More cars, more congestion – and it’s not slowing down

Our roads are getting busier every day.

If you’ve felt that there seem to be ever more cars clogging up Australia’s capital cities…well, you’d be absolutely bang on, of course!

Not only is the population growing in a more concentrated fashion, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, the national vehicle fleet is growing at an even faster rate than the sydney job car traffic work congestion road bridgenational population, increasing by +2.1 per cent in the year to January.

That’s an absolute increase of 379,369 registered motor vehicles.

According to the ABS Motor Vehicle Census for 2016, the biggest increase in the number of vehicles was seen in New South Wales, putting pedal to the metal in accelerating at a thumping +127, 220.

Meanwhile the fastest percentage increase was seen in Victoria (+2.5 per cent), just ahead of NSW (+2.4 per cent), while Queensland (+2.2 per cent) was following pretty closely in the rear view mirror.

Over the last five years there has been a truly enormous increase in the number of registered vehicles in NSW (+596k), Victoria (+483k), and Queensland (+452k).

If you ever needed substantiation for why people will increasingly favour place over space in our capital cities, this could be the salient reason.


A separate report released this week showed that Australians spend an average of $22,000 per annum on transport, with Sydneysiders clubbed the hardest at a brutal $419 per week for a painful 16.8 per cent share of their income.

Small wonder that people want to live closer to the action!

Time for a scrappage scheme?

I haven’t lived full time in the United Kingdom for more than a dozen years, but the changes I notice most when I visit – apart from the incredible surge in the number of Eastern European residents – mostly relate to transport, including congestion charges, park-and-ride schemes, designated bus lanes, and so on. 

In particular, the vehicle scrappage scheme promoted in the 2009 UK budget was exceptionally successful in encouraging surplus older vehicles to be deregistered, and there are comparatively few old cars on Britain’s roads these days.

Perhaps it’s time for Australia to consider something similar, with the number of vehicles on the national register increasing by more than 2 million to 18.4 million over the past five years.

Tasmania now has an outlandish 885 registered motor vehicles per 1,000 of its population, a dubious record of sorts!


It was heartening to see that the number of leaded petrol vehicles continued to decline over the year from around 418,000 to 391,000. traffic car congestion

And the increase in the number of diesel vehicles (+293,217 in the year to January 2016) is now far outpacing the growth in the petrol powered fleet (+114,337).

In fact, the number of diesel vehicles has expanded by nearly 60 per cent since 2011.

Yet the average age of a vehicle in Tasmania is now as high as 12.6 years, hinting at inefficiency.

Not too surprisingly, the youngest vehicle fleet is to be found in the Top End, where it sometimes feels as though practically every second person is driving a new Prado.


Sadly Australia’s manufacturing industries have been a casualty of the high dollar through the mining boom, and there has been a significant decline in the number of homegrown vehicles on the road since the 2011 Census, with Holden (-7.3 per cent) and Ford (-18.4 per cent) models taking a big hit.

In their place have come more Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai, Nissan, and Subaru models.



The wrapParramatta Road Congestion

The number of vehicles on the register continues to rise at a much faster pace than population growth, with particularly rampant expansion in the three most populous states.

Petrol retail prices now having declined to a 14-year low will do little to discourage car ownership, so perhaps it’s time to look at other measures?

In the meantime, the ongoing clamour to live in inner-suburban locations continues apace.


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Pete Wargent


Pete Wargent is a Chartered Accountant, Chartered Secretary and has a Financial Planning Diploma. He’s achieved financial freedom at the age of 33 - as detailed in his book ‘Get a Financial Grip – A Simple Plan for Financial Freedom’. Pete now manages his investment portfolio, travels and works as a consultant in the finance industry from time to time. Visit his blog

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