Should you Drive a Manual or an Automatic?
When it comes to manual versus automatic, one tends to think of a European/US divide. For us, having become accustomed to manual transmissions, the automatic has often been seen as a bit of strange novelty. The Americans, meanwhile, are almost completely unfamiliar with the ‘stick shift’. After all, why would you manually change gear when the car can do it for you?
With that said, google ‘manual vs. automatic’ and you’ll see various articles surrounding ‘the death of the manual gearbox’ and how automatics are ‘set to take over.’ Indeed, automatic sales in the UK have risen by 70% since 2007, so is the manual transmission truly on the verge of extinction?
Both have their pros and cons, and here we make the case for both options.
The Case for Manual
Despite the rising popularity of automatics, manual vehicles still account for over three quarters of cars on European roads. Here’s why they’re still selling:
- More control: While automatic gearboxes choose what they deem to be the best gear for the situation, they tend to shift early and waste engine power, which isn’t ideal for many driving situations. Manual transmissions allow you to apply the power you need, whether it’s to drop a gear to overtake on a country road or move two gears at once. Generally, manual gearboxes provide more speed, and for the purists out there who enjoy driving, a manual is simply more fun.
- Cheaper to buy: If you’re focused on cost over anything else, manual vehicles tend to be cheaper than their automatic counterparts. Due to the increased complexities of automatic transmission, buyers have to pay hundreds, potentially thousands more for the privilege.
- Cheaper maintenance: That same complexity of transmission system means maintenance costs are also more expensive, should you run into any trouble.
- Better fuel efficiency: Manual transmissions are less complex, weigh less and offer better control and distribution of engine power. All that equates to better fuel efficiency, which means less time at the pump and less money spent.
The Case for Automatic
With growing sales across the planet and almost complete market control in the USA, drivers are turning their back on manual transmissions for a number of reasons:
- Ease of use: While we in the UK may not see a real difficulty in manipulating gears, it’s still the most complex part of leaning to drive a car. Getting used to multi-tasking, understanding a clutch biting point and knowing ‘what gear for when’ are all key experience points for manual drivers that improve with time. An automatic takes all of that stress away, doing all the hard work for you. Simply put it in drive and go.
- Better in hilly areas: Anyone who’s taken their driving test in the UK will know the fear of the hill start. Finding that mysterious biting point and dropping the handbrake at the right time is another acquired skill, and less experienced drivers often try and avoid inclines where they can. Particularly for those driving in hilly areas, the automatic gearbox makes sense as it takes the responsibility off you.
- Significantly reduced stall risk: Automatics almost completely eliminate stall risk, which saves you a few embarrassing moments as well as a few violet jolts forward. Indeed, the automatic transmission makes every gear change smooth, which offers a significantly smoother ride for those who aren’t so good with the clutch.
- Better in traffic: Stop-start traffic means a lot of pedal action for manual users. Although this is rarely too much of a pain, an automatic can save you from extensive and boresome footwork in heavy traffic.
Which Makes Most Sense?
Which transmission makes sense for you is completely circumstantial and depends on your preferences and ability as a driver. There’s no doubt that automatic gearboxes take the difficulty out of driving, meaning they’re perfect for less experienced, less confident or elderly drivers. Indeed, regardless of driving ability, you may just want the easiest, smoothest or safest option possible, in which case an automatic is for you.
Manual gearboxes are a more budget friendly option, but their primary benefit lies in their increased level of control. For those who want to feel more in command of the vehicle, want more dynamic engine control and to be able to apply extra power when required, manual makes the most sense. Fundamentally, those who find driving fun rather than a process or chore will see the most appeal in manual transmission.
The good news is, regardless of your preference, the increase in UK automatic sales means the car market is full of options on both sides. Fords of Winsford stock thousands of great value manual and automatic options, with finance deals starting at well under £100 a month. So, whatever your budget, you should be able to find the best fit for you.