More vehicles on our roads
There were almost 4.3 million motor vehicles in New Zealand in 2018—the highest ever number . In 2018, light passenger vehicles were the most common type of vehicle (3.3 million vehicles, 77% of the fleet), followed by light commercial vehicles (622,000 vehicles, 14% of the fleet) (Figure 1). Together, light vehicles made up over 91% of the total vehicle fleet.
Figure 1: Number of motor vehicles, by vehicle type, 2000-2018
The number of diesel vehicles has increased steadily since 2000, particularly within the light commercial vehicle fleet. In 2018, 75% of light commercial vehicles and 9% of light passenger vehicles were diesel. About 20% of the total light vehicle fleet was diesel in 2018. The truck and bus fleet almost entirely consists of diesel vehicles (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Percentage of diesel and petrol vehicles, by vehicle type, 2018
New Zealanders have a high car ownership rate
Between 2001 and 2018, the number of light vehicles per 1,000 people increased from 661 to 802. This rate represents one of the highest levels of car ownership in the world .
Light vehicle ownership rates varied across the country (Figure 3). The region with the highest ownership rate was Nelson-Marlborough (1,027 light vehicles per 1,000 people) and the region with the lowest light vehicle ownership rates was Wellington (676 light vehicles per 1,000 people).
Figure 3: Light vehicle ownership, by region, in 2018 (rate per 1,000 people)
Electric vehicle fleet increasing rapidly
The electric vehicle (EV) fleet in New Zealand is mainly made up of light vehicles. In 2019, there were over 18,500 EVs, up from only 161 in 2013 (Figure 4). Over 75% of the light electric vehicle fleet is made up of pure EVs; the rest of the fleet consists of plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Figure 4: Number of light EVs, 2013-2019
Light EVs are increasingly becoming a larger percentage of light vehicle registrations (Figure 5). In December 2019, light EVs accounted for 2.1% of all light vehicle registrations, compared to 0.03% in January 2014. However, the light vehicle fleet is still dominated by fossil fuels.
Figure 5: Percentage of light vehicle registrations that are EVs, January 2014 - December 2019
In 2019, there were 3.8 light electric vehicles per 1,000 people in New Zealand (Figure 6). Auckland and Wellington regions were the areas with the largest ownership rate (4.8 light electric vehicles per 1,000 people in both regions) whereas the West Coast region had the lowest ownership rate (0.8 light electric vehicles per 1,000 population).
Figure 6: Light electric vehicle ownership, by region, in 2018 (rate per 1,000 people)
The vehicle fleet is getting increasingly older
Between 2000 and 2018, the average age of light passenger vehicles, motorcycles and trucks has increased (Figure 7). In 2018, trucks had the oldest average age (17.8 years), followed by motorcycles (17.0 years), buses (15.9 years), light passenger vehicles (14.4 years), and light commercial vehicles (12.3 years).
Figure 7: Average age of vehicle fleet, by type, 2000-2018
In 2000 almost 25% of the light vehicle fleet was 15 years or older, in 2018 it was 36% (Figure 8). One in five cars of the light vehicle fleet was older than 20 years in 2018.
Figure 8: Age structure of the light vehicle fleet, 2000-2018
New Zealand's light vehicle fleet is old by international standards
The New Zealand light vehicle fleet is older than the fleet in the United States, Australia, and Canada. In 2018, the New Zealand light vehicle fleet was more than four years older on average (14.1 years) than Canada’s vehicle fleet (9.7 years).
Information about the data
Vehicle numbers and average age
Source: Ministry of Transport – The New Zealand Vehicle Fleet Annual Statistics and Monthly electric and hybrid light vehicle registrations/tables
Definition: Number and average age (years) of vehicles in the New Zealand vehicle fleet. Six categories of vehicles are used:
- light passenger vehicles (passenger cars and vans)
- light commercial vehicles (the following if under 3500 kg: goods vans, trucks, utilities, buses and motor caravans)
- trucks (the following if over 3500 kg: goods vans, trucks, utilities and motor caravans)
- buses (those over 3500 kg)
- motorcycles (including mopeds)
- electric vehicles (including pure electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles).
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