Very much the analogue vs. digital debate of the motoring world, petrolheads can argue over the merits of manual compared to automatic and vice versa until they’re blue in the face. And while we’re unlikely to get to the bottom of which one is better, we can weigh up the pros and cons of each to determine which one is right for you.
Here we’ll look at both types of car, jump into their pros and cons, and guide you towards a decision which suits both your driving habits and lifestyle.
The main difference is that automatic cars lack a clutch pedal. Their gearbox is also a simplified, streamlined version of the one you’d get in manual transmissions. Manual transmissions tend to have five or six gears (although some models have up to seven), plus reverse, giving you full control over how the car performs.
Automatic cars, meanwhile, tend to have four modes:
The car selects the right gear for the speed and road conditions, which takes out the heavy lifting, so to speak, of a manual transmission. You only need to think about whether you’re going forwards, backwards or coming to a stop.
Though they’re increasing in popularity, automatic transmissions don’t necessarily translate to a better choice. That said, they do have advantages in several key areas.
A lot of drivers swear by manuals, and for good reason. They’re cheaper and can provide more control, But they do have their pitfalls too, as we take a look at below.
If you’re licensed for an automatic car, it’s against the law to drive a manual vehicle on public roads. To do this, you’ll need to sit another driving test, and then upgrade your automatic licence to a manual one – keep this in mind if you’re thinking of making the switch.
However, if you’re licensed to drive a manual car in the UK, then you’re allowed to drive an automatic vehicle on public roads.
While there’s not a massive difference in the premiums between manual and automatic cars, the latter do tend to be more expensive to insure. This is primarily because automatic gearboxes cost more to replace than manuals, and automatics are often higher specification vehicles, too. Additionally, insurance premiums for drivers who only have an automatic licence are usually higher than for drivers with a full licence.
If you’re hiring a car in Europe, it’ll likely be a manual model, but the US and Canada are a differentkettle of fish. Automatics reign supreme here, so it’s difficult to rent a manual.
The cost also becomes a factor, since transmission type can affect the price. In the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, it’s usually cheaper to hire an automatic vehicle because there’s simply more of them, while in the UK or Europe the opposite is true.
It’s anticipated that manual cars could disappear from UK roads within 10 years. There are a number of reasons for this; electric and hybrid vehicles – which lack a gearbox and are effectively automatic – are rising in popularity. Additionally, the Government is forging ahead with plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles after calls to bring the current 2040 deadline to 2032.
Premium brands like Ferrari, Porsche and Volvo have been phasing out manuals for years, but smaller, more affordable cars now come with auto options too, like the Vauxhall Corsa and Hyundai i10.
And with technology surrounding driverless cars being in development, which won’t feature manual gears either, it’s not unthinkable that manual motors will be phased out in the near future.
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