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Home » Auto Ownership

The Cost of Manual Transmission vs. Automatic Transmission: Is it Worth it?

Last updated by on 108 Comments

Once upon a time, manual transmission vehicles were much more fuel efficient than their automatic transmission brethren. Buying a manual over an automatic often lead to significant cost savings, and there were enough of them being sold and driven that selling and re-sale value were not a problem.

Fast forward to 2011, and manual transmission vehicles are going extinct. I’ll take a look at the fuel efficiency, MSRP savings, and replacement costs of manual transmission vehicles compared to automatic to determine whether or not buying a manual is still worth it or whether its best to let the stick go the way of the dodo.

Manual Transmission Fuel Savings in 1984

Fueleconomy.gov documents the EPA fuel efficiency comparisons from every make and model going back to 1984. So, I decided to turn back the clock to see what kind of fuel efficiency a manual transmission vehicle back then had over an automatic. I decided to select the 1984 Ford Escort (my dad had a model pretty close to this one at one point). I’ll use today’s gas prices to make the comparison (once you figure in inflation, savings comparisons should be fairly equal):

manual transmission fuel savings1984 Ford Escort, 1.6L, Manual, 4-Speed:

  • 28 mpg city, 39 mpg highway
  • Annual fuel cost @ $3.52 per gallon and 15,000 miles driven = $1,653

1984 Ford Escort, 1.6L, Auto, 3-Speed:

  • 21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway
  • Annual fuel cost @ $3.52 per gallon and 15,000 miles driven = $2,297

Wow, that’s pretty significant. Back in 1984, buying a manual transmission Escort resulted in an annual fuel savings of $644 over an automatic (at today’s gas prices). If you figure you’ll be driving that vehicle for 8 years, you’re looking at a total savings of $5,152. OK, so I can see why manual transmissions were seen as a cost saver.

But do they still deserve that reputation?

Let’s fast forward to 2011.

Manual vs. Automatic Fuel Savings in 2011

The Ford Escort no longer exists, but I found what would be its closest comparison, the 1.6L Ford Fiesta. Let’s take a look at the two vehicles:

2012 Ford Fiesta, 1.6L, Manual, 5-Speed:

  • 28 mpg city, 37 mpg highway
  • Annual fuel cost @ $3.52 per gallon and 15,000 miles driven = $1,653

2012 Ford Fiesta, 1.6L, Auto, 6-Speed:

  • 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway
  • Annual fuel cost @ $3.52 per gallon and 15,000 miles driven = $1,600

Wait, how could that be?! The 2012 automatic Fiesta actually gets BETTER fuel efficiency than the manual version, to the tune of $53 in annual savings!

Don’t be surprised. This is the state of automotive transmissions today. Automatic models are usually as efficient as manuals these days, across the board. In my most fuel efficient cars post, I only put the automatic model mpg’s, because I found that at most the manual versions only had 1 mpg better. And in some cases, like the Fiesta, fuel efficiency was worse. And that’s considering the driver actually knows how to freaking drive a manual (hasn’t been the case with 75% of the drivers I’ve had the “privilege” of being a passenger with).

Fuel efficiency is no longer a reason to buy a manual transmission vehicle in 2011.

Manual Transmission MSRP Savings Vs. Automatic

In my cheapest new car post, I only highlighted the prices of the automatic vehicles, despite the manual versions actually being cheaper. I’ll explain why I did that (other than comparing apples to apples).

First, just because you’re buying a manual vehicle at a lower price than an automatic does not mean that you’re necessarily coming out ahead. When you go to sell that vehicle, you’re not going to be able to sell it for the same amount as an automatic.

Let’s stick with the Fiesta to do an MSRP comparison. An SE hatchback manual 2011 version has an MSRP of $15,120. The automatic version goes for $16,215. This is pretty standard across the board – about a +/-$1,000 difference between the two.

There are a lot of factors that go into how much you could re-sell these vehicles for down the road, but 9 times out of 10 you’re going to be able to demand a higher price with the automatic. It may not be the full original difference between the two models, but it will probably be close.

Another factor you should consider is how few people out there are actually looking to buy a manual transmission these days. How is this for an amazing stat? According to Lawrence Ulrich of MSN Autos:

Back in 1980, more than 35 percent of all cars were sold with a stick… In 2010 only 7.7% of vehicles were manual transmission.

Why is that important? Well, when you go to sell your vehicle, you might have trouble if 92% of the market wants nothing to do with it. Your vehicle won’t be able to command as much money or as much attention as an automatic. Sure, certain very expensive sporty cars might be an exception to this rule, but for most makes and models, this rule will hold true.

manual transmission savings

Cost of Replacing a Transmission

I alluded to many manual transmission drivers not really knowing how to effectively drive a stick. Each time they accelerate and shift late or early, or decelerate and do the same, they are slowly killing their transmission.

