If you’re yet to start driving lessons, you might wonder whether it’s best to learn to drive manual or automatic. So in this post, we’ll weigh up the pros and cons of each, to help you decide which is best for you.
The Key Differences Between Manual vs Automatic Cars
The clue’s in the names – the main difference between an automatic and a manual car is that, in an automatic car, gear changes are automatic. But in a manual car, you must change gears manually.
Manual cars have a clutch and a gearstick that lets you choose between up to six gears, and reverse.
Automatic cars have no clutch and a highly simplified gearstick that usually has four modes:
- P for Park
- R for Reverse
- N for Neutral
- D for Drive
As you drive, your car will automatically choose the right gear depending on your speed and the road conditions. So all you have to do is decide whether you want to go forwards, backwards, or stop.
Which is Manual or Automatic Better?
We can’t say if either type of transmission is inherently “better”. Each type of transmission has its own pros and cons, and it may ultimately come down to personal preference.
So let’s look at the pros and cons of each in turn.
The Benefits of Manual Transmission
Manual transmission gives you total control over your car. If you’re struggling uphill, for example, you can simply shift to a lower gear. And if you want smoother acceleration, you can skip some gears.
Once you master your manual gearbox, you can make your drive as smooth – and as fuel efficient – as it’s possible to be.
Also, on average manual cars tend to be more affordable than automatic cars. Fixing a manual gearbox tends to be cheaper and easier than fixing an automatic gearbox too.
Finally, if you learn to drive a manual car, then your licence will allow you to drive any car, including an automatic. But if you learn to drive and take your driving test in an automatic car, then you’ll only ever be able to drive automatic cars. If you ever want to drive a manual, then you’ll have to take an extra test.
The Benefits of Automatic Transmission
There’s no denying that automatic cars can be considerably easier to drive than manual cars. You don’t have to worry about the clutch at all. You just have to decide whether you want to go forwards, backwards, or to stop. Your car will then take care of everything else for you.
Automatic cars are particularly useful in urban environments. Driving in slow moving traffic can be an absolute chore in a manual car, as you have to constantly control your clutch as you shift between first and second gear. But in an automatic car, it’s simply a case of gently pressing the pedal when you’re ready to go, and gently pressing the brake when you need to stop.
Finally, we mentioned above how automatic cars tend to cost more to repair than manual cars. But because automatic cars will always select exactly the right gear for your current conditions, there’s less chance that you’ll ever accidentally drive in the wrong gear, or grind your gears through releasing the clutch too early. So even though they might cost more to repair, the transmission in an automatic car is less likely to fail in the first place.
So Which is Best?
Ultimately, it’s down to you – your confidence and abilities as a driver, and the sort of driving you intend to do.
If you’ll mainly be driving in urban environments, then an automatic car can make your life a lot easier. But if you’ll be driving long distances, or in rugged urban environments, then you might value the extra control that a manual car can bring.
Yet perhaps the most important thing to bear in mind is this: If you learn to drive and pass your test in an automatic car, then you’ll only ever be able to drive automatic cars, unless you take another driving test in a manual car.
But if you learn to drive a manual car, then you’ll always be able to choose whichever car you like.
So if you’re yet to learn to drive, it might be best to learn to drive manual. You can then always make the shift to an automatic later.
Which Costs More to Insure?
There is very unlikely to be any significant difference in price between insuring a manual car and insuring an automatic car.
Different cars are in different car insurance groups. When deciding which group to place a car in, one thing insurers consider is how easy the car would be to repair, the cost of repairs, and how long repairs would take. If the cost of repairing an automatic car is more, then technically it may cost more to insure an automatic car than it would to insure a manual car.
However, this is just one of hundreds of factors that insurers take into consideration. They’ll also think about security and safety features and, your circumstances and history as a driver. So ultimately, the car’s transmission may not make too much of a difference.
If you want to save money on car insurance, get cover from an insurer that’s dedicated to driving down the cost of cover, and who’ll allow you to start building up a no claims bonus from the moment you start driving.