Automatic vs Manual Transmission Cars – Which Car is Best?
To shift or not to shift, is a key question many individuals ask before buying a new car, or their next one. Given how tons of options may be thrown at you, from drivetrains, four-wheel or front-wheel drive, to electric or diesel engine type, you may simply skip the whole transmission-choosing shenanigan. But, that’s not advisable.
Both manual and automatic transmission cars offer specific advantages and disadvantages. You must have a holistic overview of each, to invest in the right vehicle. After all, it’s quite a hefty investment. Don’t fret, as this guide on automatic vs manual transmission cars is here to help you out. Explore both transmission types, how they work, their pros and cons, and you’ll surely know which one suits your needs best!
Transmission – The Basics
Your vehicle’s transmission is probably one of its most complicated components. As a first-timer, if you don’t know what it does or how to properly maintain it, you might have to visit a car repair shop pretty often.
Simply put, it’s a metal case, housing numerous gears, which explains why it is also known as a ‘gearbox’. This gearbox absorbs power from the engine and sends it to your vehicle’s wheels, allowing it to operate. The transmission ensures that the correct amount of power is transmitted to the wheels, so the car operates at a particular speed. Typically, you can choose from a manual, automatic, or CVT transmission, CVT being the rarer of the three.
[Also Read: What is a CVT Transmission and How It Works? ]
Alright, time to move on to the contenders. Read ahead to get a brief overview of both manual and automatic transmissions, and what they entail.
Manual Transmission Cars
Heard of the phrase “stick shifts’’? It usually refers to a car with standard or manual transmission installed. Here, you will have to use a stick shift to manually shift gears for acceleration and declaration. The shift level is generally located on the centre console and connects to the transmission via a linkage.
Apart from the stick shift itself, manual transmission vehicles also involve using the clutch pedal, which helps in moving the shifter to your desired gear. An interesting pointer to know here is how you can even opt for an automated manual transmission (AMT) car, which, as the name suggests, blends the two transmission types.
So, what is automatic manual transmission in cars? While still being manual, the transmission is automated, and hence, doesn’t require a clutch pedal. Like an automatic vehicle, an AMT one will simply house the brake pedal and accelerator. However, these have a notorious reputation of being costly, yet clumsy when parking and driving at low speeds.
[ Also Read: How to Drive a Manual Transmission with a Broken Car Clutch ]
Automatic Transmission Cars
Unlike manual transmissions, the automatic one requires minimal effort on your part. Simply select ‘D on your shifter, and your car will do the work for you. Here’s how.
Employing fluid pressure, the car automatically changes gear on its own. Automatic transmissions house a planetary gear set, which is the heart of an automated gearbox. All this set does is create the different gear ratios used by the transmission to accelerate or decelerate.
If you’re thinking where’s the ‘clutch’ here, it’s not exactly non-existent. Automatic cars come with a torque converter, attached to the drivetrain. This plays the role of a clutch, where the fluid unlocks and locks planetary gears for shifting between gear rations. True to the name, the transmission does all of this automatically while you enjoy zipping through the roads.
Automatic vs Manual Transmission Cars – Quick Facts
Before heading to the ultimate showdown to decide which car is best, automatical or manual transmission, take a look over some fast facts about the two: –
|Needs extensive input to select and shift gears||Needs very little input, as mentioned|
|Massively popular in the UK, and the opposite in the US (below 3% of the cars sold have a manual gearbox)||Relies on the planetary gear set and automatic transmission|
|Popular in Asia and Europe (80% and more vehicles sold as a manual)||Extremely popular in the US (over 95% of cars are sold as automatic)|
Difference between Manual and Automatic Transmission in Cars
Now, it’s time to help you decide which one you should pick. Listed below are detailed pros and cons of both manual and automatic transmission cars.
- Cheaper maintenance – Given how automatic transmissions require added machinery, maintaining them may cost you more. On the contrary, manual cars need little to no maintenance, and repairs cost significantly less.
- More fuel efficiency – Overall, a manual transmission weighs less, is less complex, and has more gears than an automatic gearbox. The end result? You getting more kilometres out of your fuel than an automatic vehicle.
- Better control – There are many who love the feel of having complete control over the stick shift, and hence prefer manuals. Unlike these, the automatic transmission is engineered to select the best gear for any given situation. However, it often errs upon caution, shifting too high a gear and wasting precious engine power. Plus, they’re designed to respond to a condition as and when it is encountered. This won’t allow you to either anticipate oncoming situations or purposely choose lower gears for an additional power boost.
- Bigger learning curve – Since you’ll have to change gears yourself, learning manual may take you a lot more time.
- Clutch prone to damage – Since driving stick also involves controlling the clutch, you can be subject to frequent clutch repairs. This is because, while learning manual, you might engage the clutch pedal too hastily, which will stall the engine, or do it too slowly, which can create premature wear in the clutch.
- Difficult to drive in congested traffic – Needless to say, the constant starting and stopping amidst heavy traffic will require double the effort on your part, to manually change the gears constantly.
- Effortless to use – As mentioned above, manual cars do entail a learning curve. That’s where automatics gain a massive edge in the entire “automatic vs manual transmission cars” debate. Automatic vehicles keep it simple: ignition, push the gear to ‘D’, and off you go! This also makes automatics supremely beginner-friendly.
- Smoother driving experience – Since an automatic transmission seamlessly transitions from one gear to another, you get a pleasant ride with zero stuttering.
- Easier driving in stop-and-go traffic – Evidently, the absence of manual gear change also makes it much smoother to drive in congested traffic.
- More expensive – And this is where manuals have their advantage. Automatic vehicles usually have a higher price tag than their manual transmission counterparts, both second-hand and new. If you’re on a budget, a manual car might be the better choice.
- Higher repair costs – Just like an automatic car itself, its gearbox repairs cost more as well. Depending on your driving and other conditions, you may need to repair it from time to time, which will keep piling on your maintenance budget.
- Can be boring to drive – As mentioned before, many prefer the ‘stick shift feel’. That’s because of the notion that automatics can take the whole fun out of one’s driving, as gears change automatically. Hence, you may end up having less of a connection with your car. If you’re an auto-head, this might be a dealbreaker.
So, that’s it for the full breakdown between the two transmission types. You can decide one based on what exactly you require. Or, if you’d like, you can skip the whole process and just opt for automatic and manual transmission in the same car, i.e., an AMT transmission. Most of the current-day sports cars employ AMT in the form of dual-clutch automated transmission, which provides the best of both worlds: a manual’s control and an automatic’s speed. Hope you pick the best!
- Is a manual transmission more reliable than an automatic?
Ans. Manual transmissions do offer more reliability, as they possess lower chances of failure. Hence, if you do have to go for repairs, they’ll be cheap. On the contrary, automatics can stack up thousands of pounds for repairs.
- Why is manual better than automatic for racing?
Ans. Whether it’s a road, autocross, or a drift race, manuals always come out on top. This is because the stick shift gives you complete control of the gear, while an automatic can often stay in the wrong gear during tight corners, compelling your car to slow down.