had the second highest (114). The lowest numbers of light commercial vehicles per 1,000 population were in the Australian Capital Territory (60) and South Australia (67). The high rates in the Northern Territory and Queensland partly reflect the higher proportion of people living outside capital cities in these states, while the low rates in the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia reflect the higher proportion of people living in urban areas (see Population - State summary tables).

TYPE OF VEHICLE BY STATE, 30 JUNE 1995

Passenger vehicles registered
Light commercial vehicles registered


State
'000
rate(a)
'000
rate(a)

New South Wales
2,534.8
414.5
564.2
92.3
Victoria
2,277.9
506.0
384.7
85.5
Queensland
1,504.2
459.0
372.0
113.5
South Australia
759.4
515.2
98.3
66.7
Western Australia
860.7
497.0
158.9
91.8
Tasmania
237.2
501.5
49.7
105.1
Northern Territory
61.7
354.8
25.5
146.6
Australian Capital Territory
155.6
511.7
18.2
59.8
Australia
8,391.5
464.8
1,671.5
92.6

(a) Per 1,000 population.

Source: Motor Vehicles in Australia (unpublished data).


An ageing fleet
The average age of passenger vehicles in Australia has increased. In 1995, the average age of passenger vehicles registered was 10.4 years. The corresponding average ages in 1993, 1991 and 1988 were 10.2, 9.7 and 9.1 years respectively. The ageing of motor vehicles has implications for emissions, fuel use and safety.

1985 was the most common year of manufacture of passenger vehicles registered at 30 June 1993. These vehicles accounted for 7% of all registered passenger vehicles. Unleaded fuel became mandatory for all petrol passenger and commercial vehicles manufactured after 1985. However, in 1993, 60% of all registered passenger vehicles may have still been able to use leaded fuel.

PROPORTION OF PASSENGER VEHICLES REGISTERED(a) IN 1993 BY THEIR YEAR OF MANUFACTURE


(a) Registered at 30 June. Excludes vehicles manufactured prior to 1973 and in 1993.

Source: Motor Vehicle Census 1993 (cat. no. 9309.0).


New registrations
The ageing of the car vehicle fleet is associated with a decrease in new motor vehicle registrations. Between 1966 and 1975, new passenger vehicle registrations per 1,000 population gradually increased from 26 per year to 37. Between 1976 and 1995 there was an overall decrease from 33 per year to 29. However there were fluctuations in the second half of the 1980s with the lowest rates of new passenger vehicle registrations occurring in 1987 and 1988 (around 23 per 1,000 population).

In 1995, registrations of new passenger vehicles totalled 527,149. The top five makes (Ford, Holden, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Hyundai) accounted for 75% of them. Their shares of the market were 22%, 20%, 16%, 10% and 7%, respectively.

In 1995, registrations of new light commercial vehicles totalled 86,104. The top five makes (Toyota, Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi and Mazda) accounted for 90% of them. Their shares of the market were 33%, 20%, 19%, 11% and 6%, respectively.

REGISTRATIONS(a) OF NEW PASSENGER VEHICLES PER 1,000 POPULATION


(a) Data prior to 1972 refers to calendar year and data for 1972 and after refers to financial year.

Source: Motor Vehicle Registrations (cat. no. 9304.0).


Private cars
In 1993-94, 51% of Australian households had one registered private car, 26% had two and 7% had three or more. 16% did not have any registered private cars.

The number of registered private cars in households can be related to household size and income. Generally, households with the most people aged 15 or over had the most registered private cars. For example, the majority (64%) of households with two registered private cars had two household members aged 15 or over. 43% of households with three registered private cars had three household members aged 15 years or over and 49% of households with four registered private cars had four household members aged 15 years or over.

The number of adults living in the household is often associated with higher household income. Multiple car registrations were more common among those households with higher incomes. 40% of households in the highest income quintile had two registered private cars and 20% had three or more. In comparison, 8% of households in the lowest income quintile had two registered private cars and less than 1% had three or more. 41% of households in the lowest income quintile had no registered private cars, compared to 6% of households in the highest income quintile.

