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How has car use changed in 2020?

Have you become more attached to your car again? The mood today seems to have shifted back towards cars, away from public transport and rideshare. Although car use in Sydney dropped dramatically during lockdown, it has 90% recovered to normal. Is this a lasting trend or just a blip on the way to Peak Car?

Only half use public transport

During the past 6 months from January to July 2020, there was a big change in the way Sydneysiders got around. Apple Mobility Trends show:

The same happened in the US, where authorities encouraged people to drive to work by themselves. Requests for public transport information have continued to be low. While health experts say there is little evidence public transport has been the source of any infections, many would prefer not to take the risk.

If China is any indication, people are likely to keep shunning public transport.

Your car is your sanctuary

It appears people are spending more time in their cars by choice. A car is a convenient form of transport and a sanctuary or third space we can call our own. More so than usual, it’s a place to feel safe.

Australians flew overseas on 6.4 million trips last year. This year they must travel within Australia – even just intrastate – and that means a lot more car use.

Meanwhile, evidence suggests typical city dwellers like entrepreneurs and artists, are moving to the countryside. Property prices in rural areas around Byron Bay are going through the roof. Job ads in rural areas of the UK even rose during the pandemic. You need your car even more in the country, where no public transport or ridesharing exists.

We want to buy cars again

After a hairy 24 months of plummeting sales, we want to buy cars again. Two trends are working together to keep prices up – pent-up demand and low supply. Low supply is a result of shutting factories early in the pandemic. Meanwhile, buyers want new cars and good quality, late model used cars. Dealers expect it will be at least September before they see a return to normal levels of stock.

Uber suffered an 80% drop in patronage but offering other services like food or freight delivery helped them weather it. Some rideshare firms have even claimed an increase in patrons replacing their use of public transport. But people with concerns about hygiene are less likely to want to share cars.

It looks like the people who claimed Peak Car might have to swallow their words for a while. With more cars on the road, it is even more important to drive safely and be insured.

Corrina Baird

Writer and expert greenslips.com.au

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered first hand what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years of writing and research in financial services, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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