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Manual vs Automatic - Which is the better transmission?

Author Name – Cameron Carroll

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Manual or automatic transmission is a commonly asked question amongst motorists. It seems that you’re either one side of the fence or the other when it comes to this subject, with manual users preferring the authentic driving experience and automatic users loving the relaxed, easier drive. However if you are on the fence and can’t make a decision then we are going to break down the pros and cons to help you decide which type of transmission is for you. 

What is the difference between automatic and manual transmissions?

The difference between manual and automatic is that a manual car involves the driver in the process of changing gears. In manual transmission cars the driver has to press the clutch pedal down and change between all the gears with the gear stick manually.

Automatic cars are a lot simpler than this as all you have to do is select whether you want to drive, reverse, be in neutral or park and the car will do the rest for you. There is no clutch on an automatic car and the gear stick is limited to the drive, reverse, neutral and park options. 

Manual Transmission

Manual transmission or commonly known as stick shift in the US, is the original and standard equipment to be used in vehicles. Manual cars often come with a 6 speed manual gearbox.

Pros 

Control – Control of the car is one of the main advantages of driving a manual. The driver chooses when they want to change gear and what gear they want to change too, meaning on a hill start they can go straight from 2nd gear to 4th to get the power needed. You would not be able to do this in an automatic.  

This can lead to better car performance. If a driver can change to the correct gear at the optimal time, then the car will respond better to this and can perform better than an automatic car (this obviously is also dependant on the driving ability of the driver). 

Authentic driving experience – Driving a manual car is seen as the ‘proper’ way to drive a car and provides that authentic driving experience. This is why drivers who own sports cars may go for manual transmission as they are controlling all of that horsepower through the gears, making the experience more fun. 

Cheaper – Manual cars are cheaper than automatics both to buy, repair and insure making them a more cost effective option, especially for young drivers. 

Use free quotes on comparison sites such as Confused.com, Compare the Market and GoCompare to stay up to date with current prices.  

Cons

Effort – driving a manual transmission car is a considerable bit more effort than it is to drive an automatic, due to the clutch pedal. You may have experienced this yourself or someone you know claim that they have ‘clutch foot’.

What is a clutch foot?

This is a painful foot due to constantly pressing the clutch down and finding the biting point through miles and miles of stop, start traffic. 

Harder to learn – Learning to drive a manual car transmission is a harder process than driving an automatic. New drivers are bound to experience the moment when you stall at the most inconvenient time, and hear the relentless honking from the traffic jam which you have created. 

Challenging technique – a final con of driving a manual vehicle is that it is more challenging to drive.  This is especially the case on hills and steep inclines. Precise control is needed to avoid the car rolling back, stalling and finding the right gear to give enough power to the car.  

Automatic Transmission 

The first automatic transmission to be invented was by a Canadian engineer named Alfred Horner Munro in 1921. 

The automatic gear box works by automatically changing gear ratios as the car is moving. This makes the clutch pedal unnecessary and frees the driver from changing gear manually.  

Pros 

Easier to drive – On the contrary to manual transmission vehicles being hard to drive in stop, start traffic and on hills and inclines, automatic vehicles are effortless. With no clutch it avoids ‘clutch foot’ and gears change over automatically, avoiding stalling and rolling back on inclines. 

Better mileage – It is commonly thought that manual cars have better mileage then automatic, and this used to be the case. Modern automatic cars have taken over manual when it comes to fuel economy, due to more use of continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), which can continuously vary gear ratios increasing fuel economy.

More inclusive – The availability of automatic cars are a positive in the fact that they can allow people who are unable to drive manual cars a chance to drive. Motability offer automatic cars to disabled customers. They state that an automatic or semi-automatic gearbox transmission vehicle is chosen by a huge 45% of their customers. Absolutely everybody can drive an automatic where as a manual can be restrictive for some people.  

Cons 

Expensive – Due to how easily available manual vehicles are they are much cheaper to repair than automatics. Automatic vehicles are also more expensive to buy new or second hand as well as insure.  

Less fun to drive -  This is based on your own personal opinion but the general idea is that when you have complete control of your car, that you do with a manual, it becomes more fun to drive. 

The fact that you have more control of the car with a manual also means that the car is less predictable and if done correctly you can improve performance of the car.  

Restricts new drivers -  If a new driver is learning to drive or passes their test in an automatic then they are then restricted to only driving automatics and are not qualified to driving manuals. It is better to pass your test in a manual car then you can have the choice of driving a manual or automatic transmission in the future. 

Whilst taking the pros and cons into account, a factor that can ultimately influence a decision on manual vs automatic is lifestyle. Automatic vehicles are better for a disabled person or someone who lives in urban areas, where the driver will come across a lot of congestion. Manual vehicles may be better suited to someone who drives long distances, making the drive more enjoyable.

Hopefully this article has given you a more in depth view of the different transmission types and will allow you to make an informed decision on whether to choose a manual or automatic transmission vehicle. 

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