WEEKLY HOUSEHOLD INCOME BY PRIVATE CARS REGISTERED, 1993-94

Number of private cars registered

None
One
Two
Three or more
Income quintile
%
%
%
%

Lowest
40.8
50.0
8.4
0.8
2nd
17.2
62.4
18.4
2.0
3rd
10.2
58.1
28.1
3.6
4th
7.2
47.5
36.9
8.4
Highest
5.9
34.8
39.7
19.7
Total
16.3
50.6
26.3
6.9
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total households
1,075.7
3,345.5
1,739.9
455.7

Source: Household Expenditure Survey (unpublished data)


Private car buyers
In 1993-94, 3% of households purchased a new private car and 15% purchased a used private car. Households which bought new cars tended to have higher average weekly incomes than those purchasing used cars. Couple family households with non-dependant children were the most likely to buy either a new (5%) or used (26%) car. These households also had a comparatively higher average weekly income. Lone female households were the least likely to purchase a car (2% purchased a new car and 4% purchased a used car). These households had a comparatively lower average weekly income and were likely to be older persons.

In 1993-94, the average weekly household cost of running private cars (excluding purchase price and loan repayments) was $68. Of this, $27 was spent on petrol, $10 on vehicle servicing, $9 on compulsory registration and insurance, and $8 on non-compulsory insurance.

PROPORTION OF HOUSEHOLDS WHO WERE CAR BUYERS, 1993-94

New car buyer
Used car buyer
Average weekly income
Household type
%
%
$

Couple only
3.2
11.2
689
Couple with dependent children
2.6
20.5
876
Couple with non-dependant children
4.5
25.6
1,110
Lone parent with dependent children
* *
7.9
406
Lone male
2.2
9.6
429
Lone female
1.9
4.4
289
All households(a)
2.7
15.4
723
$
$
$
Average weekly income
959
911
723

(a) Includes other households.

Source: Household Expenditure Survey (unpublished data).


New car affordability
It is difficult to estimate the change in affordability of new cars because of the introduction and deletion of models and the variation in models over time. However, the Ford Falcon base model sedan has been in continual production since its release in 1960. While successive models have become more technologically advanced, it has remained a six cylinder full-size family car.

In 1960, it took 60 weeks at average male total weekly earnings to buy a new base model Ford Falcon sedan (excluding on-road costs). Over the next ten years the number of weeks of average male total weekly earnings required to purchase a new Ford Falcon declined to 32 weeks. From 1971 to 1986, this remained relatively constant. However, since 1987, there has been an upward trend, and in 1995 it took 44 weeks of average male total weekly earnings to buy a new base model Ford Falcon sedan.

While it may appear that the affordability of a large family sedan in Australia has been declining since the mid 1980s, it should be noted that there have been dramatic changes in product quality over time. Later models have additional and improved features including greater safety, economy, performance, comfort and build quality.

WEEKS OF AVERAGE MALE TOTAL WEEKLY EARNINGS REQUIRED TO BUY A NEW FORD FALCON(a)


(a) Retail price of Ford Falcon for 1990 not available.

Source: Ford Australia (unpublished data); Average Weekly Earnings (cat. nos 6301.0, 6350.0).


International comparison
National passenger vehicle registrations vary due to many factors. Cultural attitudes, prices of cars and fuel, public transport systems, road conditions and physical geography vary greatly between countries, causing differences in the number of passenger vehicles registered.

Of the countries selected, the United States had the highest rate of passenger vehicle registrations. Australia was ranked 5th.
PASSENGER VEHICLE REGISTRATIONS PER 1,000 POPULATION

Year
Registrations
Country
rate
rate

United States of America
1993
565
Italy
1991
496
Canada
1994
493
Germany
1993
482
Australia
1993
456
New Zealand
1994
455
France
1994
431
Sweden
1993
410
United Kingdom
1993
355
Japan
1994
341
Greece
1994
199
Korea (Republic of)
1994
116
Singapore
1994
111
Hong Kong
1994
55
Indonesia
1990
7

Source: International Road Federation World Road Statistics, 1990-1994

Endnotes
1 Newman, P., Kenworthy, J. and Robinson, L. (1992) Winning back the cities Australian Consumers' Association, Pluto Press, Sydney.

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