Latest release

Motor Vehicle Census, Australia methodology

Reference period
31 Jan 2020

Explanatory notes

Motor Vehicle Census

1 This publication presents statistics relating to vehicles which were registered with a motor vehicle registration authority at 31 January 2020.

2 Motor Vehicle Censuses (MVC) have been conducted periodically from 1971 on each of the following dates:

  • 31st January for the years 2011 through to 2020.
  • 31st March for the years 2001 through to 2010.
  • 31st October for the years 1996 through to 1999.
  • 30th May for the year 1995.
  • 30th June for the year 1993.
  • 30th September for the years 1971, 1976, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1988 and 1991.
     

Scope and coverage

3 The 2020 MVC includes all motor vehicles that are registered with an Australian state or territory Motor Vehicle Registry (MVR) for unrestricted use on public roads as at the census date, 31 January 2020.

4 The scope of the MVC excludes:

  • recreational vehicles such as trail bikes, quad 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.
     

5 Data provided to the ABS includes road-registered caravans, trailers, tractors, plant and equipment. These particular vehicle types are out of scope and hence are not included in the Motor Vehicle Census publication. From 2013, data for road registered caravans, trailers, tractors, plant and equipment are available in TableBuilder product, Microdata: Census of Motor Vehicles, Australia (cat. no. 9309.0.55.003).

6 Coverage currently extends to data collected by all eight Australian state and territory MVRs.

7 Vehicles whose registration has lapsed up to 30 days prior to the MVC snapshot date are deemed to be in scope. This is because payments may be processed by MVRs within this time and the vehicle treated as being continuously registered.

8 In Victoria and Queensland, recreational vehicles such as trail bikes, quad bikes, and sand dune buggies are required to be registered. These vehicles are included in the MVC as they are not able to be discretely identified and removed. In these states, trail bikes are included in motor cycles while other off-road vehicles could be included in various vehicle types depending on how the MVR coded the body type.

9 Veteran and vintage vehicles with restricted use for all states and territories are excluded in the count of registered vehicles, except for two states. In New South Wales, these veteran and vintage vehicles with restricted use are included in the count as there are no distinguishing identifiers in the data supplied by the MVR to enable their exclusion. For Victoria, where possible, data on most veteran and vintages vehicles are excluded.

10 Motor vehicle registration statistics are derived from data made available by various state and territory MVRs. Registration data reported to the ABS reflect the information as recorded in registration documents by the relevant MVR. Unusual movements in registration counts are queried and confirmed with the relevant MVR.

Attrition

11 The estimated proportion of motor vehicles, excluding motor cycles, taken off the register since the previous MVC is referred to as the attrition rate. The attrition rates in the following table have been calculated using MVC and new motor vehicle sales data. Motor cycles are excluded from the attrition rate calculation as they are not included in new motor vehicle sales data.

Estimated attrition(a), state/territory - census years

 Between 2015 and 2016Between 2016 and 2017Between 2017 and 2018Between 2018 and 2019Between 2019 and 2020
 no.%no.%no.%no.%no.%
NSW
262 426
4.9
262 872
4.6
287 998
4.9
314 416
5.2
262 979
4.4
Vic.
207 924
4.4
209 495
4.2
214 408
4.2
236 429
4.5
215 728
4.0
Qld
159 188
4.2
139 062
3.4
135 935
3.3
146 633
3.4
144 070
3.3
SA
52 744
3.9
50 434
3.5
49 470
3.4
52 949
3.6
51 180
3.4
WA
84 019
3.9
89 755
3.9
85 500
3.7
85 480
3.7
58 113
2.5
Tas.
12 844
2.8
7 927
1.7
8 433
1.7
7 716
1.5
7 063
1.4
NT
7 603
4.8
13 091
7.8
3 621
2.2
11 637
6.7
9 770
5.7
ACT
13 298
4.6
11 500
3.7
11 605
3.7
12 509
3.9
13 874
4.3
Aust.
800 046
4.4
784 136
4.0
796 970
4.0
867 769
4.3
762 777
3.7
a. These estimates exclude motor cycles. For more details on calculation of the attrition rate refer to the Glossary.
 

Methodology

12 The 2020 MVC is a count of all in-scope vehicles registered with a state or territory motor vehicle registration authority (MVR) at 31 January 2020. All records are compared to previous MVC data for vehicles that match (on-going registrations) and details are updated for these vehicles where applicable.

13 The unmatched records (new vehicle registrations) undergo editing of individual data items. The editing of on-going registrations is limited as these records have been edited in previous years. Aggregate data is checked across time, states/territories and vehicle types to ensure coherency.

Data quality

14 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 size of the fleet (over 19 million vehicles) dictates that quality assurance of each record is not possible. Therefore, 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 different state and territory MVRs and care should be taken when comparing data across jurisdictions.

15 The information provided to the ABS and included in the estimates for any year may be revised or corrected in later years. Where corrections are made to original data they will be identified by the annotation (r) revised.

Statistical geography

16 Geographic data available from the MVC are postcode of owner and state or territory of registration.

17 If analysis of regional data based on postcodes is being undertaken, the following considerations need to be taken into account:

  • there are some instances where the postcode of the vehicle's owner is in a different state or territory from that in which the vehicle is registered. For example, the postcode of the owner of the vehicle could be in Sydney, yet the vehicle could be registered in Queensland;
  • some official postcodes (PO boxes, competition postcodes) do not correspond to residential areas; and
  • some postcodes could be invalid.
     

Acknowledgement

18 This publication draws extensively on information provided freely by the state and territory motor vehicle registration authorities. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated. Without it, many of the transport statistics published by the ABS would not be available.

