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Manual or Auto: The pros and cons

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Updated 31 Mar 2020

Elizabeth Crawley

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Before choosing your next car or buying your first car, you need to decide whether you want a manual or automatic transmission. The big question is, which one is better? Both transmission types have unique advantages and disadvantages depending on your personal driving habits. Before you join the age-old transmission debate, here are some pros and cons you should consider.

Manual Pros

1. Less Expensive to Buy

Everybody wants to get the best deal on their car. One way to do this is to opt for a manual transmission. On average, automatics will set you back $1000 more than the same manual model. So for those in a bit of a crunch, a manual transmission may be something to highly consider!

2. Cheaper to Maintain

Because manual transmissions have a less complex design, they generally require less maintenance than automatic transmissions; saving you a lot of money in the long run. Though, there is one thing to be careful of, the clutch. If you intend on owning your manual car for more than 100,000 km, you may need to replace the clutch, which could be troubling to some.

3. Greater Control

In a manual transmission, you choose when to shift gears. Automatic transmissions are built to predict the best gear for your driving situation but often shift to the wrong gear when they incorrectly interpret driving conditions. This can lead to you being in a less than ideal gear than what you want.

Automatic Pros

1. Easier to Handle

There’s no denying automatics are easier to drive. You don’t need to concentrate on changing gears and operating the clutch, and you can directly focus on the road and the speed you’re travelling. This makes automatics a great starting point for new drivers or for people who are nervous on the road.

2. More comfortable in heavy traffic

There is nothing worse than the leg ache caused by continuously engaging and disengaging the clutch in heavy traffic. Automatic transmissions remove this pain and make driving in heavy traffic a lot less of a chore. All you have to do is push one pedal and focus on the traffic!

3. Smoother Transmission

These days, automatic transmissions are so silky smooth that they offer far more seamless transitions between gears, providing a more comfortable drive. Lazy driving in a manual transmission can result in a bit of a bumpy ride.

Manual Cons

1. Harder to Learn

If you’re new to driving and not yet confident on the road, driving with a manual transmission may be overwhelming. Compared to automatics, there is a lot more to think about when driving a manual car. Moving the car from a standstill position can be intimidating for new drivers out of fear of not wanting to stall in traffic. Though, it does get easier over time and before you know it, you don’t even realise you’re changing gears.

2. Fewer Available

In recent years, manual transmissions are becoming considerably less common. As of 2016, only eight per cent of cars sold within Australia were manuals. This means the car you want may not be available in manual and you will have to choose the more expensive automatic model.

3. Uncomfortable in Traffic

As mentioned before, driving a manual in heavy traffic is a major chore. Manually shifting the gears and engaging clutch control becomes tiresome over a period of time, making your driving experience far less enjoyable.

Automatic Cons

1. Not as Fun

While this is definitely subjective, driving an automatic can be boring. Some drivers enjoy changing gears and like the connection it gives them to their vehicle. Choosing your own gear can allow for more power and can get you off the line faster.

2. Greater Repair Costs

Because of their more complex design, automatic transmissions are generally more expensive to repair. The last thing you want is to find out your car won’t shift into gear and be handed an enormous bill to fix it.

3. You Can Only Drive Automatics

If you decide to learn how to drive in an automatic car and only get your automatic license, it means you won’t be licensed to drive a manual transmission car unless you retake, and pass, your drivers’ license test in a manual car. This can be particularly problematic if you want to hire a car, because manual transmissions are considerably cheaper to hire. If you get your manual drivers license first, you’ll be licensed to drive both automatic and manual cars.

Final Considerations

At the end of the day, the choice between manual or automatic transmission is very subjective to your personal driving needs. If you do a lot of inner-city driving, it may be best for you to go for an automatic transmission car to save your legs from those dreaded cramps. Though, if you want more control and don’t mind a challenge, a manual transmission might just be for you!

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Written By

Elizabeth Crawley

Liz is a Marketing student at QUT and is marketing intern here at AutoGuru. With her father owning his own mechanical workshop, she has grown up surrounded by the automotive aftermarket. 

On days off, you'll find Liz down by the beach enjoying the sunny Gold Coast weather.