manual vs automatic car transmission

Manual vs. Automatic Transmission Guide

Learning to drive on a stick shift was a right of passage for many older drivers. Grinding the clutch, searching for reverse, and the tell-tale stop-and-go were sure signs of a new driver. But the days of manual transmissions seem to be fading into the lore of the American car scene. Today, most cars in the U.S. feature automatic transmissions. While stick shifts are still available, they seem to appeal to a small minority. But why? First, it’s important to understand the differences between a manual vs. automatic car.

Manual vs. Automatic Transmissions

For those of us who enjoy the creature comforts when driving, an automatic transmission is simply easier to manage. Automatics are ideal for new drivers and take the guesswork out of changing gears and speeds. If you have to ask, “Is a stick shift an automatic or manual?” then an automatic is for you. But. For certain driving enthusiasts, the control and spirited response they get from a manual transmission is the only way to go. If you think of driving performance in RPMs, a manual transmission might be right up your alley!

Even though the automatic transmission is becoming more popular every year, you just might be the kind of driver who can appreciate the beauty of changing gears on demand. Understanding the difference between manual and automatic transmissions is the first step to determining which is best for you.

Manual vs. Automatic Car Overview

The most significant differences between a manual and automatic transmission are their design, performance, and level of driver involvement. When it’s time to buy another car, nobody says you have to stick with the same-old same-old, so don’t be afraid to switch things up! Here’s what you need to know.

Drivability and Comfort
Manual transmissions provide extra control and more finely-tuned acceleration and maneuvering. They also require drivers to stay engaged and shift efficiently. The payoff is often a more exhilarating driving experience thanks to the sporty handling. Automatic transmissions offer hands-off gear changes and more relaxed navigation in traffic. Many drivers like the user-friendly experience of driving an automatic because they have one thing less to do while driving. And, of course, automatic transmissions have something a stick shift can only dream of—cruise control!

Maintenance and Durability
Because automatic transmissions require so many components to change gears efficiently, they don’t usually last as long as manual transmissions. The friction of all those parts can also make an automatic transmission overheat, leading to increased maintenance and lower longevity. Repair cost for an automatic transmission is usually much more than those for a stick shift. Expect to spend as much as $3,000 for an automatic and about $2,000 for a manual transmission repair. Actual repair costs vary by the repairs needed and the make and model of the car, but every manual transmission has a clutch that will inevitably need replacing.

Price Points
Cost is always important when you’re shopping for your next car. While we already know a manual transmission costs less to manufacture, the lack of demand can also make them less expensive. But. More than a few cars with manual transmissions are also convertibles. Expect to pay more for a convertible and more for car insurance. Since many manual transmission cars are pre-owned, you can save even more money buying used than if you bought a new car.

Fuel Efficiency
In testing conducted by Consumer Reports, a car with a manual transmission can get 2 to 5 more mpg than one with an automatic transmission. At today’s gas prices, that extra mileage can really add up quickly. But as technology advances, automatic transmissions will eventually erase that advantage. It’s already easy to find a range of hybrids, electric vehicles, and other cars with automatic transmissions that offer excellent fuel economy. In the manual vs. automatic transmission debate, gas mileage will become less of a factor.

The bottom line is if the thrill of shifting gears is a must-have for you, the tradeoffs probably won’t matter that much. But if you want to find a car with a manual transmission, you better hurry! Fewer and fewer stick shifts are being manufactured, and used ones are becoming harder to find. The manual transmission may become a relic in the history of the U.S. auto market before you know it.

Find Your Next Used Car at Tucson’s Family-Owned Dealership

Whether you’re in the market for a sporty, exhilarating ride, practical and economical transportation, or anything in between, we’ve got you covered. Since 1984, Car Time Supercenter has helped Tucson drivers afford quality used cars that fit their lifestyle. From down payment assistance to competitive financing to fair pricing, we make it easy to get behind the wheel of a car you’ll love. Stop by the lot or give us a call, and we’ll show you how.

Shane Vossough

There are good reasons people will buy their next used car in Tucson from Car Time Supercenter. But I think we are one of the most trusted used car dealerships mainly because we treat everyone like family. My family has provided quality, dependable local used cars to Tucson customers since 1984, and I'm proud to be a part of our continued success. Like many family-owned businesses, I grew up going to work with my dad. Falling in love with cars was natural because of my father's passion, and eventually, I came to love the car business just like him. I officially joined the Car Time Supercenter team in 2012, starting in the finance department. Over the past decade, I've learned the used car business and how to treat customers from my family and industry resources. Today, I oversee marketing, social media, inventory, and reconditioning, so I play an essential role in delivering local Tucson used car buyers the best experience possible. I also help our family business keep up with the times while providing old-fashioned customer service. From attending NADA classes to becoming Allstate certified for back-end products, I continue to learn and add skills to serve our customers better.