What is a Manual car?

A manual car is a vehicle that has a gear system that the driver operates by pressing down the clutch pedal and moving the gear stick. Most vehicles on UK roads are manual, although automatics are becoming more popular every day.

Pros of manual transmission

  • More control over the car: You can choose which gear to use, which can be useful in difficult driving conditions.
  • Faster acceleration and more speed: traditionally the manual gearbox is better at transferring power from the engine to the wheels.
  • Less expensive to buy and maintain on average thanks to its less complex technology.

Cons of manual transmission

  • More uncomfortable in high-traffic or long distances: If you need to keep working the clutch your left foot and leg don’t get a rest and this could lead to some aches.
  • Less focus on the road: because you need to change gears every now and then – and take a hand off the steering wheel to do so – you may lose a bit of concentration on the road. Automatic cars are deemed safer as you can keep both hands on the wheel at all times and focus solely on the road.

What is an Automatic car?

Automatic cars change gears for you automatically depending on the speed you’re driving at. Cars with an automatic transmission don’t have a clutch pedal, so you just need to shift the stick to the Driving position and that’t it. If you need some inspiration, here’s our top 10 automatic cars in the UK.

Pros of automatic transmission

  • Easier to drive: they’re more simple to operate because there’s no clutch to control and you only need to change gears for parking or reversing.
  • No stalling – because there is no need to press the clutch or find the right gear.
  • Smoother transition between gears: it’s done automatically, so no need to worry about it.
  • Quicker to learn to drive: because of their simplicity, it may be easier to get an automatic-only driving license.

Cons of automatic transmission

  • Pricier to buy, run and maintain: Automatic cars are technologically more complex than manuals and these vehicles tend to be more upmarket too. That has an impact on the price tag for everything.
  • Boring to drive: Some enthusiastic car drivers find joy in changing gears and taking full control of the car’s performance. So, if you’re used to changing gears – and like it – you may find driving an automatic car less fun.
  • Automatic-only license won’t let you drive manual cars: not necessarily a con if you’re alright with driving only automatic cars. But you should know that if you have an automatic-only license you’ll going to have to retake your test to drive a manual car. In the UK most cars have manual transmission, so something worth considering.

What’s a semi-automatic car?

Semi-automatic cars are in some way the middle ground between cars with manual transmission and those with automatic transmission. They’re not very common but they exist and are an option if you’re looking for an easy-to-drive vehicle. If you’re curious, some car manufacturers that do semi-automatic transmission are Vauxhall and Ford.

A semi-automatic car is a vehicle that combines a manual and an automatic gearbox in one, offering the best of both worlds. They have no clutch pedal and you can choose how to control your gears using a lever or push-button on the steering wheel. Basically, it’s up to you to decide if you want to let the car change gears automatically for you, or you prefer doing it manually. Semi-automatic cars are typically more fuel-efficient than fully automatic ones.

What’s the difference between manual and automatic transmission?

The main difference between manual and automatic cars is their transmission. Manuals require you to change gears while driving by using the gearstick. Automatic cars will change gears for you so you don’t have to worry about doing any switching.

Manual cars have three pedals – to accelerate, to brake and the clutch. Pressing the clutch with your left foot will allow you to change gears – which go from one to five or six – and to reverse.

On the other hand, automatic cars only have two pedals – the one to accelerate and the brake. There is no clutch since it’s not needed. Vehicles with automatic transmission will change gears electronically depending on your speed and the road. The gearstick has four modes: D (drive), N (neutral), P (park) and R (reverse).

Are manual cars better than automatic cars?

There is no right answer to this question. There are pros and cons for each type of transmission – we’ve listed them above – and it will depend on what you want and what you like.

Overall, automatic cars may be better for drivers who mostly drive in cities – not pressing the clutch all the time could be handy – or for people that have to cover very long distances and don’t want to have to switch gears all the time. Manual cars might be a better option if you like having more control over the car and you’re mostly using your vehicle for faster roads. If you really love the experience of driving, then a manual offers a more joyful ride.

In any case, check your circumstances and preferences and pick what’s right for you.

Are manual cars more fuel efficient than automatic cars?

Again, it’s not that simple.

In the past automatic cars were less fuel-efficient than manual cars. But with improved technology, some modern automatic vehicles offer great fuel economy than their manual counterparts. For this reason, check well the make and model, as well as the car’s age, if fuel efficiency is important for you.

What kind of driving license do you need to drive an automatic car?

You can drive an automatic car with a full UK manual driver’s licence – the most common one – or with an automatic-only driving license. However, if you want to drive a manual car and you only have an automatic-only driving license then you’ll have to retake your test in a manual vehicle.

Is it easier to learn to drive an automatic car?

Yes, automatic cars are easier to learn to drive because you won’t have to learn about shifting gears and working a clutch. Because of that, you can concentrate on speed, road rules and position without worrying about what you are doing with your left foot and hand. And you’re less likely to stall, which can be a bit of a hassle when you’re learning to drive.

Are automatic cars more expensive to buy?

On average, cars with an automatic transmission tend to be more expensive to buy than manual cars – new and used. That is because automatic cars are more complex from a mechanical and electronic perspective. This means they have more moving parts, which makes them pricier to build and to repair.

Are manual cars cheaper to insure?

Although this may depend on the make, model and age of the car, on average manual cars are cheaper to insure than automatic vehicles. The reason is because there are more complex technologies in cars with automatic transmission.

It doesn’t really matter if you have a UK full driving licence or an automatic-only licence.

Will manual cars be phased out in the future?

This question gets asked a lot since the UK government announced they are aiming to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030. Electric and hybrid cars are mostly automatic and this could indeed mean that manual cars could be phased out. But there is nothing set in stone right now.

Have we helped you decide which you prefer in the old manual vs. automatic car debate? Remember that, in the end, what matters is what works best for your needs and wants.