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Road Motor Vehicles, Fuel Sales


This publication presents information on fuel consumed by road vehicles in Canada, including gasoline, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas. Most of the data were obtained from provincial and territorial agencies responsible for the collection of road fuel taxes.

Excluded from the data are:

  • sales of aviation gasoline and turbo-fuel;
  • marine transport fuels;
  • diesel oil consumed by railways; and
  • fuels used for heating, industrial power, electricity generation or similar non-transportation purposes.
These data are captured for use by the Department of Finance as an input to the calculation of provincial fiscal equalization payments, pursuant to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, 1987. Readers should consult the sections on Data Collection and Methodology, Data Quality and Limitations, and Changes in Provincial Road Fuel Taxes when using these data for other purposes.

Motor Vehicle Fuel Sales in Canada

Gross sales of gasoline in Canada reached 38 billion litres in 1999, an increase of 2% over 1998. Because Ontario and Québec are the most heavily populated provinces in Canada, consumers in these two provinces purchased the most fuel. Gross sales of gasoline in Ontario reached 14 billion litres in 1999 and 8 billion litres in Québec.

However, these provinces did not have the highest gross gasoline sales per capita. Québec's rate was the lowest of the provinces at 1,314 litres per capita, while Ontario's 1,581 litres per capita was only slightly higher than the Canadian average of 1,569 litres per person (See Text Table 1).

The highest gross gasoline sales per capita were found in the Yukon Territory (3,001 litres per capita), Alberta (2,112 litres per capita) and Saskatchewan (2,058 litres per capita). Many factors may influence this result, such as differences in gasoline prices, provincial economic conditions, travelling distances for business and leisure, and the choice and/or availability of alternative transportation modes.

Net Sales

Net sales (where roadside tax was paid) of gasoline, diesel, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for motor vehicle use in 1999 reached 51 billion litres, an increase of 5% over 1998. Gasoline dominated fuel use, at 71% of the total, followed by diesel at 28%. LPG represented only 1% of the total sales volume. In 1999, net sales of gasoline for motor vehicle use in Canada was 1,499 litres of gasoline per capita.

Between 1998 and 1999, net sales of gasoline increased by 3% to 36 billion litres. Ontario accounted for 38% of all gasoline sold for motor vehicle use in Canada, with an additional 21% sold in Québec.

These results are consistent with information obtained by Statistics Canada's new Canadian Vehicle Survey (CVS) Catalogue Number 53F0004-XIE. CVS estimates of total vehicle-kilometres driven by road vehicles weighing less than 4500 kilograms (excluding motorcycles and mopeds) suggest that Ontario had the greatest road motor vehicle activity, with 27 billion vehicle-kilometres, or 38% of the total for Canada. Québec occupied second place with just under 15 billion vehicle-kilometres, or 21% of the total.

Long Term Fuel Consumption Appears Stable Despite More Automobiles

Road transportation is the predominant mode of transportation in Canada as it is in most industrial countries.

  • In the urban environment, over 80% of workers use private vehicles for the journey to work (see Figure 1).
  • Over 90% of all intercity trips are made in private vehicles (Figure 2).
  • Approximately 40% of the total freight transported in Canada is moved in trucks.1

Despite the predominance and growth of motor vehicle transportation, the volume of gasoline sold in 1999 was approximately the same as the level in 1979 (see Figure 3). The growth rate of motor vehicle registrations between 1976 and the present has been approximately 2 percent per year (see Figure 4).

The fact that more vehicles are using approximately the same volume of fuel can be explained, in part, by the introduction of and gradual switch to alternative energy forms. Another reason is that vehicle fleet fuel efficiencies have improved over the years.

The amount of gasoline used per capita and per registered vehicle2 have both declined over the last three decades, with much of the decrease occurring in the early 1980s (see Figures 5 and 6).


Gross sales refer to the sale of all road grades of gasoline for all uses, including off-road activities such as farming, forestry, construction or mining.

The term net sales refer to those sales of gasoline, diesel, and liquefied petroleum gas on which taxes were remitted at road-use rates. These net figures reported by the provinces and territories represent, with minor exceptions, the amount of taxable fuel actually consumed on public roads in Canada.

Fuel sales per capita: per capita values are the quantities of fuel sold divided by the number of people in the driving age group, 16 years old and over. Population counts are from Statistics Canada's CANSIM table number 051-0001.

1 Based on 1998 data published in Trucking in Canada, Statistics Canada Catalogue Number 53-222-XIB.
2 Total vehicle registrations includes passenger automobiles, trucks and truck trailers, buses, motorcycles, mopeds and all other road motor vehicles but excludes trailers and snowmobiles. Data for 1999 were not used because of a change in methodology.

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