Choosing whether to drive an automatic or manual vehicle is just one of the many important decisions you’ll have to make when buying a new car.
With close to 650,000 new cars with automatic gearboxes registered in Britain in 2016 – a rise of 55% compared to 2013 – automatic gearboxes are catching up with the number of manual vehicles on UK roads.
Many enjoy the feeling of total control a manual gearbox gives but some prefer the easier drive of an automatic.
If you’re undecided, Warranty Direct has explored the advantages and disadvantages of each to help make your decision easier.
What’s the difference?
A manual gearbox requires the driver to physically change the gears as the car slows down or speeds up using the clutch and gear stick. A manual gearbox typically has up to five, six or seven gears to choose from. This is the most commonly found transmission in the UK with 70% of people driving a manual car, according to a survey conducted by the AA in 2016.
An automatic gearbox selects the gear best suited to the speed of the car without any driver input. It does this by selecting from Park, Neutral, Reverse or Drive options using a gear-lever, control knob or buttons.
Growing in popularity across the UK, some car brands now include an option for drivers to swap between automatic and manual transmission for mass appeal.
A manual gearbox does have financial advantages. Cars with a manual transmission are generally cheaper to buy and run than their automatic counterparts and the average insurance premium is around 6% lower too.
They’re also generally easier to fix if a problem occurs. This is because automatic vehicles have hundreds of mechanical, hydraulic and electronic parts that must work in harmony to shift gears smoothly. In contrast, manual transmissions are mostly mechanical gears relying on the driver to engage the clutch and shift when needed.
An automatic can cost drivers more money in fuel as they need more power to run. However, this does depend on the model and more efficient and environmentally- friendly automatic gearboxes are being introduced all the time
Ease of use
Some motorists have difficulties managing the hand-foot co-ordination needed to drive manually and argue automatic cars are simpler to use, creating a more relaxing drive. In busy traffic, manual means repetitive gear shifting and use of the clutch can be tiring.
If you have limited mobility and need driving control adaptions (such as a push/pull device to control the speed of your car), an automatic gearbox is essential to enable you to operate these controls with your hands.
Learning to drive
When learning to drive, a large amount of this time is designated to control, with gears and clutch operation in manual transmission being the significant factor. Learning in an automatic eliminates this issue and it’s likely you’ll need fewer lessons to reach test standard in an automatic than in a manual transmission.
However, passing your test in an automatic means you will only have a licence to drive an automatic vehicle. You’ll need to retake your driving test in a manual before you get the green light to drive both types of car.
Conversely, if you learn in a manual and receive your manual driving licence, you can switch to an automatic without having to retake your test.
Automatic driving lessons can also be more expensive as automatic cars use more fuel than a manual equivalent.
Whether you’re a new or experienced driver; the preference between transmission styles boils down to personal choice. If you’re looking for more control and cost-efficiency, a manual car could be a better option, but if you’re looking for a simpler and smoother drive, an automatic may be the way to go.
Warranty Direct is a trading style of BNP Paribas Cardif Limited. BNP Paribas Cardif Limited is a company, registered in England and Wales No. 3233010 at Pinnacle House, A1 Barnet Way, Borehamwood, Herts, WD6 2XX and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, Register No.309075.