9208.0 - Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, Australia, Oct 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/09/2003   
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This publication presents estimates from the 2002 Survey of Motor Vehicle Use (SMVU). The data were collected in four quarterly sample surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) over the period 1 November 2001 to 31 October 2002. Revised estimates from the 1998 and 1999 SMVU are also included in this publication. These relate to the period 1 August 1997 to 31 July 1998 and 1 August 1998 to 31 July 1999. Estimates in this publication have been produced by employing post-stratification to correct for population frame deficiencies. Detail on this process can be found in Technical Note 2: Methodological Review.

Release of revised data due to the frame deficiencies has now been completed. Tables 1 to 3 include a full series of revised SMVU data for 1998, 1999 and 2000 together with recently released data for 2001 and new data for 2002.


The scope of the survey is all vehicles that were registered with a motor vehicle authority for road use at some stage during the 12 months ended 31 October 2002. 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. The population was identified using information obtained from the state and territory motor vehicle registration authorities.


For the 2002 SMVU, a sample of approximately 16,700 vehicles was selected to report on vehicle use over a three-month period within the reference year 1 November 2001 to 31 October 2002. Of these, 24% were passenger vehicles and motor cycles, 60% were freight vehicles, 11% were buses and 5% were other non-freight carrying vehicles. The sample size was chosen to give a suitable level of precision for estimates of total distance travelled and tonne-kilometres for each state/territory of registration by type of vehicle category.

The survey methodology is described as pre-advice, where owners of vehicles selected in the survey received early advice about their inclusion to encourage record keeping and minimise reliance on recall. These owners were asked to complete two mail questionnaires tailored to their vehicle type. The first, at the beginning of each quarterly survey period, asked for selected vehicle characteristics and the vehicle's odometer reading. Owners were also advised that they would receive a follow up questionnaire at the end of the quarter seeking details about the use of the vehicle over the quarter and a second odometer reading. Examples of the main items requested in the second questionnaire were included with the first questionnaire.

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 providers could not be made, missing items on incomplete questionnaires were filled by imputing average data from like vehicles for which data were obtained.

Where the selected vehicle owner had not owned the vehicle for the whole quarterly survey period, the details provided for the period of ownership were adjusted to give a three-month equivalent, except where the vehicle was deregistered, in which case only the use up to the date of deregistration was included.

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 Technical Note 1: Data Quality.

Estimates from information reported in each quarterly collection period were produced and these were then aggregated into annual estimates relating to the use of vehicles during the period 1 November 2001 to 31 October 2002. The size of the sample is insufficient to produce reliable quarterly results.


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 sampling error or non-sampling error. Information on sampling and non-sampling error is provided in Technical Note 1: Data Quality.


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 November 2001 to 31 October 2002, not to the number of vehicles registered at a specific date, as is the case for the Motor Vehicle Census
  • the characteristics of the type of vehicle identified from the survey information may differ from those recorded by the motor registries.


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 including those that travelled zero kilometres. The 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 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.

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.


This publication includes estimates of vehicle use for 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002. Care should be taken in drawing inferences from changes in data over these years as movements may be subject to high RSEs and hence the changes may not be statistically significant.


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 - issued annually from 1995

Sales of New Motor Vehicles, Australia, (Electronic Publication) cat. no. 9314.0.55.001 - issued monthly

Directory of Transport Statistics, 1998 cat. no. 1132.0 - released in January 1999

Transport Theme page on this site.


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.