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The surprisingly thing poor people buy more - featured image

The surprisingly thing poor people buy more

Did you know that if your driveway is jam-packed with cars, it implies your income is low?

Of course, rich people also buy cars, often valuable ones and garages full of them.

But the interesting and usual pattern is that, in general, the lower the household income, the more vehicles they own.



Location, location, location.

The location of affordable homes – and the number of people living in them – means less well-off households often have more cars than richer households. has pulled together some census data that shows that the number of cars per household varies between states, between the city (black dots) and country (brown dots).

Number of cars per household in each Aussie state


For each state, peak car ownership is around the middle of the income curve and above that, higher income correlates with fewer cars per household.

It’s worth noting that these charts correlate the number of cars with personal income, rather than household income which would skew the number.

Drilling down further into the data by state, the distribution of cars in each of our big cities shows that in areas close to the city centre its common to see less than one car per dwelling, which is unsurprising given transport links and expensive parking makes public transport an often easier, quicker and cheaper alternative.

Whereas the data shows that further away from the city centres, properties have more garages, bigger homes and more cars.

What the maps suggest is that rich people prefer well-located real estate to owning lots of cars.

Car density in Sydney

Let's take a look at Sydney as an example.

The Census heat map clearly shows that the number of cars per household rises as the distance from Sydney’s CBD increases.

For example, Kensington, a south-eastern state just 6km from the CBD has an average of 0 cars per household.

In contrast, Box Hill, which is 42km northwest of the city has 3.1 cars per household.

Likewise, Eagle Vale in the southwest, which is 62km from the CBD has 3.2 cars per household, as do the surrounding suburbs.


Car density in Melbourne

This trend is even clearer in Melbourne where the heat map scale almost creates a rainbow effect around the city’s centre.

In St Kilda, the average amount of cars per household is 0.

Meanwhile, the outer suburbs of Brookfield, Mount Dandenong and Craigieburn which are all 25-35km from the city centre to the west, east and north, all have an average of 3.2-3.6 cars per household.


Car density in Brisbane

Meanwhile in Brisbane, the map seems to imply that households with fewer cars also live closest to the city, with households owning an average of 3 or 4 cars in the outer-city suburbs.

Although interestingly, this appears to then decline further out into more rural areas of Greater Brisbane to around 2 cars per household.


The bottom line

While the number of cars might not be the most accurate way to assess someone's wealth, what it does show is the importance of location and the 20-minute neighbourhood.

After all, if you are just 20-minutes walking distance from public transport, shopping centres, schools and fitness services, it reduces the need for everyone in the household to own a car.

And that’s why neighbourhood and location are so important for property investors.

Property Investor

I've always looked for desirable neighbourhoods in aspirational suburbs - locations where people aspire to live - which are very different to locations where the only reason people live there is because they can afford it.

Not only do we already know that location does the heavy lifting when it comes to capital growth, with some areas fetching 50-100% greater capital growth than other locations, but we’re also in unprecedented times which has forced us to adapt to a new normal.

As the world around us evolves and adapts to a world with COVID-19 in it, homeowners and investors must do the same and view properties with a post-pandemic eye.

About Brett Warren is National Director of Metropole Properties and uses his two decades of property investment experience to advise clients how to grow, protect and pass on their wealth through strategic property advice.
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