Related publications and products

19 Users may also wish to refer to the following publications and products which contain information relating to motor vehicles in Australia:

ABS data available on request

      20 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. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

      Glossary

      Show all

      Articulated trucks

      Motor vehicles constructed primarily for load carrying, consisting of a prime mover having no significant load carrying area, but with a turntable device which can be linked to one or more trailers.

      Attrition rate

      The estimated proportion of motor vehicles taken off the register since the previous Motor Vehicle Census (MVC). The attrition rate is also referred to as the motor vehicle retirement or scrappage rate. The number of registration lapses is calculated by adding the total registrations from the previous MVC to the number of new motor vehicle sales between the two MVCs, and subtracting total registrations at the later MVC. The attrition rate measures the number of registration lapses as a percentage of the total potential vehicle fleet, where the potential vehicle fleet is the number of registrations at the previous MVC date plus the number of new motor vehicle sales between the two MVCs. To calculate the annualised attrition rate as a percentage apply the following formula:

      \(\large [1-\{T_2 /(T_1+N_1)\}^{12 / M}] \times 100\)

      where \(T_1\) is the number of registrations at the first time point, \(N_1\) is the number of new sales between the first and second time points, \(T_2\) is the number of registrations at the second time point and \(M\) is the number of months between the two time points.

      Average age of vehicle

      The estimated average age of registered motor vehicles in Australia. The age of a vehicle is defined as the number of years since it was first manufactured. This is calculated using the formulae below, which allow for the census having been conducted in different months over time. Although the MVC has been taken on different dates over time, it has always been taken on the last day of the month. These formulae assume that vehicles are manufactured at a constant rate over the year, or one month period for the current year.

      For vehicles manufactured in the current year:

      Vehicle age = snapshot month/24

      For vehicles manufactured in previous years:

      Vehicle age = snapshot year - Year of manufacture + (snapshot month - 6)/12

      The average age is then calculated as the sum of all vehicle ages divided by the total number of vehicles. Vehicles that have an unknown year of manufacture are excluded from calculations of average age.

      Buses

      Motor vehicles constructed for the carriage of passengers. This category includes all motor vehicles with 10 or more seats, including the driver's seat.

      Campervans

      Self-propelled motor vehicles containing an area primarily used for accommodation. This includes motor homes and powered caravans.

      Estimated Resident Population (ERP)

      The official measure of the population of Australia is based on the concept of residence. It refers to all people, regardless of nationality or citizenship, who usually live in Australia, with the exception of foreign diplomatic personnel and their families. It includes usual residents who are overseas for less than 12 months. It excludes overseas visitors who are in Australia less than 12 months.

      Fuel

      The type of fuel is as reported to the registering authority and includes leaded petrol, unleaded petrol, diesel, LPG/other gases, dual fuel and other (which includes electric).

      Gross Combination Mass (GCM)

      Tare weight (i.e. unladen weight) of the motor vehicle and attached trailers, plus its maximum carrying and towing capacity. GCM is the weight measurement used for vehicles such as articulated trucks used for towing trailers.

      ​​​​​​​Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM)

      Tare weight (i.e. unladen weight) of the motor vehicle, plus its maximum carrying capacity excluding trailers.

      Heavy rigid trucks

      Rigid trucks of GVM greater than 4.5 tonnes.

      Light commercial vehicles

      Vehicles primarily constructed for the carriage of goods, and which are less than or equal to 3.5 tonnes GVM. This includes utilities, panel vans, cab-chassis and forward-control load carrying vehicles (whether four-wheel drive or not).

      Light rigid trucks

      Rigid trucks of GVM greater than 3.5 tonnes and less than or equal to 4.5 tonnes.

      Make

      The manufacturer of the motor vehicle (e.g. Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi, Toyota).

      Motor cycles

      Two and three wheeled motor vehicles constructed primarily for the carriage of one or two persons. This category includes two and three wheeled mopeds, scooters, motor tricycles and motor cycles with sidecars.

      Non-freight carrying vehicles

      Specialist motor vehicles or motor vehicles fitted with special purpose equipment, and having little or no load carrying capacity (e.g. ambulances, cherry pickers, fire trucks and tow trucks).

      Passenger vehicles

      Motor vehicles constructed primarily for the carriage of persons and containing up to nine seats (including the driver's seat). This category includes cars, station wagons, four-wheel drive passenger vehicles and forward-control passenger vehicles. Campervans are excluded.

      ​​​​​​​Rigid trucks

      Motor vehicles of GVM greater than 3.5 tonnes, constructed with a load carrying area. This includes trucks with a tow bar, draw bar or other non-articulated coupling on the rear of the vehicle.

      Rigid trucks are divided into two categories:

      • Light rigid trucks of GVM greater than 3.5 tonnes and less than or equal to 4.5 tonnes
      • Heavy rigid trucks of GVM greater than 4.5 tonnes.
         

      State/territory

        The state or territory of the motor vehicle registry at which a vehicle is registered.

        Quality declaration - summary

        Institutional environment

        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.

        Relevance

        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.

        Timeliness

        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.

        Accuracy

        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.

        Coherence

        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).

        Interpretability

        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.

        Accessibility

        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.

        Abbreviations

        Show all

        ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
        ACTAustralian Capital Territory
        Aust.Australia
        ERPEstimated Resident Population
        GCMGross Combination Mass
        GVMGross Vehicle Mass
        LPGLiquefied Petroleum Gas
        MVCMotor Vehicle Census
        MVRMotor Vehicle Registry
        NMVSNew Motor Vehicle Sales
        NSWNew South Wales
        NTNorthern Territory
        QldQueensland
        SASouth Australia
        Tas.Tasmania
        Vic.Victoria
        WAWestern Australia