Fewer kilometres on the meter, more time in our day and a new ‘rush hour’: How COVID-19 impacted Aussie motorists in 2020

18 December 2020

Today, Allianz Australia reveals the extent to which COVID-19 changed the way we used our cars and roads in 2020; from the time we travelled and how long we travelled for, to the impact on our mood and how much our cars meant to us.

The Australian ‘COVID Commute’

Daily motoring life saw a big transformation during the pandemic, as Australia officially experienced a new ‘COVID commute’. According to the research, three quarters (74 per cent) of Aussies saw a change in their commuting times. Previous peakcommutingtimes saw Australianroads packed from 8-9am and again from 4-5pm.However, during the pandemic, workerswereventuringout later in the morning and earlier in the evening:9-10am and 2-3pm.

The shift in timings supports the sharp increase in 4.3 millioni Australians adapting to a work from home lifestyle since March, with 35 per cent of workers who made these changes believing they will continue to work from home for some time.

Impacts of the new driving habits on daily life

Onebenefit ofthis change for the average Aussie workerwasgaining 72 minutes back in their day. This equated tomore than 906 millioniiminutes a day across the national workforce and over 4.5 billion in a working week; withsome(11 per cent)estimatingthey gained as much asan extra 120 minutes eachday.

Most popular ways Aussies spent their extra 72 mins:

  1. Watching TV / streaming services (31 per cent)
  2. Spending time with family (31 per cent)
  3. Cleaning (28 per cent)
  4. Sleeping more (24 per cent)
  5. Reading (23 per cent)
  6. Scrolling social media (19 per cent)
  7. Working out (18 per cent)
  8. Taking up a hobby / skill (15 per cent)
  9. Calling loved ones (14 per cent)
  10. Working more (11 per cent)

The research also highlighted that the extra time had an enormous impact on the wayAussieslived and felt. Almost one in five (18per cent) surveyed stated they gained a new perspective on lifeas a result of having more time on their handssince COVID-19,23per cent felt more relaxed and 19 per cent felt more productive. However,thenew ‘at home’ lifestyle was not beneficial to everyone; 20per cent felt bored, 23per cent felt lazier and15per cent feltanxious.

Allianz Australia, Chief Technical Officer, James Fitzpatrick said: “COVID-19 has had an incredible impact on the way we live our lives day-to-day. Many Aussies’ traditional car useage and commuting behaviours have changed, from the time of day we’re travelling, to how long we’re driving for.

“Although circumstances are unique for every Australian, one thing many Aussies seemed to have had more than ever, is time. We always need more time in our busy lives, and while new ways of living comes with its own challenges, to see Aussies getting time back to do things for themselves, such as taking up new hobbies, exercising or perhaps taking that family road trip, shows how they adapted to the new circumstances we still face and often in positive ways,” James said.

The role of our cars during and after COVID

Despite spending less time commuting, the emotional value cars hold for Australians has increased. According to the research, 21 per cent of respondents claim their car is more important to them post COVID-19, one in six (16 per cent) car owners claim they could not live without their car, and a quarter (22 per cent) say their car makes them feel safer. This rises for those aged 55 – 64, with a third (31 per cent) claiming they feel safest from infection when in their car, indicating the humble car is providing a much-valued safety bubble when out and about.

During lockdown, cars were not only seen as a safety bubble, butalsoappreciated as an escape bubbletoo. 42 per cent of Aussies revealed they liked driving during the pandemic because of the sense of normality, routine, freedom or time away from the house that it provided them. In addition, 44per cent of parents actually used their vehicles as a quiet space from home during lockdown, and 29per cent admitted to usingtheir carsto escape the kids.

The value and variety of benefitsthatcars providedto Aussieswas vast, and it varied across age groups. Of thoseAussieswho used their car for alternativepurposes during lockdown,62per cent of 18–24year olds primarily used it as a quiet spot to relax away from the house, indicative of their shared-living circumstances, compared to just 10 per cent of 55 – 64 years old.Nearly half (46per cent) also had to use their cars as a place of study, while one in three(31per cent)used the extra space to practice mindfulnessandmeditation.

Interestingly,onein 10(10 per cent) of thoseaged 55 – 64 used their car as an escape from their home and as a place to catch up on some sleep during COVID-19, the highest of all demographics. They were also most likely to use their car as a place to eat (40 per cent) and as a ‘playroom’ for children (10 per cent), suggesting the high importance this age group placed on maintaining a personal safety bubble.

What does 2021 have in store for motorists?

Many Aussies believe these changes will last well into 2021 and beyond. 53 per cent think COVID-19 will change our driving habits for the foreseeable future, with one in six (16.6 per cent) thinking it will change our driving habits forever.

The changes following COVID-19 permeate all aspects of daily life: Greater flexibility in the workplace (60 per cent); spending more time at home and spending less time socialising or in public spaces (40 per cent); and a rise in people moving out to regional areas (38 per cent). Even the way we travel when we go on vacation, with 9.7 millioniii Australians (38 per cent) believing we’ll be using our cars this festive season. The vast majority (88 per cent) also believe changes will need to be made to public transport, to make it safer for people to travel.

“Whatever way you use or value your car, it’s important to remember to stay protected and safe when you’re on the road. Taking a few moments to check your insurance policy is up to date, changing the oil in your car and checking your tyres have enough tread. In an otherwise potentially stressful time (particularly for the unlucky few who admitted they couldn’t find their car keys after lockdown)iv these simple steps can provide added peace of mind,” said James.

Media contact
Georgina Adcock
0411 331 552 / georgina.adcock@allianz.com.au

About the research

The research was conducted by PureProfile via an online survey in September 2020. The survey polled 1,000 Australian motorists who were regular drivers before and after COVID-19. All data is nationally representative.

Key statistics

  1. http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/8451-roy-morgan-working-from-home-june-2020-202006290638
  2. 2 906,004,800. Based on latest ABS employment figures from August 2020, that cites the current employed population of Australia is 12,583,400: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia/latest-release#:~:text=In%20seasonally%20adjusted%20terms%2C%20in,by%202.6%25%20or%20338%2C300%20people
  3. 3 9,775,400 based on current population estimates from the ABS: https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Web+Pages/Population+Clock?opendocument&ref=HPKI
  4. 4 10.8 per cent of respondents said they had to upgrade / fix / spend money on their car due to it sitting idle during lockdown. Of that 10.8 per cent, 5.5 per cent said the ‘fix’ they had to make was finding their keys.