Manual Vs Automatic Transmission. What's the Difference?

23 August 2020

Looking for Driving Lessons? Should You go Manual or Automatic?

Coke vs Pepsi; baths vs showers; chocolate vs vanilla. These are the tough, personality defining rivalries that define our daily lives. Among them, and perhaps even MORE important—if you’ll believe that any debate outranks that of chocolate vs vanilla—is the split among drivers between manual and automatic transmission. Which should you choose? Unlike with ice cream, where vanilla is clearly superior, there is no simple answer. Let’s pick apart the ins and outs of the two transmission styles and determine which is the best for you!

What's the Difference?

The main difference between manual and automatic can be condensed into one word: gears. Want a little more explanation? Okay, fair enough. In a manual car, it’s up to the driver to select the correct gear (between 1 and 5 usually) depending on their speed and then, with the gear chosen, carefully engage with the engine using the clutch pedal.

In an automatic car, however, that all happens… well, automatically! There’s still a gear stick in an automatic car, but despite the name it doesn’t actually select gears; instead, it’s used to switch between four different ‘modes’: park, reverse, neutral and drive.

Why Choose a Manual?

Picture the start of a thrilling Hollywood car chase. You know that quick two-second montage where the hero slams their foot on the left pedal, forces the gear stick into place and speeds off in pursuit of the bad guy? That summarises a lot of the appeal of manual cars. They're just cooler: you'd never see James Bond behind the wheel of an automatic and, frankly, a lot of car owners like to think of themselves as Bond.

Of course, there is a bit more to it than just being 'cooler'. Manual cars are both cheaper to purchase and maintain—a big plus for budget-conscious first-time drivers. On the whole, manual cars are more fuel efficient too, although this is quickly becoming less true with the development of automatic technology.

Why Choose an Automatic?

They may lack the classic appeal of manual cars, but automatic vehicles do boast their share of advantages—even if you do wind up the butt of a few jokes for driving one! For one, they're simpler to learn (no bothersome gears or fiddly clutch to contend with) which, if you're struggling with the art of driving, can be majorly attractive.

On top of their ease-of-use, automatic cars are also ideal for the stop-start rhythm of city driving. Watching a manual driver's gear stick in a particularly traffic-heavy area (like—oh I don't know—every city ever) will make it clear why this is the case. You'll never see a more overworked gear stick than one that's passing through a congested city.

Wrapping Up - Should I Drive an Automatic or Manual Transmission Car?

As anticlimactic as it may be, there really is no clear winner in this fight. They've each got their own advantages—and one is definitely cooler than the other—but it's a toss-up between a number of factors. One thing's for sure, though: you're better off learning to drive in a manual if possible. If you're qualified to drive a manual, you're also qualified to drive an automatic. Sadly, but understandably, the opposite isn't true.

And with that, we wrap up today's post. Got any questions about automatic or manual transmission? Get in touch and we'll be happy to clear up any confusion!

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