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Manual vs Automatic Transmission: What You Should Know

When you buy a car, one of the first big decisions you need to make is whether you want an automatic or manual transmission. Your vehicle's transmission allows the engine to operate in a narrow range of speed while providing the widest range of speed. Without a transmission, a vehicle would be limited to a single gear ratio based on the top desired speed, which means the vehicle would wear out very quickly and be very hard to drive.

Manual vehicles are becoming less common as more drivers prefer the convenience of an automatic transmission and fewer learn how to drive a stick shift. In fact, automatic and variable transmissions now account for more than 95% of all new cars on the road. There are a few considerations to keep in mind as you choose between the two options.


A manual transmission will provide the most power from your engine with superior acceleration. This is due to more precise shifting and gear ratios. A semi automatic transmission is also an option if you want a powerful vehicle that's also good for everyday use. Semi automatic transmissions are usually found on sport models and they work like an automatic transmission with the ability to switch to manual mode.

Fuel Efficiency

If you're concerned about fuel economy, a manual transmission may be the best option although it doesn't make too much different today. Some vehicles will get 5mph or more improved mileage with an automatic rather than a manual transmission but some vehicles will only get 1 or 2mph less if you get an automatic transmission. Most people will not save much money by choosing a manual transmission.


Automatic transmissions usually require more service and repairs than manual transmissions. This is because manual transmissions have fewer parts that can break down. Manual transmissions also tend to be more affordable to repair if something goes wrong. The most common repair on a manual transmission is replacing the clutch, and this is usually not necessary for the first 100,000 miles. Manual transmissions also use engine or gear oil. Automatic transmission fluid deteriorates faster than oil and needs more frequent changing.

Practical Considerations

Finally, it's important to consider the practical side of a manual transmission. Some people may not be willing to learn to drive a manual vehicle and some are prevented from doing so due to a handicap. If your vehicle will be shared, does everyone who will drive it know how to drive a manual vehicle?

Driving a stick shift can be a real joy as it gives you greater control of the vehicle. As much fun as it can be to drive a manual car, it can also be fairly scary at first if you're inexperienced and it does take patience to learn how to drive a stick shift.

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