Aussies’ love affair with cars is nothing new—they’ve always been eager to jump behind the wheel and go for a drive down one of the continent’s scenic routes. However, when the world shut down in 2020 and nobody could go anywhere for a while, how was the car market affected? Did those who were planning to buy a new vehicle postpone this significant purchase?
To find our way to the answers to these questions, we scoped out the most recent Australian car sales statistics and gleaned some surprising insights about what car types and brands have been rolling into people’s garages lately.
Let’s take a peek under the hood, shall we?
Australian Car Sales Stats to Get Things Rolling
- Australian car sales figures show that 916,968 vehicles were sold in 2020.
- Nearly one-third of new car sales in Australia happens in New South Wales.
- The most common car brand in Australia is Toyota.
- Japanese manufacturers accounted for 356,230 new car sales in Australia in 2018.
- SUVs accounted for 49.6% of all cars sold in Oz in 2020.
- There were 8,688 electric car sales in the first half of 2021.
- Hybrid vehicle sales in Oz nearly doubled in 2020.
- Australians spent an average of A$40,128 on a new vehicle in 2020.
- As of 2021, Ozzies pay an average of A$10,811 for a second-hand car.
- Australian car sales grew 33.1% year-on-year in August 2021.
General Car Sales Statistics in Australia
1. Australian car sales figures show that 916,968 vehicles were sold in 2020.
How many cars are sold in Australia each year? Overall, 11.247 million new vehicles rolled out of dealerships between 2011 and 2020, with the annual peak being in 2013, at 1.36 million.
However, in 2020, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries recorded fewer than one million new vehicle sales in Oz for the first time in a decade. New car sales dropped sharply compared to the Australian car sales figures from 2019 when 1,062,867 vehicles were sold. The 13.7% decline was expected and has been associated with the financial blow delivered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
2. 46% of Aussies intended to buy a car in 2020-2021.
When asked if they were planning to purchase a vehicle in the following year, 21% of adult Aussies surveyed in 2020-’21 said they were in the market for a new car, while 14% for a used one. However, 11% had no preference regarding whether it’d be fresh off the assembly line or pre-loved. So it’s looking like it’s going to be a good year for Australian car sales.
On the flip side, though, 14% of the respondents said that they didn’t know whether they’d get a new set of wheels in the year ahead, whereas 41% had no plans of doing so.
3. The number of cars in operation per 1,000 Australians is expected to remain steady into 2025.
As of 2021, the number of cars driven per 1,000 population in Oz is estimated at 571.37. No major fluctuations are projected in the continent’s car parc over the next four years, only a downtick to 570.93.
It remains to be seen whether these predictions will pan out, though, in light of the recent changes to car sales in Australia, since 29% of Aussies admitted in a 2020 survey that the pandemic had made them reconsider the number of vehicles their household needed.
4. The most important consideration for Ozzies when buying a car is how safe it is.
In a survey conducted in 2020-2021, adult Australians were asked what characteristics mattered to them most when picking out a new vehicle. As many as 65% cited its safety, while 64% cared about fuel efficiency. In addition, 52% were interested in how suitable it was for everyday use, whereas 46% focused on its quality.
45% of the answers revolved around ensuring that automotive companies in Australia offered a good warranty and customer service, being comfortable while driving, and that the car was affordable.
37% of the respondents wanted a spacious vehicle, whereas 36% highly valued its design. Further down the list of buyers’ priorities were things like how environmentally friendly the car was, with 26%, while 23% wanted it to be of their brand of choice.
5. Nearly one-third of new car sales in Australia happens in New South Wales.
In 2018, NSW had a 32.17% stake in the total new car market share in Australia, followed by Victoria with 28.91% of vehicle sales and Queensland with 20.08%. Western Australia had 8.43% of the market share, South Australia 6.16%, Tasmania 1.78%, while the Australian Capital Territory 1.58%. The Northern Territory was last, with as few as 0.89% of new cars sold that year.
6. Only 16,270 new vehicles were sold in Queensland in the year to March 2020.
Speaking of new car sales in Australia by state, let’s use Qld as a case study. There, the numbers dropped off sharply between 2017 and 2020. Namely, in the year to March 2017, approximately 35,670 vehicles were sold in this state. By that same month in 2019, the annual figures had gone down to around 20,400 and continued to decline the following year.
Car Sales by Model Statistics
7. The most common car brand in Australia is Toyota.
When it comes to the top car brands in Australia, one, in particular, seems to reign supreme. Namely, 16.8% of over-14s in Oz interviewed in Q3 2019 who intended to purchase a new vehicle within the next four years said that it’d be a Toyota.
