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 peak commuting times saw Australian roads packed from 8-9am and again from 4-5pm. However, during the pandemic, workers were venturing out 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

One benefit of this change for the average Aussie worker was gaining 72 minutes back in their day. This equated to more than 906 millionii minutes a day across the national workforce and over 4.5 billion in a working week; with some (11 per cent) estimating they gained as much as an extra 120 minutes each day.

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 way Aussies lived and felt. Almost one in five (18 per cent) surveyed stated they gained a new perspective on life as a result of having more time on their hands since COVID-19, 23 per cent felt more relaxed and 19 per cent felt more productive. However, the new ‘at home’ lifestyle was not beneficial to everyone; 20 per cent felt bored, 23 per cent felt lazier and 15 per cent felt anxious. 

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, but also appreciated as an escape bubble too. 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, 44 per cent of parents actually used their vehicles as a quiet space from home during lockdown, and 29 per cent admitted to using their cars to escape the kids.

The value and variety of benefits that cars provided to Aussies was vast, and it varied across age groups. Of those Aussies who used their car for alternative purposes during lockdown, 62 per cent of 18 – 24 year 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 (46 per cent) also had to use their cars as a place of study, while one in three (31 per cent) used the extra space to practice mindfulness and meditation.

Interestingly, one in 10 (10 per cent) of those aged 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 enquiries:

Allianz Media Team // media@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

  • Previous peak commute times would see Australian roads packed from 8-9am and again from 4-5pm. Now, workers are venturing out later in the morning and earlier in the evening: 9-10am and 2-3pm
  • Three quarters (74.2 per cent) of Aussies have seen a change in their commute times
  • Over half (53.5 per cent) of Australian motorists agreed their car habits have changed
  • 40.4 per cent of the Australian workforce are currently getting to work by car (compared to 50.1 per cent pre-COVID)
  • 34.5 per cent of Australians believe they will continue to work in a different way (i.e. from home) for some time
  • The average Aussie worker is gaining 72 minutes back in their day, equating to more than 906 million minutes a day across the national workforce and over 4.5 billion in a working week
  • 11.4 per cent estimate they are gaining as much as an extra 120 minutes each day
  • Almost one in five (17.7 per cent) surveyed believe they have gained a new perspective on life as a result of having more time on their hands since COVID-19
  • 22.9 per cent feel more relaxed as a result of having more time on their hands since COVID-19
  • 19.1 per cent feel more productive as a result of having more time on their hands since COVID-19
  • 20.5 per cent feel bored as a result of having more time on their hands since COVID-19
  • 23.4 per cent feel lazier as a result of having more time on their hands since COVID-19
  • 14.8 per cent feel anxious as a result of having more time on their hands since COVID-19
  • 21.4 per cent of respondents claim their car is more important to them post COVID-19
  • One in six (15.7 per cent) car owners claim they could not live without their car
  • A quarter (22 per cent) say their car make them feels safer
  • One third of those aged 55 – 64 years old (30.6 per cent) claim they feel safest from infection when in their car
  • 42 per of Aussies revealed they liked driving during the pandemic because of sense of normality, routine, freedom or time away from the house that it provided them
  • Of those Australians using their car for alternative purposes, 44.1 per cent of parents using it as a quiet space from home and 29.4 per cent using it to escape the kids
  • Of those Aussies using their car for alternative purposes, 61.5 per cent of 18 – 24 year olds primarily use their car as quiet spot to relax away from the house, compared to just 10 per cent of 55 – 64 years olds
  • Nearly half (46.2 per cent) of 18 – 24 year olds are also having to use their cars as a place of study, while one in three (30.8 per cent) are using the extra space to find ‘Zen’ and practice mindfulness and meditation
  • Of those Aussies using their car for alternative purposes, one in 10 (10 per cent) of those aged 55 – 64 years old have been using their car as a place to sleep since COVID-19
  • 55 – 64 years old are also most likely to use their car as a place to eat (40 per cent) and as a ‘playroom’ for children (10 per cent)
  • 53 per cent of Australians think COVID-19 will change our driving habits for the foreseeable future
  • One in six (16.6 per cent) think COVID-19 it will change our driving habits forever
  • Australians believe the biggest changes will see: greater flexibility in the workplace (60 per cent), spending more time at home and less time socialising or in public spaces (40 per cent) and a rise in people moving out to regional areas vs. built up cites (38 per cent)
  • 9,775,400 Australians (38 per cent) believe we’ll be using our cars to holiday this festive season
  • 87.9 per cent believe changes will need to be made to public transport to make it safer for people to travel on

  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.