Some Australians might fondly remember a time when every house in town had either a dusty Holden Commodore or a well-loved Ford Falcon sitting in the driveway. But as our country changes and expands, so does our taste in vehicles whether it's spacious people movers or compact micro cars.

Take a (back) seat as we explore the best-selling cars through history and see what the most popular car in Australia is today.

History of Most Popular Cars in Australia

The year is 1982 and the top five best-selling cars in Australia are the Ford Falcon, Holden Commodore, Mitsubishi Sigma, Ford Laser and Nissan Skyline.

After 22 years, this was the first time that the Ford Falcon had knocked Holden off its perch as Australia’s top-selling car. 

Holden and Ford held a quarter of Australia’s new car market back then, but changes were on their way with new players surging into the mix, namely Toyota and Hyundai. 

When Alan Bond first introduced Hyundai to the Australian market in 1986, the Korean brand was met with criticism with one motoring writer saying Hyundai posed ‘very little threat’ to existing brands.

Five years later, Hyundai was the country’s 10th most popular car brand and by mid-2015, the i30 was one of the top-selling cars in Australia with its popularity staying strong for more than a decade. [1]

The same could be said for Toyota which went from an unknown Japanese brand to Australia’s best-selling brand for March 2023.

In recent history, Toyota has created crowd favourites like the Toyota Hilux, Toyota Camry, Toyota Kluger and Toyota Corolla.

The Hilux has gone on to be one of the best-selling cars in Australia, while the Toyota Corolla was named the best-selling car in the world in 2022 with 1.12 million total sales in the year. [2]

Changes in the Car Sales Market

The way cars run has changed dramatically over the years from petrol and diesel light commercial vehicles to hybrid and electric models.

Passenger cars that were manufactured before 1986 were even made to run on leaded petrol which has since been banned by most countries. [3]

Now, unleaded petrol and diesel cars are considered the most popular cars, but their reign could soon come to an end with schemes in place to increase EV sales. 

Volkswagen recently became the first car maker to announce its number of electric vehicle sales would overtake petrol and diesel new car sales by 2028.

Volvo also announced it would only be selling cars in Australia powered by electricity by the middle of the decade, while the rest of the industry has forecast a shift sometime in the 2030s. [4]

How Selling Cars in Australia Has Changed Today

These days, buying a new or used car is easier than ever. You can purchase your dream car in person, online and even off social media.

Despite all the options available, a 2022 Deloitte study found that 79% of Australians surveyed said they would be most likely to buy their next car in person. 

However, 15% of Australian car buyers who were surveyed said they would be interested in buying their next new car partially online through an authorised dealer, car manufacturer or third-party retailer. 

Almost half of Australians surveyed who said they would purchase their new car online said it would be because of convenience, while one in five respondents said it was to increase the speed of buying a car.

And while electric vehicles are making their way in the market, the study found just 4% of Australians surveyed said they were planning to buy a fully electric vehicle as their next car.

According to the study, Australians who were surveyed said if they bought an electric vehicle it would be to save on fuel and to reduce emissions. [5]

Each year there are around 1 million cars sold in Australia, which begs the question - what is everyone buying?

By the end of 2022, the best-selling cars in Australia were (insert drum roll here)…utes. 

But can the workhorse vehicle stay at the top of the leaderboard this time or will they be overtaken by the popular small SUV or practical midsize sedan? Find out the best-selling cars in Australia as of March 2023 based on monthly data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. [6]

#1 Toyota Hilux

white Toyota Hilux parked on grass outside

In March 2023, there were 4,583 Toyota Hilux sales across Australia.

In the past 12 months, the Toyota Hilux has topped the list of car sales in Australia six times, with the Ford Ranger getting first place for the remaining six months. With booming popularity across the country, the Hilux has earned its spot as Australia’s toughest and most reliable dual cab ute. 

It offers petrol and diesel options, as well as plenty of add-ons from trays, canopies, bull bars and comfortable seating.