Furthermore, according to a 2020-’21 survey of Aussies aged 18-64 years who have a household vehicle at their disposal, 19% of primarily used cars Down Under are of this make.
8. Four of the top ten best cars in 2020 in Australia were made by Toyota.
A review of the top-selling cars in Australia in 2020 supports this, with 204,801 Toyotas sold—about two and a half times more than runner-up manufacturer Mazda. In fact, as of 2020, this brand has been dominant in Australia for 18 years running. In addition, for the fifth year in a row, Toyota HiLux carsales topped the charts that year with 45,176 units sold.
In third place with 38,357 units was the RAV4, which also claimed the title of best selling SUV in Australia that year. The Corolla was the fourth most popular car with 25,882 sales. Another Toyota that earned itself a place in the top ten in terms of new carsales was the Prado in eighth with 18,034 units.
9. Japanese manufacturers accounted for 356,230 new car sales in Australia in 2018.
Now that we’ve found the answer to the question “what is the most sold car in Australia” it should come as no surprise that most new cars sold Down Under come from the Land of the Rising Sun. With 300,270 new car sales in 2018, Thailand was the second most common country of origin, whereas Korean manufacturers came in third with 169,320 vehicles sold.
91,410 new cars sold were German-made, while American companies had produced 44,490 of them. According to the domestic Australian car sales statistics by manufacturer, however, local makers shifted just 4,220 new vehicles that year.
10. SUVs accounted for 49.6% of all cars sold in Oz in 2020.
The Australian automotive industry in 2020 recorded no substantial shifts in consumer preferences, as Aussies remained loyal to their beloved SUVs. A total of 454,701 of them sold over the course of that year, 5.9% fewer than in 2019, but up 4.1% in terms of market share.
Light Commercial Vehicles were the second most popular type of vehicle in 2020, recording a total of 205,597 cars sales in Australia and claiming a 22.4% market share. Passenger vehicles, in turn, accounted for 24.2% of the country’s car market, with a total of 222,103 sales.
11. Mazda offered the best after-sales customer service in 2019 out of all automotive companies in Australia.
With 819 points, Mazda once again solidified its position at the top in the annual JD Power Customer Service Index Study in 2019. For the fourth consecutive year, this brand was found to provide the most satisfactory after-sales service to customers. Behind it were car sales king Toyota with 799 points, Honda with 793 and Hyundai with 790 points.
With 802 points, Audi led the pack among the top premium car brands in Australia by this metric. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz with 796 points and BMW with 790 points ranked just below the luxury average of 798 points.
12. There were 8,688 electric car sales in the first half of 2021.
While in half a year in 2020, only 3,226 EVs were sold Down Under, sales surged in the first six months of the following year, even outperforming the previous 2019 full-year record of 6,718 electric cars sold in Australia by nearly one-quarter.
That’s great news since Oz had one of the lowest ratios of electric cars per 1,000 inhabitants among developed countries in 2020 of just 0.5. For context, Norway scored highest with 81 such vehicles per 1,000 population.
13. In 2020, 56% of Aussies said they’d consider purchasing an EV.
While the electric car uptake rate may be low for now, as we saw from the recent sales figures, the interest among consumers in purchasing one of the electric cars available in Australia is growing.
Namely, only 48% of surveyed individuals who lived in NSW, ACT, Vic, and SA said they’d thought about this option in 2018, while by 2019, that proportion had climbed to 53%, and it’s been on the rise ever since.
14. Two-thirds of Australians like electric cars’ low carbon footprint.
The main encouraging factor for making such a purchase among respondents in the same survey was these cars’ lower environmental impact (66%), followed by their low maintenance and car running costs (54%) and good performance (48%).
However, the main considerations that discouraged Aussies from contributing to electric car sales were the perceived inaccessibility of charging equipment, cited by 52%; the high cost of EVs compared to diesel or petrol cars, mentioned by 50%; and their short driving ranges, which worried 45% of the respondents.
These concerns are understandable since if they want to purchase, let’s say, a Tesla Model 3, in Australia its price as of 2021 starts from A$59,900, excluding on-road costs, car insurance, etc.
15. 92,000 Aussies were looking to buy a used EV in 2018-2019.
The number of consumers Down Under who expressed interest in buying a second-hand electric car from July 2018 to June 2019 nearly doubled from the same period a year prior, when only 53,000 Australians had expressed such intent. However, the number of those in the market for a new EV declined over the same period, shrinking from 57,000 to 49,000.
