Apr 302018

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.

Cost efficiency

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.

Final thoughts

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.

  13 Responses to “Manual vs Automatic – Which car transmission style should you choose?”

  1. I am now 83 years having passed my driving test when I was 17 years. Proud of my driving record, no points & never had a claim. Have owned manual & automatic transmission vehicles. I much prefer automatic transmission, far superior to any manual variant. With automatic transmission, one is never in The wrong gear. Yes there is a cost penalty, but the comfort & ease of driving far outweighs this. Just imagine driving in London with a manual transmission, no thanks. Give me automatic transmission all the time.

  2. Modern automatic vehicles are little different in running costs than those with a manual gearbox, unless you are one of those drivers who insist on being first away at the lights by ‘flooring’ the accellerator. An auto responds to the speed, and the road conditions (going up a steep incline, for instance), but the best will marry the automatic with a control mechanism that prevents excessive wheel spin in icy and/or very wet conditions. Therefore, the running costs are controlled by the driver as much as by the difference between the two systems.
    Having driven vehicles with a manual gearbox/gear change for the majority of my 15’000 average miles per annum, I changed to an automatic 6 years ago, I wouldn’t change back from choice. In addition, it keeps the other driver in our house to driving her own small vehicle!

  3. I think you will find autos are now more efficient on fuel than manual boxes now.

  4. I am a convert to automatics. The VW/Skoda DSG with adaptive Cruise control and other safety featuresreally eases long distance driving and makes town driving effortless. With a diesel using Adblu fuel consumption figures and emissions are very respectable as well.

  5. I have been driving since I passed my test in 1964 and for almost all of the years since I have driven or owned Automatic cars. I believe them to be safer and smother and less tiring than manual cars. I have never understood my fellow countrymen s aversion to the auto and if driven with care the economy is not much different to the manual gear box fuel wise.

  6. Interesting article, but no mention of the continually variable transmission such as in the Toyota Hybrid cars, like the Prius and Auris etc ? I have had both these cars, and love them. The electric mode is very useful if stuck in snow or mud. Also, once when I was losing traction in snow going uphill, I slipped the car into electric mode and it got me up.

  7. Having an automatic is not driving. Driving an manual car is driving and is enjoyable. Rally drivers drives an manual car which is fun to drive with. Automatic are for lazy drivers

  8. Could you please advise the frequency with which automatic gearboxes fail in comparison to manuals if you have this information available?

  9. Automatic every time for me.

  10. Just read your article re Auto vs Manual. I have had an auto for the last twenty years and have found them easier to drive and more relaxing. Able to drive in traffic more smoothly and not having to change gears and ride the the clutch in traffic congested situations. Overall I would plump for an Auto every time.

  11. One of the main reasons I went for an auto was to avoid the infamous dual-mass flywheel issues that seem to plague manual diesel cars from the last ten or so years.

    A £1000 bill every 30-50,000 miles is not something I particularly like the idea of.

  12. The DSG Automatic fitted across all the car brands i the Volkswagen group have the same
    fuel consumption as 6 speed manual.
    Mitsubishi seem to have a similar system

  13. Interesting and useful. Thank you.

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