Manual vs automatic – which is best?

If you’re deciding on getting a new car, then your mind must be filled with all types of questions like whether to go with a diesel or petrol engine, whether you should sell or trade-in and almost always, whether you should get a manual or automatic gearbox.

In helping you decide what’s better for you, Autotrader has put together a list of the various factors to consider:

Manual Gearbox

License: To drive a car with a manual transmission will require a manual license for it. With this license both manual and automatic transmissions can be driven. On the flip side however, with an automatic license only a car with an automatic transmission can be driven.

Less expensive: Due to the complexity of automatic gearboxes, manual ones are cheaper to buy. When it comes to maintenance, automatic gearboxes require more regular servicing and due to its complexity, will cost more to repair. But one thing to keep in mind is that if your clutch on the manual transmission goes out then that will cost quite a bit to replace.

Takes practice: Cars with a manual transmission have a steeper learning curve. It is also very difficult to drive for people with reduced mobility or certain disabilities.

Performance: Manual transmissions usually weigh less, have better acceleration and less power loss than an automatic. That’s why sportscar owners prefer a manual gearbox.

Less likely to be stolen: As more automatic cars make its way to market, the newer generation are not learning the finer points of a manual gearbox. Which means that if they are looking to steal a car, it is said they are less likely to steal a manual. However at this point, there’s no solid evidence to back up this statement.

Better control: A manual transmission will give you more control over your driving. An example of this is slowing down the car using your gears instead of the brakes.

Fun factor: The changing of gears, be it up or down, is also considered as a “fun factor”. American movies, more particularly the Fast and Furious saga, is the perfect example of this. Some drivers feel a certain level of satisfaction when shifting gears themselves, or as many describe – just having something to do in the car.

Automatic Gearbox

Easier to drive: With an automatic transmission, you will never have to worry about “clutch control” or shifting gears because all of it is taken care off for you.

Safe driving: One of the first things you’re taught when learning to drive is keeping both hands on the steering wheel at all times. This is achieved when driving a car with a automatic transmission but rarely possible when driving with a manual transmission.

Traffic: A lot more effort goes into driving when sitting through traffic in a manual car, so much so that driving to work or home can feel like a chore, and a tiring one at that. Whereas automatic transmissions will allow you to easily move with the traffic. This is something to keep in mind, especially if you travel a distance on a daily basis.

Stalling: It can be quite embarrassing stalling your car at a green light, but with automatic cars that almost never happens unless there is a mechanical problem.

Hills: Hills and inclines are not a problem for autos – no matter how steep a hill is, an automatic transmission will do the work required to get you smoothly up.

Which should you buy?

Enthusiastic drivers usually prefer a manual gearbox because they feel they are more involved in the driving process, but it differs amongst drivers. Ferrari is one high-end manufacturer that did away with manual transmissions because there was just less demand for it.

It all comes down to your needs, if you’re more budget conscious than manual cars are the cheaper option but if easier driving is of more concern, than an automatic car is the way to go.


Read: What to do if you get into an accident in South Africa

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Manual vs automatic – which is best?