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Manual vs automatic cars: which is best?

Bradley Jando | Wednesday 14th July 2021 11:51am

man wearing watch changing gear in car

Whether youíre learning to drive and looking to purchase your first car or youíre simply in the market for a new vehicle, itís important that you choose the right set of wheels. 

One decision you may face is whether you should buy an automatic or manual car. Since this is potentially one of the biggest purchases youíll make, itís vital that you choose the type of vehicle that is most suited to you.

If youíre not up to speed on the differences between manual and automatic cars, donít worry. In this blog, we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of both, helping you suss out which one might be best for you when youíre out and about on the roads.

Manual cars

In the UK, the majority of cars have manual transmissions, otherwise known as manual gearboxes. This is mainly recognisable by the clutch pedal, which has to be pushed down in order for you to change gear. This disconnects the engine from the wheels, allowing the driver to choose the next gear before releasing the clutch.

There are many advantages and disadvantages associated with this type of vehicle. So, before you make your decision, itís worth keeping these points in mind.

The advantages

Many motorists prefer to drive a manual car because it gives them a feeling of being in greater control. In an automatic car, the torque converter - the device that transmits force from the engine - pushes the vehicle forward. However, manual style cars do not feature a torque converter, meaning that the driver is able to use the momentum of the engine to slow down and brake more easily.

Generally speaking, manual cars are less expensive to buy than their automatic counterparts, which is ideal if youíre shopping for a vehicle on a budget. They can also be easier to maintain. Manual cars are less complex than automatics, meaning there is less chance of something going wrong. You could find that you can rack up many thousands of miles in a manual car before you need to repair or replace the clutch.

Especially in the UK, cars with manual transmissions are much more common. In 2016, a survey conducted by AA Populus revealed that 70 per cent of those polled drove manual cars and always had done. On the other hand, only four per cent said the same about automatics. 

Also, if you learn to drive in a car with a manual gearbox and get your manual driving licence, you can drive an automatic car without having to take your test again. The same is not true if you learn to drive and take your test in an automatic.

The disadvantages

When it comes to learning to drive in a manual car, some people find mastering the clutch difficult. Discovering how to find the biting point and pull away without stalling can be tricky, and it can also take practice to know when to change gear. Whatís more, manual cars may be set to decline in popularity. Electric cars, which do not have gearboxes and are therefore effectively automatics, are predicted to increase in numbers, suggesting a steer away from cars with manual transmissions.

Automatic cars

Unlike a car with a manual gearbox, automatic vehicles change gear automatically to suit the vehicleís speed. They achieve this by disconnecting the drive from the wheels while they are changing gear. This means that, as you drive, you neednít worry about going up and down the gears as the car will do this for you.

Like manual cars, automatics have some pros and cons that you should take note of.

The advantages

The main advantage of automatic cars is that they are considered to be much easier to drive than manual cars. The fact that you donít need to physically change gear yourself while youíre behind the wheel means that the experience is much simpler when compared to that of a vehicle with a manual gearbox. As a result, this could be especially useful if youíre a nervous driver, as you will not have to worry about changing gear while youíre driving.

Driving an automatic car also gives you more time to focus your attention on what is going on around you, including the speed youíre travelling at and your position on the road, potentially making you a better, safer driver. Itís also thought that driving in certain conditions, such as in stop-start traffic or going up hills, is easier and safer in a vehicle with an automatic transmission.

Additionally, automatic cars can maintain more of their value than manual cars. This is partly due to the fact that they are easier to drive, but also because there are fewer used models available to buy. This means that the value goes up more when demand increases.

The disadvantages

Not only are automatics more expensive to buy than manual cars, but getting them repaired can be costly too. This type of vehicle requires more maintenance than a manual, mainly due its more complex design.

Automatic cars rely on the torque converter to shift gears. While this is good news for you as a driver, it does mean that they are less fuel efficient. In turn, you could find that this type of car requires filling up more often than a manual vehicle.

Itís clear that there are a number of differences between automatic and manual cars, and that both types of vehicle have their advantages and disadvantages. When it comes to choosing a car for yourself, itís important that you weigh up the pros and cons before making your final decision.

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