16. Hybrid vehicle sales in Oz nearly doubled in 2020.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries’ numbers show 60,417 sales of hybrid cars in Australia in 2020. This was a 93.7% increase compared to the previous year when 31,191 such vehicles were sold.
As many as 54,335 of the hybrids sold in 2020 were—you guessed it—Toyotas, while with 4,405 of them sold in August of that year alone, more than any other new car, it’s safe to say that Ozzie consumers reckon that the greener version of the Toyota RAV4 is the best hybrid car in Australia.
Car Price Statistics
17. Australians spent an average of A$40,128 on a new vehicle in 2020.
If we look at the price breakdown of Australian automotive sales, it turns out that expectedly, the coveted SUV is the most expensive type of car to own, costing around A$41,697 each. However, while a new sedan sets people Down Under back an average of A$37,846, they can pay as little as A$27,092 for a new small car.
Given that Aussies on average own their cars for six years before switching or upgrading to a different model, the average annual outlay for a new vehicle works out at just under A$6,700.
18. What is the best month to buy a car in Australia?
Times like the end of the month, the financial year (June), the calendar year (December), or early into the New Year might be the best time to buy a new car in Australia. Dealerships are incentivised to sell off the cars built that year by the end of it because after February, they’d be “so last season”.
Also, car sellers have monthly and annual targets they need to hit to earn bonuses, so in order to lure more customers in, they offer big discounts and clearance deals. Likewise, if a model is about to be updated with a newer version, it might be a good time to bargain with dealers.
19. The most expensive cars in Oz are Pagani and Ferrari hypercars.
In 2018, luxury car sales in Australia saw a stunning new addition roll into high-end dealerships—the Pagani Huayra Roadster—the country’s most expensive road-registerable hypercar. This powerful machine would set you back at least A$5.5 million if you were in the market for it, equivalent to the cost of six houses!
However, any review of the luxury car sales figures in Australia would be incomplete without looking at the second-hand market as well. In early 2021, a Perth dealer put a 2004 Ferrari Enzo up for sale with a staggering price tag of A$4 million. Who needs a house anyway, right?
20. As of 2021, Ozzies pay an average of A$10,811 for a second-hand car.
The online marketplace Gumtree reveals that the market for used cars in Sydney, in particular, was booming in early 2021. According to this site’s used car sales statistics, in Australia, the average listing price of a second-hand vehicle in the under-A$200,000 category has increased by 16% over 2019.
The Northern Territory recorded the highest average cost of a pre-loved car on this platform, at A$11,550. Therefore, now might not be the best time to buy a used car in Australia. If you’re selling one, on the other hand, it’s a different story.
Australian Car Market
21. Australian car sales grew 33.1% year-on-year in August 2021.
Since the world effectively screeched to a halt in 2020, you might’ve been wondering, are car sales down in Australia? While there was an initial slump at the beginning of the pandemic, they’d bounced back to pre-Covid levels by July 2021.
Specifically, the latest car sales statistics show that 81,199 new vehicles were purchased in August 2021 alone, growing by 20,213 over the same month of the previous year to a January-to-August total of 732,828.
22. In 2020, 13% of Aussies planned to purchase their next car entirely virtually.
Car sales in Australia seem to be slowly turning virtual as well, since 8% of adult consumers said in an October 2020 survey that they intended to acquire their next vehicle in this manner at least partially.
It’s unsurprising, then, that in August 2021, as many as 27% of Aussies said that they primarily sought out information on cars, motorcycles and bicycles online rather than offline.
23. The market size of the automotive industry in Australia was estimated at $138.9 billion in 2021.
(IBISWorld) (Trading Economics)
According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Australia’s vehicle imports, excluding rolling stock, were worth $24.81 billion US in 2020, accounting for 12% of the total imports that year.
However, the market size of the Aussie car industry is projected to contract by 3.7% in 2021. The annualised market size growth between 2016 and 2021 is also in the red, standing at -4.9%.
Pumping the Brakes
While the pandemic might not be fully in our rearview mirrors just yet, it seems that it hasn’t stopped Australians from wanting to splurge on a new set of wheels for themselves. As these in-depth car sales statistics suggest, this market is well on its way to making a full recovery.
So if you aren’t in a hurry and want to get a good deal on a vehicle, it might be best to hold off on making such a purchase for a little while longer and wait for prices to stabilise. Until then, if you can’t be with the car you love, honey, love the one you’re with.