Automatic vs. Manual Transmission: Which Suits You?

Manual transmissions are harder and harder to find in a new car, but they sure are fun to drive. Many people prefer an automatic car because they aren’t as involved.

Which one suits you?

Manual Transmission Advantages

Despite the popularity of automatic transmission, you will still find someone who prefers a manual car over the automatic one. Why? Because they’re better than automatic cars. It isn’t a secret that manuals come with certain benefits. There are also misconceptions associated with this transmission type.

Manuals Require Minimum Maintenance

It’s worth mentioning that manuals are more straightforward mechanically, which is one of its biggest pros.

One of the common problems with a manual transmission is the clutch wears out. The clutch allows power to transfer from a car’s engine to its transmission, and that is the pedal on the floor that you use with your left foot.

The condition of the clutch deteriorates with time and frequent use. If you need to know whether replacement is expensive or cost-effective, know that it varies. It also depends on the condition of the system or if other parts need a replacement as well. The repair or replacement of the clutch costs $500 to $1,500.

On the other hand, repairing the automatic transmission is costly. Modern mechanics feature advanced electronic combos, hydraulics, and mechanical connections to transfer power to the wheels. Since it’s a complicated task to repair and maintain the automatic transmission, it could cost around $3,000 to $5,000.

Effective Fuel Usage

Generally, manual-equipped cars get a little bit better gas mileage than automatic ones. They are more straightforward and ensure efficient transfer of power from the vehicle’s engine to the wheels. They do it better than automatics.

In manuals, the clutch plate also establishes a better connection to the engine. This connection ensures that the machine doesn’t work hard to move a car, resulting in better fuel usage.

But did you know some innovative cars are changing this trend? You would be surprised to find that most modern automatics are more efficient than manuals. You can find these innovative automatics on eco-friendly vehicles and SUVs.

If you’re looking to get the best mileage on the car, it’s essential to compare the automatic and manual versions to see which variety does the best job.

Makes You An Attentive Driver

Another exciting benefit of opting for the manual transmission is that it makes you an attentive driver. While driving the manual car, you need to focus on the functioning of the engine and transmission. This factor prevents you from zoning out and moving on autopilot mode.

It doesn’t make manuals safer, though. Driving a manual transmission doesn’t leave room for distraction and encourages drivers to stay involved.

Manual Transmission Disadvantages

It’s More Difficult To Drive

There’s no denying that manuals are easy to maintain and offer better mileage. Then, why do few people don’t want to drive a manual transmission? They are more challenging to learn to drive and are sometimes not much fun to drive in urban centers.

Shifting a car manually requires practice and patience. You might find it tiresome to drive in extreme traffic or at low speeds with multiple stops. You overcome it by learning to drive a manual effectively.

As a new driver, it can be a significant drawback. If you need to drive in traffic, run around in a neighborhood with several stop signs or traffic lights, a manual might not be so much fun.

Not Popular Enough

The manual transmission could become troublesome if someone else needs to drive your car. Too few drivers know how to handle a stick shift. And you don’t want them to ruin your car if they don’t have the know-how.

Did you know seven percent of all cars sold in 2014 were equipped with manual transmissions in the U.S?

If you’re planning to buy a car equipped with a manual transmission, you would be a part of a minority that drives manuals.

Automatic Transmissions Advantages

Be it a new or used car buyer, everyone seems to want a vehicle with automatic transmission. If you compare the two, automatics are more widespread.

Simple To Use

One of the best advantages of automatic transmissions is that they are easier to operate and require less involvement from the driver. As a driver, you don’t need to monitor or focus on shifting, making automatics easier to drive in traffic.

More importantly, it doesn’t have any problem with rolling backward if the car is not in gear. Automatics make learning to drive easier since you are focused on what’s happening in front of you instead of what’s inside the car.

No Clutch Hassle

Automatics take away the most tiring part of manual transmissions, using the clutch pedal. As mentioned, the clutch serves as the link between the engine of a car and the transmission. You need force to press down on the clutch when shifting gears. If a vehicle comes with a heavy clutch or turns out you have a lead foot, it makes driving tiresome, which can sometimes cause muscle strain.

Offer Better Acceleration And Torque

The automatic transmission allows you to get better performance out of your car than the manual. Your vehicle automatically shifts seamlessly between gears, and an automatic can generate more torque at minimum revolutions per minute or RPMs (the rotational force that moves the wheels).

The idea that automatic transmissions shift faster than manuals is controversial. Many skilled drivers think that they can out-shift an automatic. It might be possible on the older and less advanced vehicles.

Many automatics today, though, have innovative automatic transmissions. That’s why luxury and performance automakers, such as Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, and Mercedes, feature paddle-shifters and dual-clutch automatics than stick shifts in their new models.

Automatics don’t feature a clutch. The engine and transmission build a connection through a torque converter, which allows the engine to run while the car sits still.

When it comes to engine acceleration, the torque converter elevates the torque available to the wheels, enabling the engine to pull harder. This function makes automatic transmissions a preferred option for fast acceleration or towing heavy loads.

Automatic Transmission Disadvantages

Complex Option

It isn’t a secret that automatic transmissions are complex with plenty of moving parts. That’s why repairing them can be time-consuming and expensive. Moreover, automatic transmission needs maintenance more frequently than manual engines.

Keeping tabs on the transmission fluid is essential to ensure that it is enough for automatic transmission to function without interruption. Operating a vehicle with not enough fluid could burn the transmission, leading to extra expense.

No Engine Brakes

Like manuals, automatics don’t allow engine braking. But in manuals, there’s a direct mechanical link between the wheels and the engine. In this technique, drivers control the speed by shifting gears, not by pressing the brakes. It also allows the driver to use the machine to slow your car from higher RPMs into a lower gear.

However, automatics offer little capability for engine braking. You can do it to some extent, but overdrive systems and indirect coupling make it ineffective. It will also put more wear on your brakes over time.

Not a Fun Driving Experience

Manuals are more fun to drive than automatics. It sounds strange, but it’s true. No doubt, manual transmissions aren’t easy like automatics, but they are more engaging.

Manuals encourage drivers to become more involved in the driving experience. On the other hand, automatics can easily prevent you from taking action. So, if you’re into a fun and exciting driving experience, manuals might work well for you.

Final Thoughts

When you are trying to decide between manual vs. automatic transmissions, it depends on what you prefer as a driver, what kind of driving you will be doing, and whether you can handle a stickshift day-in and day-out.

Manuals cars offer more control, with a more engaged driving experience, and are cheaper to repair. Automatics are simpler to drive and don’t wear you out in the city.

To find the best option, you need to focus on your needs. The advantages and disadvantages of each transmission type should also help in making the final decision.

Charlotte Morgan is an avid automotive blogger and transmission specialist at Eagle Automatic Transmission Repair Service. Her hobbies include tinkering with her project car and enjoying an occasional steak dinner.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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