1 This publication presents estimates of motor vehicle use in Australia between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018. Estimates are compiled from the ABS' Survey of Motor Vehicle Use (SMVU). This survey included a sample of vehicles registered in Australia during this period.
Scope and frame
2 The scope of the survey comprised all vehicles registered with a motor vehicle authority for road use during the 12 months ended 30 June 2018. Not included were 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 were out of scope.
3 Vehicles were identified using information obtained from state and territory motor vehicle registration authorities as part of the annual ABS Motor Vehicle Census (see Motor Vehicle Census, Australia (cat. no. 9309.0)). The Motor Vehicle Census (MVC) provides a snapshot of registered vehicles at 31 January each year. There were 19 million vehicles identified from the MVC at 31 January 2017. These vehicles provided the population of vehicles, or survey frame, for the 2018 SMVU.
4 For the 2018 SMVU, a sample of 16,000 vehicles was selected for inclusion in the survey. The survey sample consisted of passenger vehicles (17.42%), motor cycles (5.27%), freight vehicles (65.73%), buses (8.34%) and non-freight carrying vehicles (3.24%). 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 over the survey period.
5 Vehicles were selected for one of three data collection periods, each 4 months in duration.
6 Owners of vehicles selected in the survey were asked to complete two questionnaires, either paper or web, 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 they would receive a follow up questionnaire at the end of the period, with examples of the main items included. The second questionnaire requested details about the use of the vehicle over the four month period and a second odometer reading.
7 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.
8 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.
9 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 27 of the Technical Note.
10 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 2017 and 30 June 2018.
Reliability of estimates
11 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.
Fuel consumption question
12 The 2018 survey instrument included a change to the question design and wording relating to fuel consumption over the four month collection period. The question related to fuel consumption has historically been difficult for respondents to answer.
13 The change removed the burden of multiple reporting options. The previous question asked respondents to report, or calculate and record their average rate of fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres) over the four month reporting period. This was replaced with a simpler question asking for the total amount of fuel used over the four month collection period. To assist respondent recall, an optional log sheet was also provided to record the amount of fuel purchased over the collection period.
14 As a result of the change to the fuel consumption question, care should be taken when interpreting the estimates for total fuel consumption and average rate of fuel consumption.
Comparison with motor vehicle census data
15 Survey estimates of the numbers of vehicles, by vehicle type for SMVU 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 2017 to 30 June 2018, 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.
Concepts of averages
16 Most tables in this publication include statistics presented as averages. The denominator used in calculating these averages varies depending on the characteristics of interest. The method of calculating each average is noted in the table where it is presented. 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.
17 This publication includes estimates of vehicle use for earlier years. However, it should be noted the survey was designed to produce reliable estimates of key data items for a point in time, not for year-to-year changes. Estimates of movement over time are subject to high sampling error and care should be taken in drawing inferences from these comparisons. See paragraphs 9-13 of the Technical Note for further information.
Related publications and products
18 Users may also wish to refer to the following publications and products which contain information relating to motor vehicles in Australia:
Microdata: Motor Vehicle Use, Australia, 2018 (cat. no. 9208.0.55.008)
Motor Vehicle Census, Australia (cat. no. 9309.0)
Sales of New Motor Vehicles, Australia (cat. no. 9314.0)
Road Freight Movements, Australia (cat. no. 9223.0)
ABS data available on request
19 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.