If they aren’t able to sell their vehicle before the transmission goes, look out! The cost of replacing a transmission varies widely, but expect to pay between $1,800 to $3,500. Automatic transmission go bad much less frequently than manuals… mostly because the machine is much more efficient at changing gears than a human. SkyNet. Suddenly, that $1,000 cost savings does not seem so appealing, does it?

Manual Transmission vs. Automatic Transmission: Other Factors

Let’s not forget the convenience factor of automatic transmission vehicles. Manual die-hards will tell you that driving a stick has become second nature. They don’t even think about it. That may be, but I prefer to have an extra hand, even if it’s to do things I shouldn’t be doing that take my focus off the road.

They’ll also argue it’s “more fun”. I would agree that you’re more engaged or more “in-tune” with a stick. But more fun? I’ll pass on that kind of fun.

And they’ll say it’s “faster” because they can time the shifting better than an automatic. That’s doubtful, but even if it was true, drag-racing is out of style these days.

Save your money and the hassle. It’s time to put the nail in the coffin of the stick.

Manual Transmission Discussion:

  • Have you ever owned a stick? Why?
  • In retrospect did you actually save money over an automatic?
  • Are you a stick die-hard? Convince us automatic trans drivers why we should consider a stick.

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


108 Comments »
  • Katy says:

    After graduating from college, I drove a five-speed VW Jetta that I absolutely loved. When I drove it, I was in total control. (Cue Tool Time’s Tim Taylor grunting here.) It didn’t matter if I was driving on the highway or in the city – I loved everything about my little stickshift car, even the subtle rollback if I was stopped on a hill before I put it in 1st gear.

    Cut to present day, and I’m driving an automatic transmission minivan with two kids in the back seat. My minivan doesn’t have the pickup my Jetta did, and I sometimes feel myself accelerating to shift into a higher gear because the van doesn’t shift as quickly as I would have with my jetta. It also cost less to fill up the jetta, but anyone who trades in a little car for a minivan would be a fool to think that they’d be paying the same for gas.

    I wouldn’t trade back my minivan for my jetta, mostly because now I need my extra hand to find toys that have fallen on the ground or pacify a crying babe, but I can’t deny that I miss that control. For me, it was never about the cost, and always about the control.

  • Trevor says:

    To most people who love stick shifts, it never really comes down to cost. I have owned both and have always enjoyed driving a stick more so than an auto. As Katy pointed out an auto is a necessary evil sometimes.

    There are two vehicles in my opinion that you should not be allowed to buy as an automatic: sports cars and Jeeps (not all Jeeps, not the Grand Cherokees, but the Y and J bodies). However if you are buying either of those cars cost was never a factor for you anyway.

    I would certainly welcome a stick shift back into my life as long as it’s not my minivan, that would just seem wrong.

  • Brandy says:

    You must not travel if you think manuals are all but extinct. The US is the only country like that.

    • rye says:

      You got that right!!! I am from Brazil, and thought they are trying to bring the automatic to the market, you still cannot get a driver license if you don’t drive a stick. The license examiner will not even look at you if you show up on an automatic vehicle.

  • R S says:

    Agree with Trevor, loving to drive stick doesn’t come down to cost, nor should people with sports cars or Jeeps have an automatic!

    Agree with Brandy, the US really is the only country where manuals are such a minority. They may be still in the minority, but some rental agencies, in Europe, only carried manual.

    I inherited a Toyota Tercel, which I drove for several years. I ranged b/t 40 – 45 mpg, depending on where I was going. My biggest disappointment when I had to replace that car, was that no other car, manual or automatic (hybrids aside), could come close in fuel efficiency.

    The sticker rating on manuals isn’t the most efficient way to drive it, so if you do know how to drive one, I bet you can get better fuel economy than what’s rated. For example, I have a co-worker with a Prius that gets 58 mpg, when he wants to.

    I now have an automatic Corolla, with a lightly bigger engine, but with a fuel economy 28 mpg of it’s definitely costing me more than the Tercel did.

    When test driving cars, I can definitely say, automatic transmissions felt slower. It might not actually be the case, but that’s how it feels. When you’re driving stick, you’re waiting for the RPMs to go up, so you can shift. In an automatic, you’re just waiting.. for it to shift by itself. So you don’t feel like you really accomplished anything by the time it shifts.

    Anyways, I can’t convince anyone. It’s a personal preference. :)

  • SaraH says:

    I drive a stick currently. Bought it on purpose 4 years ago because I’d always wanted to learn – but I didn’t know how to drive one the morning I bought it. Sure did by the end of the day, and it’s been a pleasure since. I’ve put almost 100,000 miles on it and still don’t regret buying it – a little 4-door Kia Rio that continues to give me 32mpg and I only paid $8,000 for it!