Toyota as a brand also continues to dominate the field as the highest-selling brand of car in March 2023 with more than 40,900 registrations in 2023 so far. 

Read the latest Toyota Hilux reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

#2 Ford Ranger

grey ford ranger driving down road outside

In March 2023, there were 4,508 Ford Ranger sales across Australia. 

The Ford Ranger is the ultimate competition for the Toyota Hilux, with the two utes jockeying for the top spot every month.  

And with a wide range of options in the line-up and some attractive safety features, including rear parking sensors and adaptive cruise control, it’s no wonder the Ford Ranger continues to be a popular choice with Australian motorists.

Read the latest Ford Ranger reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

#3 Isuzu D-Max

Black Isuzu D-Max parked on gravel outside

In March 2023, there were 2,789 Isuzu D-Max sales across Australia. 

With the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger utes dominating the top of the leaderboard for the best-selling cars in Australia in March, it’s fitting the Isuzu ute came in third place. While it didn’t reach the number of cars sold to match Ford and Toyota utes, the D-Max is known to hold its own. 

Other than its incredible power and refined interior, the D-Max also has a fairly extensive safety kit across the entire range. And while it's not the cheapest ute on the market, upfront costs can come in less than similar models in the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux ranges.

Read the latest Isuzu D-Max reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

#4 Mitsubishi Outlander

Red mitsubishi outlander parked outside in carpark

In March 2023, there were 2,169 Mitsubishi Outlander sales across Australia. 

Coming in fourth place and ranking as Australia's best-selling SUV was the Mitsubishi Outlander. With five-seater and seven-seater models available, these larger cars can be ideal for fitting the whole family in for a comfortable road trip. 

It's long made a name for itself as an impressive crossover vehicle that can do it all. But with plug-in hybrid options now becoming increasingly popular in the Outlander range, the midsize SUV can go from sand and mud to everyday roads all while giving fantastic fuel economy. 

Read the latest Mitsubishi Outlander reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

#5 Tesla Model Y

Red tesla model y parked across the road outside

In March 2023, there were 1,938 Tesla Model Y sales across Australia. 

Since hitting the market in Australia, Tesla has dominated the world of electric vehicles across the country. Now, the Tesla Model Y has become the best-selling electric car in Australia and has come in fifth place for cars overall.

As a staple in the electric vehicle market, Tesla models offer up high-tech features to keep the consumer excited, as well as the iconic panoramic glass roof that's become synonymous with the brand.

Tesla's ongoing reign of the EV market could in part be linked to their exclusive access to the Supercharger network. More chargers with better accessibility on everyday roads can help to reduce the level of range anxiety for drivers looking to get into the green vehicle market. 

Read the latest Tesla Model Y reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars. 

#6 Mazda CX-5

black Mazda CX5 parked across road outside in park

In March 2023, there were 1,917 Mazda CX-5 sales across Australia. 

In 2023, the Mazda CX-5 has made an appearance on the top 10 list of best-selling cars in Australia every month so far. Among large cars, the affordable and spacious Mazda CX-5 has built its reputation as a stylish family vehicle that’s become one of the brand's most popular models. 

As a whole, Mazda's light vehicle fleet was the second highest-selling car brand in Australia with more than 25,000 new cars registered in the year so far. 

Read the latest Mazda CX-5 reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

#7 Subaru Forester

Blue subaru forester parked on dirt path in bush

In March 2023, there were 1,881 Subaru Forester sales across Australia. 

As Subaru’s much-loved midsize SUV, the Forester offers drivers a practical and spacious car for those who love to adventure. There’s also now a hybrid option which can help Forester fans move into the green vehicle market and work towards future decarbonisation. 

Despite having plenty of space inside the cabin, the Forester still feels compact and just as easy to park and manoeuvre around town as the range of small cars on the market.

Read the latest Subaru Forester reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

#8 MG ZS

MG ZS EV red car parked outside

In March 2023, there were 1,844 MG ZS sales across Australia. 

