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9309.0 - Motor Vehicle Census, Australia, Mar 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/11/2002   
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This publication presents statistics relating to vehicles which were registered at 31 March 2002 with a motor vehicle registration authority. Motor vehicle registration statistics are compiled from data made available by various state and territory motor vehicle registration authorities and reflect the information as recorded in registration documents.

Estimates of the size and composition of the vehicle fleet were first published in 1921. However, it is only since 1971 that a Motor Vehicle Census (MVC) has been conducted on a more regular basis. The MVC has not been conducted in each and every year since 1971 and the census dates have varied over those years. Therefore, care should be taken when attempting to compare movements over the years.

Statistics are provided on vehicle types comprising passenger vehicles, light commercial vehicles, all types of trucks, buses and motor cycles. Information is also provided on caravans, trailers and plant and equipment.

Vehicle characteristic information includes make of vehicle, year of manufacture, type of fuel that the vehicle was manufactured to use and, for trucks, Gross Vehicle Mass or Gross Combination Mass. The size of the motor vehicle fleet is also compared with the estimated resident population.



There were 12.8 million registered motor vehicles including motor cycles in Australia at 31 March 2002. This represented an increase of 2.8% on the number registered at 31 March 2001.

Over the five years from 1997 to 2002, registrations of all vehicle types except heavy rigid trucks increased. The passenger vehicle fleet increased by 895,203 (9.7%) while the motor cycle fleet showed the greatest percentage increase with 57,881 (18%). The light rigid truck fleet increased by 2,130 (3.0%) whereas the heavy rigid truck fleet decreased by 3,059 (1.1%).

Graph - Percentage change (1997-2002), vehicle type, Australia

Over three-quarters (79% or 10.1 million) of the vehicle fleet were passenger vehicles. Both this proportion and the proportion of all other individual vehicle types showed little change over this five year period.


New South Wales had the largest number of motor vehicles on register at 31 March 2002 with 3.8 million (30% of the total) while the Northern Territory had the smallest with 0.1 million (0.8%). The state/territory share of the motor vehicle fleet has remained relatively unchanged over the last five years.

Queensland showed the highest increase of registered motor vehicles over the last 12 months with a 3.9% rise followed by Victoria and New South Wales with rises of 2.9% and 2.7% respectively.

Queensland also recorded the largest growth over the last five years with a 15% increase in the total motor vehicle fleet size. The state/territory with the least growth over the five year period was Tasmania with a 3.1% increase. The estimated resident population of Queensland increased by 8.6% while Tasmania remained static over the same period.


The motor vehicle fleet relative to the Australian estimated resident population has significantly increased over the last 30 years. The number of persons per motor vehicle was 3.3 in 1971 compared with 1.9 in 2002. Over this period the motor vehicle fleet has increased by 151% while the population has increased by 50%.

Graph - Motor vehicle fleet and estimated resident population(a)

At 31 March 2002, there were 652 vehicles per 1,000 estimated resident population, an increase from 627 per 1,000 estimated resident population at 31 October 1997. Western Australia had the highest rate of all states and territories with 731 vehicles per 1,000 estimated resident population and the Northern Territory the lowest rate with 520 vehicles per 1,000 estimated resident population. The Northern Territory was the only state/territory where the proportion of registered motor vehicles per 1,000 estimated resident population was lower in 2002 than it was in 1997.

Graph - Motor vehicles per 1,000 population, State/territory of registration

There were 514 passenger vehicles per 1,000 estimated resident population at 31 March 2002. South Australia had the highest number of passenger vehicles with 567 per 1,000 estimated resident population while the Northern Territory had the lowest with 343 per 1,000 estimated resident population.


All petrol-powered motor vehicles manufactured after February 1986 were designed to use unleaded fuel. At 31 March 2002 the total number of motor vehicles manufactured before 1986 was 2.9 million (23%) compared with 4.9 million (42%) at 31 October 1997.

Graph - Motor vehicle fleet, fuel type(a)

Of the total motor vehicle fleet on register, 11.3 million (88%) were manufactured to use petrol with 8.8 million vehicles (69%) manufactured to use unleaded petrol. This is an increase of 46% over the number of vehicles manufactured to use unleaded petrol at 31 October 1997. At 31 March 2002, passenger vehicles comprised 85% of all petrol driven vehicles. Of passenger vehicles 76% were manufactured to use unleaded petrol compared with 57% in 1997.

Diesel fuel was used by 9.0% (1.2 million) of registered vehicles at 31 March 2002, an increase from the 7.8% (0.9 million) recorded at 31 October 1997. At 31 March 2002, 97% (61,984) of articulated trucks were manufactured to use diesel fuel. A high proportion of rigid trucks (82% or 280,971) and non-freight carrying trucks (61% or 11,536) and buses (75% or 52,815) also used diesel fuel. The proportion of diesel passenger vehicles was 2.7% (272,072), up from the 1997 proportion of 2.2% (198,615).

