Utes: An Aussie Icon For All

9 October 2015
There’s one thing that is irrefutable: Aussies love their utes. But where does this love stem from and why do we continue to keep buying utes?

Five new models have arrived in Australia in the last five months alone – the first time so many cars have rolled at out once.

Who’s buying utes?

Everyone from de facto couples to working dads to families, apparently. No longer just another tool of the tradie or farmer, the ute appears to have gained mainstream appeal over the past decade.

Australia Scan founder David Chalke commented on changing trends in who’s buying utes, “Utes are increasingly being used as family cars, even if the definition of family is different from before.”

Australia’s utes of choice: most bought and most stolen

Last week the 2016 Toyota HiLux arrived in showrooms, marking the first upgrade to the classic HiLux in 10 years.

According to AutoExpert, the Toyota HiLux has been Australia’s top-selling 4WD ute for more than three decades, and is the top-selling ute in Australia one in five months. Its lead on the market has been challenged in the past by the Ford Ranger, the Holden Colorado, and the Mazda BT-50.

The previous model of Toyota HiLux is also the most stolen vehicle in Australia, according to a recent interview with the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC). In fact, the rate of HiLux theft is rising by 10% a year while the rate of car thefts overall is dropping! 40% of stolen HiLuxes are never seen again by police or by their beloved owners.

The new model has a more efficient and more powerful turbo diesel engine, and an increased towing capacity of 3,500kg. It has a rear camera as standard.

However, its closest competitor, the Ranger, has optional radar cruise control and advance collision warning, which is a world first for an off-road ute. On the other hand, the Ranger makes you pay extra for these features, and it’s already the most expensive off-road ute.

Toyota is currently taking pre-orders for the revamped HiLux. You can read a review of the 2016 model from auto expert John Cadogan here.

Why we love our utes

But the Australian love affair with utes has been going on since we first invented them in 1932. Here are some of the main reasons why Aussies love their utes.

A combo for work and family life

The original ute was invented in 1932 after a farming family wrote to Ford asking them to create a vehicle that could do the hard work on the farm and still take the family to church on Sundays. Production began in 1934 and was so successful that Ford took the idea to America, and the rest is history.

Today’s utes are intended for work or family life during the week and 4WD play on the weekends. Their big doors make it easy to lift young children in and out. There’s more leg room and more space for grocery bags, bikes, and more.


Modern utes are now comparatively as safe as cars in a crash, with ANCAP safety testing giving both the HiLux and the Ranger a 5-star rating. Utes also place the driver higher to be able to see more of the road.

Other safety features include reversing cameras, cruise control, advance collision warning, and GPS navigation – although some including the Ranger make you pay extra for these options.

Working capacity

Most utes including the new HiLux and the Ranger have a towing capacity of 3,500 kg – the largest towing capacity you can drive with a normal car licence. This appeals not just to tradespeople but also to grey nomads living on the road.

Mazda Australia marketing manager Alastair Doak says, “You go to campsites and caravan sites across Australia nowadays and they’re full of utes with all the gear in the back, and a trailer, caravan or boat behind it.”


Much has changed, but Australia Scan’s David Chalke says blokes still buy a ute for the image as much as for practical reasons.

Mr Chalke said, “A ute tells people ‘I’m a man from the land’ when I might in fact have an office job.”

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