Kiwis are moving towards buying cheaper, more efficient vehicles and picking up alternatives to driving like public transport as the cost of living crunch continues to bite.

Trends now point towards cheaper, used hybrids becoming much more popular among buyers. One person who spoke to 1News, Maia Aoake, is one of many car buyers looking to make the switch to a vehicle which runs cheaper.

She’s recently returned from overseas and has been borrowing a family gas guzzler.

“It costs about $200 to fill my car at the moment, so definitely due for a cheaper car.”

It’s a decision reflected in how car dealers are watching stock move.

Turners Cars usually sells about 75% of its stock at under $15,000. But by the end of 2023, 90% were selling at $15,000. Greg Hedgepeth of the company’s North Shore branch said the shift is largely down to the cost of living crisis.

“It’s quite a dramatic shift,” he said. “You know, they’re watching their pennies a bit more.”

Used hybrid cars like the Toyota Aqua have been big sellers, with the now-scrapped Clean Car Discount helping to drive the trend.

Hedgepeth said his team expects the demand to back off, now the discount is gone.

But as manufacturers make more electric cars, imports will be increasingly electric. It’s something Transport Minister Simeon Brown expects to benefit consumers.

“A lot of electric vehicle importers are actually lowering their prices, following the Clean Car Discount actually ending. Ford’s reducing their prices on January 1, so the market is going to bring more and more of these vehicles into the country.”

Many New Zealanders are also looking to other alternatives with the high running costs of cars and traffic congestion returning to normal after the pandemic lull.

In our largest city, bus patronage has returned to around 90% of pre-pandemic levels.

University of Auckland planning expert Timothy Welch said “dire predictions” about public transport being abandoned following Covid hadn’t come true.

“The other thing that’s come back to pre-Covid levels also is congestion,” he said.

“It’s clear to people that the best option often is to take a quicker public transport route, or one at least you could read a book or do some work on, while you’re stuck in traffic.”

To make the alternatives more usable, he said authorities needed to spend more on cycle and bus lanes – which could be funded by a congestion charge.