  • KM says:

    Your comparison is not valid, you are comparing a 5-speed vs a 6 speed. The extra gear makes a huge difference in keeping RMPs down while accelerating and typically allowing for a lower RPM while cruising. Also why the 4 speed Escort is better than the 3 speed auto.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      Why is the comparison any less valid? I realize the speed results in varying mpg, but I honestly couldn’t tell you the difference between a 4-speed and a 6. There wasn’t a 5-speed auto version to compare to. It’s the same vehicle otherwise.

      • Michael says:

        More gears = lower RPMs. You basically drive each gear up to a certain RPM, switch, and then drive the next gear up to the same RPM, etc. With 6 gears, you spend less time in each gear to hit your cruising gear, which has a much higher ratio, and therefore requires less fuel to retain the same speed. 5 speeds have one less gear to spread the ratios to the cruising gear out with, and therefore require both more fuel to accelerate to cruising speed, and more fuel to retain the higher RPMs at cruising speed.

      • zx says:

        It does make a difference. actually the O.D. gear is the DETERMING fact about highway mileage. The higher the OD gear, the more fuel efficient highway driving becomes.

        Comparing a 6 spd auto to a 5 spd manual is no-brainer.

      • jmills)__ says:

        lol you not being able to tell the diff between a 4 and a 6 speed makes it less valid

      • Chris says:

        If you don’t know what the difference between a 4-speed gearbox and a 5-speed gearbox are, why are you writing a comparison article about transmissions? You obviously have no idea what you are talking about

  • AJ says:

    One major advantage of having a manual transmission over an automatic is the ability to ‘hypermile’, meaning using the car in a way that gets well above the posted fuel economy for that model. In a manual transmission, one is able to do what is called ‘pulse and glide’, which is the (slightly illegal, in some states) act of revving the car up to a cruising speed of, say, 65mph and then placing the car in neutral and killing the engine. you would then coast to a more nominal speed of around 55mph, pop the clutch in high gear, and then re-accelerate up to 65. in this way, the engine stays off for half of the time you are driving, netting you an infinite mpg for that stretch of road. Persons who are very good at this technique are able to achieve 70mpg regularly on standard cars, 100mpg in some cases.

    This is, apparently, not nearly as possible in an automatic transmission, as you would have to turn the ignition to restart the car, making the exercise less efficient. Discounting the potential wear on the vehicle, the manual comes out on top in this case. This is the reason that hypermilers insist on manual transmissions, along with the intrinsic control of each aspect of their vehicle.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      That works if you drive down hill all of the time, but I just don’t understand how this can be an effective strategy on long stretches of flat or uphill road? Whenever I lay off the pedal, friction kicks in pretty quick, and the mph drops instantly.

    • Peter says:

      Right now, I have a 2010 VW Golf 2.5, 5 speed and your far better off and safer hypermile’n with your car in gear with a standard. If you coast in neutral, you eventually lose power braking ( very dangerous ) and your power steering, although its not as bad.

      I think what happens is somehow, your still able to produce vacuum this way, I do it all the time, but I can’t explain why the steering still works, on the Golf MK6 and older Jetta A5′s, they have electric assist, probably still needs vacuum…

      The Golf’s computer data; still works recording your miles, average mpg’s and all other data, which of course now improve. On older models, this is not the case however. I had a 2006 Audi A4, no such luck, the computer stops even odometer reading on a hypermile.

      Anyway; you have radio, power windows, bluetooth and front lights this way. You do not have signals… Be careful if a cops in back ! To restart; just turn the ignition on, about 20 feet before the stop sign, your car is fuel injected, so your safe. In the old days with carburators, you had to coast ! Just be careful, never to pull it the ignition key, or your in serious trouble !

      Try it this way you’ll love and be careful and pay total attention for your safety, you will improve at least 3-5 mpg in my experience here, but I am in a rural area with several huge long down grades !

      You can even do a full shift with gravity power alone, don’t jerk your clutch, use the gravity like you would engine power, experiment with your gears down hill. I go down 3-4 huge grades like 3-4 miles, in northern connecticut, where i live and I use 4th sometimes.

      Some cars now have done away with those; worthless and dangerous steering wheel lock mechanisms, that began to appear in 1970 or so. You really don’t need these anymore with electronics. So your very safe doin it, in those BMW’s and some other models, with a stick.

      I even think,,,, this is legal in all 50, Canada and Europe, because your not really coasting, your engine and transmission are in full move, just no fuel and you have good brake and steering…….

