9309.0 - Motor Vehicle Census, Australia, 31 Jan 2020 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/05/2020   
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For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.

The Motor Vehicle Census (MVC) collates data relating to vehicles which were registered with a motor vehicle registration authority at 31 January 2020. The data is collected under the legislation of each state and territory for the purposes of licensing vehicles to drive on public roads and the collection of third party insurance.


The MVC includes all motor vehicles registered with a state or territory Motor Vehicle Registry (MVR) for unrestricted use on public roads. The scope of the MVC excludes:

  • recreational vehicles such as trail bikes and sand dune buggies intended for off-road use
  • veteran and vintage vehicles registered for restricted use only;
  • consular vehicles; and
  • vehicles registered by the defence forces.

Registered vehicles are defined as those motor vehicles registered at the date of the census, or that had registration expire less than one month before that date. Data reflects the information as recorded in registration documents.
The MVC has been conducted regularly since 1971 but not every year and not always at the same time of the year. Refer to paragraph 2 of the Explanatory Notes for a list of snapshot dates from 1971.

Data are classified geographically by state or territory of registration and postcode of owner.


The snapshot date for the MVC is currently 31 January of the reference year. The statistics are generally released within 7 months of the snapshot being taken.


The MVC provides the survey frame for the Survey of Motor Vehicle Use (SMVU). Editing of the data is designed to maximise data quality to the level required for the SMVU. The MVC is collected as an administrative data by-product from the state and territory MVRs. The size of the registered motor vehicle fleet (over 19 million vehicles) dictates that quality assurance of each record is not possible. However, considerable effort is made by the ABS to improve data quality with consistency checks and comparisons.

While the data are made available at a detailed level, the ABS is unable to guarantee that it is necessarily sufficient for all purposes for which it may be used. There is also some variation in the reporting from the MVRs, and care should be taken when comparing data across jurisdictions. Data items where conversions of vehicles (eg. fuel type or reconfigurations) have occurred may not be accurately reported or recorded at the MVR.


The types of fuel being used for motor vehicles has undergone change over the years. Leaded petrol is no longer available for sale. However, some older vehicles are still recorded with this fuel type by the MVRs. The number of hybrid and electric vehicles is increasing. However, not all state and territory MVRs currently identify hybrids separately.

Statistics from the 2020 MVC are comparable to previous censuses. Data from the MVC, when categorised by year of manufacture, can be confronted with new motor vehicle sales data available from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI). The MVC is also used as the frame for the Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, Australia (cat. no. 9208.0).


The MVC publication contains detailed Introductory Notes, Explanatory Notes and Glossary that provide information on the data sources, terminology, classifications and other technical aspects associated with these statistics.


If the information you require is not available as a standard product or service, then ABS Consultancy Services may be able to help you with customised services to suit your needs. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.