Private utes pay a lot more for road tolls in Victoria than private wagons. Why?

BACK IN THE DAY a 4X4 was only ever a commercial working vehicle, relied on by the likes of farmers. That’s why 4X4s that met offroad criteria like clearance used to attract a significant reduction in import duty compared to a 4X2.

But then 4X4s began to be used just like roadcars, yet still attracted the same tax break. That’s why Australia was slow to introduce 4X2 SUVs, because while they were cheaper to build and run than 4X4 versions; the tax cost pushed the purchase price too high. Yet as 4X4s become more popular with private owners there was no reason to give them any special treatment, so the tax break was removed and we began to see 4X2 versions of most SUVs.

The same sort of logic still applies for road tolls and registration, at least in Victoria. There’s two classes of vehicle and three risk areas:

Annual road rego: sedans, hatches and 4WDs

  • Metro area – high risk – $787.40
  • Outer metro – medium risk – $735.20
  • Rural – low risk – $675.20

Annual road rego: goods carrying vehicles (up to 2 tonnes, includes utes)

  • Metro area – high risk – $788.50
  • Outer metro – medium risk – $666.40
  • Rural – low risk – $548.70

[ Source ]

So private owners of utes who live in Melbourne’s outer metropolitan suburbs are laughing, paying $69.30 less per year, partially due to a difference in the TAC premium and the rest in registration. This doesn’t make much sense, as people are cross-shopping Tritons against Pajeros, HiLuxes against Prados and D-Maxes against MU-Xes. But the ute owner laughing won’t last for long, because there’s the road tolls which are much higher for utes than equivalent 4X4 wagons, even privately registered utes.

Both of Melbourne’s toll road operators, Citylink and Eastlink, have different rates for light commercial vehicles (which includes utes) as opposed to 4X4 wagons, whether the vehicle is privately owned or not. As per the Citylink website:

Vehicle classes on Melbourne’s toll roads are set out in the contracts both CityLink and EastLink have with the Victorian Government and are determined based on each vehicle’s size, weight and configuration. These classes, first established for CityLink in the mid-1990s, are consistent across both motorways. [ source ]

So that’s a Government rule. And here’s the definitions:

[ source ]

So what does that translate to if you, a private owner, drive a ute vs a wagon on Citylink? As a casual user it’s 46% more expensive, coming out to over $1200 a year if you run 5 trips per month:

  Citylink 24 pass or weekend pass cost  
Trips per 4X4 Wagon (car)Ute (LCV)Difference

But that’s the casual rate. If you are a regular user you’d have an account. Working off the cap costs per day we get this:

  Citylink Trip cap cost  
Trips per 4X4 Wagon (car)Ute (LCV)Difference

Eastlink also has higher prices, but we calculated their difference to be either 14, 15 or 18% greater for LCVs. If you drive to and from work every day through tolls that’s an average of 20 trips per month right there.

That’s still a fair bit more to pay if you opted for a Navara instead of a Patrol. Enter Sam Rowe, co-founder and President of the VW Amarok Club of Victoria, which is of course full of recreational utes.

On behalf of his club members Sam is writing to anyone and everyone involved in Victorian road regulations, lobbying to equalise the costs. Sam points out that in other states light commercial vehicles such as utes that are privately owned pay the same as 4X4 wagons and other cars, saying: “in Victoria however, even though a ute is registered privately, it is being charged toll fees under the classification of LCV, which is almost double that of a car. This, in my opinion is discriminatory, particularly when cars with caravans or boats (of any size) are charged as cars – these could be 12m long or more on aggregate – and charged less than a privately registered ute.”

Sam goes on to make a good point: “the ute is now more often than not also the main family car used for daily commute and recreation and has taken over the role of the family station wagon. Many others and I are using these vehicles as daily cars to travel to and from work, school, on holidays, etc. They are privately registered cars used in the same way that something like a Commodore or Falcon wagon would have been – or a 4WD wagon like a Prado, Pajero, Landcruiser etc.” Sam also notes that there’s a “small weekend and public holiday discount for cars that LCVs don’t get”.

Basically, a 4X4 family ute is no more stress on the road than a 4X4 touring wagon, so why should the tolls be higher?

Sam’s campaign is supported by 4WD Victoria. We spoke to 4WD Victoria CEO Wayne Hevey who said: “yes, FWDV are in support of this position and we will be asking our members to get behind it as well along with other associations we know of. We will be sending this letter to our members shortly after the board accepted this last night.”

So, do you want your private 4X4 ute to be tolled at the same rate as your private 4X4 wagon? And what do you reckon about the rego difference?

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