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Automatic Vs. Manual Transmission: Differences and Facts to Know

While manual transmission dominates the automotive landscape in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, in the U.S. and Canada, the car of choice is overwhelmingly automatic.

According to IHS Automotive, only 9% of Canadian cars offer a manual transmission – that’s down from 35% in 1980. In Europe and Japan, however, an overwhelming 80% of cars sold boast manual transmission.

If you’re looking to purchase a new car, and deciding between an automatic or manual, there are a few key differences to keep in mind before making the big decision. Consider the following points:

Difference #1: Driving

The first, and most obvious, difference between automatic and manual transmission vehicles is how you drive them.

Automatic transmission requires the driver to use the gear shift stick and the clutch pedal in order to shift gears based on the vehicle’s speed. This means that there is an initial learning curve that comes with driving a standard vehicle. Driving an automatic car requires no shifting of gears, allowing the driver to focus on the road.

The bottom line: While automatic vehicles may be simpler to drive, and learning to drive a car with manual transmission may take some getting used to, with enough practice most drivers can successfully operate an manual vehicle.

Difference #2: Performance

While driving a manual may be more complicated, it offers a few performance advantages over its automatic counterpart.

Manual transmission gives the driver more control over their vehicle, meaning more power and better acceleration. Manual transmission allows drivers to manipulate their vehicle in more complex ways, such as downshifting rather than braking in order to slow down.

However, some automakers argue that modern automatic transmission actually offers improved performance, since a computer-controlled transmission can shift faster than a human driver.

The bottom line: While manual cars offer improved performance and more control for drivers, today’s automatic car technology is bridging the gap between automatic and manual car performance.

Difference #3: Fuel Economy

Another distinction between automatic and manual transmission vehicles is their levels of fuel economy.

Manual vehicles do less revving, and use less gas, than their automatic counterparts – this is because the driver actually controls the RPMs (revolutions per minute) of the car’s engine. This typically leads to an improvement in gas mileage of anywhere from 2 to 5 mpg, a substantial difference.

Some experts argue, however, that automatic transmission technology has advanced to the point where any difference in fuel economy is smaller than it once was. In some cases, differences in gas mileage is almost negligible.

The bottom line: While manual transmission vehicles historically offer better fuel economy than automatic transmissions, it’s wise to do your research before choosing one over the other – take a look at manual and automatic versions of each model vehicle that you’re considering purchasing.

Difference #4: Cost

When it comes to cost, manual transmission cars are typically more affordable than automatics, with savings ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

It’s wise to consider the price of vehicles on a case-by-case basis, however. For example, the price of a Volkswagen Golf with manual transmission is $18,995, while the automatic version checks in at $20,395.

Another price difference to consider is the price of maintenance between the two transmission variations. It generally costs less to maintain and repair a manual transmission vehicle as opposed to an automatic, since automatic vehicles are equipped with more complicated technology.

The bottom line: Manual vehicles are generally less expensive to purchase and maintain, proving a more attractive option for those looking to save money on their next car purchase. However, manual transmission cars come with a unique repair expense of their own – clutch repair or replacement costs can run from $500 to $1,000+.

Whether you’re looking to purchase a new car with manual transmission or one that’s automatic, it’s important to do the right research before making your big purchase in order to avoid common car-buying mistakes. What’s more, having the right type of auto insurance coverage is vital for you and your family’s safety and peace of mind.

Automatic Vs. Manual Transmission: Differences and Facts to Know

When it comes to automatic versus manual transmissions, North America stands out from the rest of the world.