9208.0 - Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, Australia, 12 months ended 30 June 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/04/2013   
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1 This publication presents estimates from the 2012 Survey of Motor Vehicle Use (SMVU). The data were collected in three seperate reference periods by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) between 1 July 2011 and 30 June 2012.


2 The scope of the survey comprises all vehicles that were registered with a motor vehicle authority for road use at some stage during the 12 months ended 30 June 2012. Not included are caravans, trailers, tractors, plant and equipment, vehicles belonging to the defence services and vehicles with diplomatic or consular plates. Where they were registered as such, vintage and veteran cars were also excluded from the survey. Unregistered vehicles are out of scope.

3 The population of vehicles was identified on 31 January 2011 using information obtained from the state and territory motor vehicle registration authorities, as part of the annual ABS Motor Vehicle Census (MVC) (cat. no. 9309.0). There were 16.4 million vehicles identified at this time, an increase of 4.5% from 31 March 2009 when the population was identified for SMVU 2010. The population information identified is referred to as the survey frame.


4 For the 2012 SMVU, a sample of 16,000 vehicles was selected for inclusion in the survey. The sample consisted of passenger vehicles or motor cycles (23.9%), freight vehicles (60.9%), buses (11.4%) and non-freight carrying vehicles (3.8%). The sample size was chosen to give a suitable level of reliability for estimates of total distance travelled and tonne-kilometres travelled for each state/territory of registration by type of vehicle category.

5 Owners of vehicles selected in the survey were mailed early advice about their inclusion to encourage record keeping and minimise reliance on recall. Owners were asked to complete two paper questionnaires tailored to their vehicle type. The first, at the beginning of the survey period, asked for selected vehicle characteristics and the vehicle odometer reading. Owners were also advised that they would receive a follow up questionnaire at the end of the period seeking details about the use of the vehicle over the four month period and a second odometer reading. Examples of the main items requested in the second questionnaire were included with the first questionnaire. (Sample questionnaires can be found under the 'downloads' tab on the ABS website).

6 When questionnaires were returned to the ABS they were checked for completeness and accuracy and, where possible, follow-up contact was made with owners to resolve reporting problems. Where contact with owners could not be made, missing items on incomplete questionnaires were filled by using data from like vehicles for which data were obtained.

7 Where the selected vehicle owner had not owned the vehicle for the whole four month survey period, the usage details provided for the period of ownership were adjusted to give a four-month equivalent. Where the vehicle was deregistered during the four month survey period, only usage up to the date of deregistration was included.

8 In addition, adjustments were made in the estimation process to account for the use of new motor vehicles registered after the survey population was identified, as well as the re-registration of other vehicles during this time. More information about these adjustments is provided in paragraph 26 of the Technical Note.

9 Estimates from information reported in each four month collection period were produced and these were then aggregated into annual estimates relating to the use of vehicles during the period 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012.


10 When interpreting the results of a survey it is important to take into account factors that may affect the reliability of estimates. Such factors can be classified as either survey methodology, sampling error or non-sampling error. Information on these factors is provided in the Technical Note.


11 Survey estimates of the numbers of vehicles, by vehicle type, are not fully comparable with ABS Motor Vehicle Census data (see Motor Vehicle Census, Australia (cat. no. 9309.0)). The main differences are:

  • survey estimates of the numbers of vehicles relate to the average number of vehicles registered for road use during the period 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012, not to the number of vehicles registered at a specific date, as is the case for the Motor Vehicle Census
  • characteristics of the vehicle reported in the survey information may differ from those recorded by the motor vehicle registries.


12 Most tables in this publication include statistics presented as averages. Tables 1, 3 and 4 are summary tables and present average kilometres travelled per vehicle for all registered vehicles in scope of the survey. This includes those vehicles that did not travel during the reference period (also known as nil use vehicles). See paragraph 29 of the Technical Note for more details on nil use vehicles. Other tables present more detailed information on actual vehicle use where the denominator used in calculating the average is limited to the estimated number of vehicles that contribute to the particular table cell. In some cases a vehicle may contribute to more than one cell in a table (e.g. a bus used for route service and charter purposes) but will only be counted once in the denominator for the total.

13 As the denominators used to calculate each average are different it should be noted that the averages along a table row cannot be used to derive the total column entry for that row.


14 This publication includes estimates of vehicle use for earlier years. However, it should be noted that the survey was designed to produce reliable estimates of key data items for a point in time, not for year-to-year changes. As such, changes in data over time may be subject to high RSEs and may not be statistically significant. While the analysis in this publication does make comparisons over time, the limitations as outlined above should be taken into account and care should be taken in drawing inferences from these comparisons. See paragraphs 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the Technical Note.


15 The term 'billion' means 'thousand million' in line with Australian standards.


16 Users may also wish to refer to the following publications and products which contain information relating to motor vehicles in Australia:
      Motor Vehicle Census, Australia (cat. no. 9309.0)
      Sales of New Motor Vehicles, Australia (cat. no. 9314.0)
      Information Paper: Changes to the Survey of Motor Vehicle Use (cat. no. 9208.0.55.006)


17 As well as the statistics included in this publication, the ABS has other relevant data available on request. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.