Automatic vs Manual Car – What’s The Difference?

The main difference between an automatic and a manual car is this: In a manual car, you have to make gear changes yourself, using the car’s clutch and a gearstick. But an automatic car will handle gear changes for you, automatically picking the most suitable gear for your speed.

Yet this isn’t the only difference between automatic and manual cars. In this post we’ll take a closer look at how driving an automatic car can be different to driving a manual car.

Automatic vs Manual – Key Differences

Though you don’t have to worry about gear changes, automatic cars still have gear sticks. But while the gear stick in a manual car allows you to select from up to six different gears, gear sticks in automatic cars let you choose from four different settings: Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive.

Most of the time you would select Drive and the car will take care of gear selection, However, some automatic cars let you choose between first and second gear which are designed to give you more control on hills or when driving on slippery surfaces.

This means that driving an automatic car can be a lot easier than driving a manual car. But this also means that some of the most common driving manoeuvres will be slightly different in an automatic car. For example, the technique for performing an emergency stop.

Automatic car drivers also have to learn a technique known as “creeping”. This is essentially the automatic car equivalent of clutch control – a method for moving your car slowly, such as in a traffic jam or a car park.

automatic vs manual

Are Automatic Cars More Expensive?

Yes, automatic cars are generally more expensive upfront than manual cars. Also, if there’s ever an issue with your transmission, repairs for an automatic can cost more than repairs for a manual.

But that said, as an automatic car will automatically select the best gear for your speed, you’re much less likely to place any undue strain on the gearbox. So while repairs may cost more, the reduced wear-and-tear might mean that it may be longer before you may need such repairs.

Are Automatic Cars More Efficient?

Some automatic cars are more efficient than their manual counterparts. This is mainly because the gear you drive in can affect your fuel efficiency. As an automatic car will always choose the best gear for your current speed and driving conditions, you’re more likely to make the most of every drop of fuel.

Automatic vs Manual – It’s Down to Preference

Driving an automatic or a manual car really comes down to preference. Some people will find it much easier driving an automatic car but some people who have only ever driven a manual car may not get on with automatic at all.  Some drivers just prefer the level of control that manual cars give and prefer being able to shift through the gears themselves.

Learning in an Automatic Car

One thing to consider if you are thinking about learning to drive in an automatic car – if you learn to drive in an automatic car, you’ll only ever be licensed to drive automatic cars. But if you learn to drive a manual car, you’ll be able to drive both manual and automatic.

Read our full guide to how automatic cars might affect your driving lessons.


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