One of the key emerging public concerns is the socio-economic risk to households arising from the combined impact of rising mortgage expenses, historically high petrol prices and inflationary pressures. To assess how the impact of these three factors is likely to be distributed across Australian cities we have created a new index, the ‘vulnerability assessment for mortgage, petrol and inflation risks and expenditure’ (VAMPIRE). This paper reports the results of our analysis of the VAMPIRE for six Australian cities and the implications these have for various aspects of public policy. Our findings suggest that households with mortgages residing in outer-suburban locations in Australian cities will be the most adversely affected by rising fuel costs, in large part because of their exposure to housing debt and the poor quality of alternative travel modes to the private car. In contrast, wealthier inner-urban and middle-ring localities appear less likely to be vulnerable to increasing petrol prices, due to relatively higher incomes and greater availability of public transport. The personal taxation changes announced in the 2006 Australian government budget also appear likely to favour the wealthy areas of Australian cities over less affluent localities in terms of mortgage and oil vulnerability. We hope that the analysis and discussion we present in this paper will assist to inform scholarly, policy and broader public debate about the impact of rising oil prices on Australia’s urban social fabric.