Passenger vehicles and light commercial vehicles made up the largest group of vehicles manufactured to use LPG/dual fuel with these vehicle types accounting for 97% of this fuel type.


Passenger vehicles

Over the 12 months to 31 March 2002, Queensland, with a 3.9% increase, was the only state or territory to show growth in the passenger vehicle fleet above the national average of 2.7%.

The majority of the passenger vehicle fleet (61% or 6,131,351 vehicles) was manufactured after 1990. A further 32% (3,196,658) was manufactured in the ten years from 1981 to 1990. Only 7.6% (766,621) was manufactured before 1981.

A total of 5.7 million passenger vehicles were Ford, Holden or Toyota. These makes accounted for 57% of the passenger vehicle fleet registered at 31 March 2002.

The Korean make of Kia recorded the largest increase over the 12 months since 31 March 2001 with a 39% rise. Other makes to record large increases were Audi with a 15% increase and Subaru, Jeep and Land Rover each with 11%. The growth in the latter two makes reflects the growing popularity of four-wheel drive vehicles.

Light commercial vehicles

Over the 12 months to 31 March 2002 the number of light commercial vehicles increased by 2.9% to 1.8 million nationally with Queensland recording the highest growth of all states and territories (3.6%). Over half (54%) of this vehicle type was manufactured after 1990.

Toyota continued to have the highest proportion of light commercial vehicle registrations with 31% of the total. Holden and Ford contributed a further 39% to the total light commercial vehicle fleet.

Rigid trucks

The 12 month increase in total rigid truck registrations was 0.9% to 341,483 nationally with growth being recorded in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The largest decrease was in Tasmania with a 2.2% decline. Light rigid trucks increased by 4.4% while the number of heavy rigid trucks has remained stable.

Just over half (53%) of the light rigid truck fleet was manufactured before 1991 whereas over two-thirds (67%) of the heavy rigid truck fleet was manufactured before this date.

Mercedes-Benz recorded the highest growth in the number of light rigid trucks with a 60% rise in registrations reflecting a shift in market share in Australia for this type of vehicle.

Isuzu continued to have the largest share (20%) of heavy rigid trucks followed by the International and Mitsubishi makes with a 15% and 12% share respectively.

Articulated trucks

Articulated trucks on register at 31 March 2002, increased by 2.1% to 63,905 over the last 12 months. South Australia and Western Australia recorded the largest increases of 5.2% and 4.0% respectively while small decreases were recorded in the Northern Territory (1.8%) and Tasmania (0.4%).

Nearly half (30,700 or 48%) of all articulated trucks had a Gross Combination Mass (GCM) of over 40 to 50 tonnes while 2,251 (3.5%) were over 100 tonnes. However, the number of trucks of GCM up to 60 tonnes has decreased by 1.7% over the 12 months to 31 March 2002 whereas the trend to larger trucks continued with those of GCM over 60 tonnes increasing by 12%. Over half (33,487 or 52%) of the articulated truck fleet was manufactured after 1990.

Kenworth had the highest proportion of articulated trucks with 21% of the total. Freightliner recorded the largest 12 month increase in registrations with a 14% rise although only contributing 5.4% to the total articulated truck fleet.


The number of buses on register increased by 3.9% to 70,196 over the 12 months to 31 March 2002 with New South Wales recording the largest increase at 8.5%. There were decreases in the bus fleet in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory (3.7% and 2.0% respectively).

Toyota had the highest proportion of the bus fleet in 2002 with over half (56%) of all registrations. Toyota also contributed the largest proportion of the small bus fleet with 87%. Bedford buses are no longer manufactured and their numbers continued to decrease, falling by 14% over the last 12 months.

Motor cycles

The number of motor cycles on register in Australia increased by 5.7% to 370,982. Victoria recorded the largest increase at 8.5% while the Northern Territory was the only state or territory to record a decrease (5.0%). Of the total motor cycle fleet, 63% were manufactured after 1990.

The most popular makes, Honda and Yamaha, recorded increased registrations of 3.0% and 5.3% respectively. Together they comprised nearly half of total registrations (48%). The number of Harley Davidson motor cycles increased by 4.7% over the last 12 months with this make now accounting for 11% of the motor cycle fleet. Triumph recorded the largest increase with a 15% rise.


The average age of the motor vehicle fleet at 31 March 2002 was 10.5 years. This represents a slight decline from 10.7 years recorded at 31 October 1997.

The states/territories with the highest vehicle fleet average age were Tasmania and South Australia with 12.5 years and 11.9 years respectively, while the Northern Territory (9.2 years) and New South Wales (9.4 years) recorded the lowest average ages.

Over the same period the average age of passenger vehicles fell from 10.5 years to 10.1 years. The vehicle type with the highest average age was campervans, with an average age of 19.1 years. Motor cycles had the lowest average age of 10.0 years.

Graph - Estimated average vehicle age(a), Vehicle type, years

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