The popular MG ZS has become easier to spot on Australian roads in recent years. The car offers up a petrol option and a fully electric option with the size of both models sitting comfortably between small cars and bigger SUVs.

With a lower upfront cost for a smaller SUV, the MG ZS is appealing to those looking to get into the new car market without making too much of a dent in the savings.

It offers up plenty of space and an impressive engine for a lower price point than other options on the market.

Read the latest MG ZS reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

#9 Toyota RAV4

red RAV4 cruiser hybrid car parked on dirt road with mountain in the back

In March 2023, there were 1,778 Toyota RAV4 sales across Australia. 

There’s a reason the Toyota RAV4 keeps evolving but continues to stay one of the most popular large cars on the market. This model has earned its spot as the ultimate family SUV that packs a punch while still maintaining an extensive safety kit. 

With plenty of different models within the Toyota RAV4 range, there's something to suit any lifestyle. But it's the Toyota Safety Sense kit that seals the deal for families who might be hunting for a safe and reliable SUV that still feels like other sports cars.

Read the latest Toyota RAV4 reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

#10 Isuzu MU-X

blue isuzu MU-X driving outside along dirt road

In March 2023, there were 1,745 Isuzu MU-X sales across Australia. 

Isuzu and Toyota are the only two car brands to have two models make the list of best-selling cars in Australia for March. Isuzu has seen the D-Max ute and the MU-X large SUV both making an appearance for the most new sales. 

With the same chassis, diesel engine and extensive safety suite as the D-Max, it’s no wonder the seven-seat four-wheel drive has also made the list. 

Although the MU-X isn't as largely talked about as its ute counterpart, there's a huge amount of space in the cabin for a decent price tag which gives family buyers a good deal in such a tight market these days.

Read the latest Isuzu MU-X reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Best Selling Car Brands

Toyota continues to lead the pack by a long shot in March as the most purchased car brand in Australia with 40,918 vehicles registered in the first three months of 2023.

Toyota sold 15,000 more cars in the year leading up to March than second-placed Mazda which had 25,317 vehicles registered in the same period. Ford then came in third with 19,131 registered vehicles as of March 2023.

Tesla also made its way into the top ten car manufacturers in Australia sitting at ninth place with more than 10,400 sales so far in 2023 to March.

It was also reported that sales for battery-electric cars grew by 19.5% compared to the previous year in March 2022, while plug-in hybrid vehicles grew by 33.3%. [6]

Key Takeaways

Toyota continues to dominate the Australian car market

Toyota dominated the Australian new car market in March 2023, with the brand having more than 40,000 registrations. This included upwards of 4,500 Toyota Hilux sales which was the best-selling car in Australia of the past month, according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. 

In 2022, the Toyota Corolla was even named the best-selling car in the world with more than 1.12 million new car sales.


Toyota and Ford continue to fight it out for the top spot

The Toyota Hilux beat out the Ford Ranger in March 2023, with both popular cars jockeying for the top spot month-on-month. The Ranger and Hilux have been interchanging between first and second best-selling cars in Australia, with both spending six months each at the helm in the past 12 months.

The Isuzu ute D-Max was the third top-selling car in March 2023 making Isuzu the only brand to have two models in the top ten best-selling cars in Australia with the MU-X coming in 10th place.


Australians will still buy their cars in person

Buying habits of Australians haven't changed drastically as technology advances with 79% of consumers saying they were more likely to buy their next car in person rather than virtually.

Of those who said they would buy a car virtually, most said they would do it for convenience or the speed of purchasing.


Electric vehicles are coming, but are Australians ready?

Car brands like Volkswagen and Volvo have announced they will be going fully electric for all new cars in the near future while the rest of the industry says it will happen within the next decade.

But in a recent study, just 4% of Australians who were surveyed said they would be keen to buy an electric vehicle as their next car showing that the demand for green vehicles is still low in Australia.

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