First Last name

Manual vs automatic cars: which is better for you?

April 27, 2023

Manual vs automatic cars: which is better for you?

Choosing the transmission type for your next car can be a tricky decision.

In the UK, manual cars (operating via a clutch pedal and a gearshift) are still the most popular option.

Developed in the early 1900s, automatic cars use an automatic transmission to shift the gears. Instead of a clutch pedal and a gearshift, the driver selects between the modes (drive, park, reverse, neutral) and the car's onboard computer system automatically selects the appropriate gear based on the driving conditions.

Depending on what you’re used to driving, both manual and automatic cars have their pros and cons. We’re going to explore your options so you can make an informed choice based on your preferences and individual needs.

Advantages and disadvantages of manual cars

Manual cars typically offer drivers great control, better fuel efficiency, and lower maintenance costs compared to automatic vehicles.

Many manual car drivers find that the gearbox is superior at transferring power from the engine to the wheels - resulting in faster acceleration times (just ask a racecar professional).

Servicing costs is certainly a factor in your decision of manual vs automatic cars. With a less complex design than their automatic counterparts, manual cars benefit from less expensive ongoing servicing and maintenance costs.

In terms of fuel efficiency, manual cars are generally less heavy with fewer parts to slow them down - making them a solid option if you’re watching your vehicle spend.  

However - with the pros must come the cons.

Manual cars come with a steep learning curve for new drivers, as they require good coordination between the clutch, accelerator, and brake pedals. Driving a manual car requires more physical effort, as the driver must use their left foot to operate the clutch pedal and shift gears manually. This is especially true when you’re driving in heavy traffic and constantly shifting gears.

Because driving a manual car is more complicated, it’s important to bear in mind that this transmission type requires more of your attention on the road.

The cost of manual cars versus automatic cars can vary depending on several factors such as brand, model, and the specific features that come with each car. In general, manual cars are less expensive to purchase than automatic cars - mainly because they have fewer components and are less complicated.

Manual cars can have higher resale value than automatic cars and are often preferred by driving enthusiasts. Insurance-wise, the cost of car insurance is usually similar - however, in some cases, insurance premiums for manual cars are slightly lower due to the perception of being less risky to drive.

While manual cars may be less expensive to purchase and maintain, the cost difference between manual and automatic cars can vary based on the specific make and model of the car. It's important to consider your personal preferences, budget, and driving needs when deciding which type of transmission and car to buy.

Advantages and disadvantages of automatic cars

Choosing an automatic car offers you an easier driving experience and less driver fatigue. Combine these benefits with a typically higher resale value, and an automatic can be a great vehicle choice.

Driving an automatic car is certainly usually a pleasurable experience as they’re simple to drive with no clutch control to worry about. Maneuvering in busy traffic is easier in an automatic car - meaning you can focus your efforts on navigating junctions safely. In this way, this car transmission is often seen as safer to drive than cars with a manual gearbox.

But what about the automatic drawbacks?

To start with, you’ve got to be prepared for potentially higher upfront costs, lower fuel efficiency, and higher maintenance costs.

Some drivers favour manual cars because automatics can be perceived as the boring option! No requirement to change gears can mean a less physical connection with your car - so if this resonates, an automatic is perhaps not the one for you.

As we’ve mentioned in the manual section, automatic cars do come with higher servicing costs due to their complex and pricey components. And because automatic cars are generally less fuel-efficient too, this transmission type can eat into your car budget more quickly.

Moreover, automatic transmissions can be more complex and prone to issues - such as slipping or shifting problems, which can require costly repairs.

Automatic cars can mean that drivers have less control over the car's performance and acceleration, especially in situations where they need to downshift to increase engine braking or have more control over speed.

As with manual cars, the costs can vary depending on the brand, model, and specific features you desire in an automatic vehicle. Compared to manual transmission cars, you’ll usually find that automatics are costlier to initially purchase, maintain, and refuel.

However - you often get the bonus of a higher resale value with an automatic car.

Don’t forget to take your personal preferences, budget, and driving needs into consideration when you’re comparing manual vs automatic cars.

Which one should you choose?

When it comes down to it, which is better - automatic vs manual?

You need to consider the driving experience - as driving a manual car can certainly be more engaging if you like controlling the car’s speed and acceleration. If you prefer an easier ride however, an automatic car is probably a better choice.

Thinking about speed, manual cars are faster than automatic cars, mainly because the driver can control the gear shifting and optimise the engine's performance for acceleration. However, modern automatic cars have advanced technologies such as dual-clutch transmissions or paddle shifters, which can shift gears faster than a manual transmission.

These technologies allow for faster gear changes and can often match or even exceed the acceleration of manual cars.

Another point to consider is that electric and hybrid cars are normally equipped with automatic transmissions because of the nature of their powertrains. Instead of an engine and a gearbox, electric and hybrid cars use electric motors and batteries to power the wheels. This means that they don't need a clutch or gearshift, making them an excellent option for drivers who want a smooth, easy driving experience.

Comparing automatic vs manual cars, your main considerations should be your typical driving habits, the purpose of the car, and your personal preferences. Always take a few test drives to see which car and transmission you prefer - as there’s a lot of choice on the market today.

Still undecided between manual and automatic cars? In that case - the solution may be to try a flexible Drive Fuze car subscription.

You can choose between a wide range of manual and automatic cars - try out both transmissions for a while to see which your preference is and which best suits your lifestyle. All the great things about trialing both manual and automatic cars with none of the headache of long-term, complicated, and fixed contracts.

If you’re looking for a flexible and convenient transport option, embrace the freedom to change with a cost-effective Drive Fuze car subscription.