The age-old question: what kind of transmission do I choose in purchasing a new car? Automatic transmission was at one time a gimmick, a component of luxury vehicles designed to make the driving experience simpler. But with the advancement of technology came more affordable ways to deliver automatic transmission, until automatic vehicles eventually outweighed the number of manual vehicles on the road. After decades of sharing the road, it can still be difficult to decide between them; which is where this piece comes in. Here are the pros and cons of manual and automatic transmission.
Manual transmission has been somewhat romanticised on the silver screen, with its characteristic rev drops useful for heightening tension in daring chase scenes, and actors like Paul Newman throwing muscle cars into gear with purpose. Manual transmission is a much more active way of driving, and can have you feeling more ‘in-tune’ with your car as you drive it. As a direct result of this increased control, you can get better fuel economy out of your manual car – and less repair costs to boot, as manual transmission designs are less complex than automatic.
Cars with manual transmission are also often cheaper than their automatic counterparts, making them a little easier on your budget – especially if you were looking to buy a used Mercedes, where there is a clear difference in price point between manual and automatic models.
Where manual cars have simpler gearbox designs, they also have a new opportunity for failure: your clutch. Improper clutch use, or even standard wear-and-tear, can result in clutch issues on a semi-regular basis, requiring care, attention and regular servicing.
Manual transmissions have a steeper learning curve than automatic, making the barrier to entry higher and – coupled with the increased prevalence of automatic vehicles – making it less likely for new drivers to learn. This means you not only may have trouble getting used to driving “stick”, but also may have trouble selling your manual vehicle on.
Vehicles with automatic transmission are far easier to drive than those with manual transmission. The gear shifter and clutch are done away with, with your car’s on-board torque converter looking after all gear-shifting save for shifting into reverse. Not having to worry about shifting gears also frees up your left hand, allowing you to keep both hands on the wheel and stay safer while driving.
Newer drivers will find it far easier to use automatic vehicles, especially with regard to hills and stop-start traffic where driving manual can present difficulties.
The more complicated and in-depth design of automatic vehicles can result in increased service costs over time, as there are more parts and systems than a manual transmission – meaning automatic transmissions as a whole are more likely to break. They can also add a fairly significant amount of money onto the value of a car, meaning you may have to up your budget for an automatic vehicle.
Ultimately, the decision between manual and automatic can only be yours to make; they are each different and unique, with their own positives and negatives. Find out which one works best for you, and make sure you purchase your vehicle from a reputable dealership so as not to receive any nasty surprises with regard to your gearbox.