Buying a car is a major decision, and like all major decisions that you make, you should do your homework and research all the options available to you. Aside from the car’s make and brand, body style, engine type, color, and price range, you also need to choose the type of transmission that you prefer for your car—whether it’s going to be manual or automatic.
What does transmission in cars mean?
You can think of a transmission as a control board for transferring the rotational power from the engine—through gears—to the wheels of your car. At the same time, it regulates speed at an optimum power band to prevent excessive power from damaging the engine.
Let’s learn more about the difference between manual and automatic transmission cars, and the pros and cons of each type.
What are manual transmission vehicles?
The term “manual transmission” comes by several names, including manual gearbox, conventional transmission, standard transmission, and stick shift in some countries. It’s easy to recognize a manual transmission car from the other type. From the driver’s seat, you will see a clutch pedal and a gear selector (or gear shift knob).
The clutch pedal regulates the transfer of torque to the transmission, while the gear selector shifts the gears on the transmission from the first through the fifth gears, and the reverse gear. Under the hood near the engine are shafts, gears, and other components that comprise the whole manual transmission system. These parts and the way they operate set manual transmissions apart from their automatic counterpart.
Advantages of manual transmission cars:
1. They are generally cheaper than the automatic type.
More and more people prefer automatic cars, so the demand for manual transmission cars has gone lower in the recent years. For this reason, a manual car would cost less than its automatic equivalent by at least one thousand dollars.
2. They’re easy to maintain and repair.
A manual car is comparatively easier and cheaper to maintain than an automatic car. Repairing a manual car typically entails mechanical work. People who are handy with tools can make simple repairs on their manual cars. An automatic car has more complex parts and functions, and repairing them requires more sophisticated technology and servicing.
The bottom line is you save more on repair costs with manual transmission cars than you would with automatic transmission cars.
3. They are more fuel-efficient than automatic cars.
If you’ve been driving automatic cars all your life, you’d be surprised at the mileage you get from a manual transmission for the same amount of fuel. This may not be true anymore with more recent models of automatic cars (newer, thus, more efficient), but it’s still a noteworthy point of comparison for older models.
4. You have more control with a manual transmission car.
Driving an automatic can be very passive, which works for a lot of people. However, if you’re the kind of person who wants to become part of the car and drive proactively, then you should opt for manual transmission cars. They give the reins (and the fun!) back to the driver.
5. They’re heavily-built.
Manual cars generally have a heavy build, which gives them the capacity to tow other cars or carry heavy objects.
Disadvantages of manual transmission cars:
1. Learning to drive a manual car is not as easy as driving an automatic.
This is especially true for people who already know how to drive but who learned it using an automatic car. There’s a bit of a learning curve because of many driving habits that need to be unlearned (from driving an automatic to driving with a manual).
2. Fewer car models are now produced with a manual transmission version.
More and more car models are now being produced with only one version – the automatic version. Finding recent models that are available in both transmission types is becoming rarer and rarer. In the future, there will be fewer manual cars to choose from as more and more people prefer the simplicity and ease of driving the automatic.
What are automatic transmission cars?
From the driver’s seat of an automatic car, you will notice the absence of a clutch pedal. This is the first obvious difference between the two transmission types. Automatic cars do have clutches, but they are shaped and constructed differently and integrated into what is called a torque converter system.
The torque converter, planetary gears, sensors, valves, and other complex parts all work together, connecting the engine and the transmission. The whole system works to ensure that the engine spins optimally and the wheels have the right amount of power to move, slow down, or stop.
Advantages of automatic transmission cars:
1. They are more convenient to use.
Switching between gears in an automatic is easier to perform than in a manual car, because you don’t need to simultaneously work at the clutch and the gear shift. The automatic transmission does most of the work for you. This may count significantly for someone who learns to drive for the first time. Shifting gears is easier to do and takes place faster with an automatic transmission.
2. You get to keep both hands on the wheel all the time.
Again, new drivers can focus more on traffic rules, road signs, and navigating the streets with an automatic car. Keeping their eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel all the time becomes more achievable with an automatic than with a manual car.
3. They are easier to drive on hilly terrains.
Driving on steep terrains can be difficult for inexperienced drivers, especially when using manual transmission cars. With an automatic car, driving on steep inclines will not be an issue.
4. They’re less likely to stall.
While stalling is quite a common problem for manual cars, it’s not the same for the automatics. It’s still possible for automatic cars to stall, of course, but they generally respond to adjustments promptly.
5. They’re perfect to use in areas with heavy traffic.
When you drive a manual transmission car, you spend more work to start, accelerate, decelerate, and stop. That’s fine when you’re driving long stretches with only a few cars sharing the highway with you. It’s a different story, though, when you’re bumper to bumper with other cars.
With the automatic gear-shifting technology that automatic cars have, they’re more capable of responding intuitively to the slightest push and adjustment. Traffic lights and heavy traffic, then, become so much easier to deal with.
Disadvantages of automatic transmission cars:
1. They cost more.
Their off-the-showroom price will be higher. With all that technology and engineering needed to manufacture one, the high price tag should not be surprising. Older models also tend to consume more fuel than their manual equivalent, thus, they’re more expensive to run. This is fast changing, though, with recent breakthroughs that make automatic cars more fuel-efficient than they used to be.
2. They entail more complex and more expensive maintenance.
The more complicated parts and dynamics that take place in an automatic transmission system require that they be serviced for repairs and maintenance by professional mechanics. More complex parts mean more complex repairs. Necessarily, that entails more cost.
Will it be the manly manual car where driving can be an exhilarating experience of being one-with-the car? Or will it be the automatic car where you can cruise traffic-heavy streets with minimal effort on your part? We’ve laid everything for you in this article—the final choice is yours to make.