      No, you cannot safely hypermile with an automatic like this, long down hill, you will damage the transmission eventually…

      I know you cannot tow an automatic, on its drive wheels, any faster than 30 mph, with an older style tow truck ( a hook ). In the old days, they would tow rear wheel drive cars from the rear on their front wheels. So that tells you something… Most cars today, except some German / Japanese luxuries and American models from Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge, are front wheel and there are even more AWD’s than rear wheel drives…

      • Olivia says:

        You are not a very intelligent person. Hypermile, turning off the ignition? Fallowing a big rig that close? How old are you? Not to mention what state are you in? Last question, so I know where not to go. I have driven 43 states and Winsor Canada, In a big rig. If you got that close to my rear and I saw you, Well you would not have done it again. I no longer drive rig but log 35,000 plus miles a year driving.It is driving like yours that gets people killed.

        • Peter says:

          Where do you live ?

          Because you can’t read and a; stupid vulgar ignorant American, whom makes statements to the adverse before reading. ‘ Ignition off ‘ in a VW with stick, is not; ‘ coasting ‘ or ‘ hypermileing ‘ and you don’t do it in front of your ‘ big rigs ‘…

          You the the car in gear, you have all systems and fuel injection cuts of fuel, read !

          Like most stupids in America, if you had bothered to read the post, you’d seen my explanation and no I no not recommend you or anyone as stupid as you do this.

    • Mark says:

      Where do you live that 55 is a nominal cruising speed? If you go even 65 around where I live on the freeway, you are likely to get yourself rearended. Also, your engine must idle when it is in neutral, which does use gas. If you actually coast while in drive, the turning wheels will spin the engine without using any gas. And lastly, shifting in and out of gear like that creates much more wear on your clutch and transmission. The repairs alone will naturalize any savings on gas.

    • CJ says:

      Oh so all those assholes on the road that keep going 15 over and 15 under the speed limit for ‘no god damned reason’ are really just cheap asses trying to legitimize playing with a stick all day?

    • Chris says:

      That is a really stupid idea. When you coast the car with the engine off it cuts out your power assisted steering and brakes. I know a guy in school who did that on a mountain road and lost control of the car doing this and drove into a tree. Him and his friend died and the girls in the back seats were injured and mentally scared for life. What happens if a child were to run into the road when you did this and your power assisted brakes don’t work? You would kill them.

      You should NEVER coast the car with the engine off EVER.

      • Chris A says:

        You must’ve missed the part where he’s still in gear, which means his engine is generating vacuum, which means he still has power assisted brakes and, depending on the car, power-assisted steering.

      • Peter says:

        You like the other person can’t read I see… This is not coasting or ‘ hypermileing ‘ in fact these cars are built for this, little known secret here. You cut the fuel only, understand now. No if you don’t have the right car and don’t know what you are doing stay out as they say.

  • Michael says:

    I have a few disagreements.

    One: Manual transmissions tend to hold their value better than automatics, for longer. I have no idea where you got any indication in the other direction, but it’s just not true. Friends of mine who work at or own car dealerships turn over their manual cars much more quickly.

    Two: If you have no clue how to drive a manual, yes, your chances of replacing your transmission earlier than an automatic are high. However, if you know what you are doing, there won’t be any difference, and in fact your transmission can last longer if you treat it correctly. Of course, if you drive a non-sporty manual in a sporty way, your transmission isn’t built for that, and you will have issues.

    Three: Manual transmissions are much better on slick roads / in winter conditions. The advantage of being able to control the power to the wheels with the clutch CAN NOT be overstated. I grew up in one of the worst winter weather areas in the country (Upper Michigan), and had absolutely no trouble in winter in a manual transmission car (a tiny Chevy Cavalier, to boot!), because if you ever spin your wheels, you can feather the clutch and get back in control. In an auto, it is much more difficult. Also, you can naturally control downhill speeds – added bonus – without having to slow down and switch back into drive, let the transmission get back into sync, etc.

    Four: Manual transmissions ARE more entertaining to drive, and actually increase your focus on the road – you’re more likely to pay attention and be in tune with what the vehicle has going on when you have to directly interact with it like that.

    Note: Paddle shifted manu-matics do have a lot of the same advantages that manuals do, because you have even better shifting control. However, my left leg gets cramped in them, so I prefer manual transmissions.

    • Michael says:

      Oh, and props on using the photo of the GTI shifter. Love that view.

    • Pat says:

      Right on with everthing you point out here.
      As for the replacement, most often the clutch is what goes in the manual, not the entire transmision like auto’s.
      I live in MN and I will choose to drive my 15 year old manual over my wife’s 4 year old AWD automatic anytime we have slick roads. Much more control. Now if I could only get a manual AWD (I’m thinking Subaru).

      One note on fuel economy: my car is estimated to get 17/24 mpg city/hwy. I average 28 mpg and it’s about 50/50 city/hwy miles. It’s called coasting; you cruise down hills, to stops, etc. while letting the engine idle (don’t be an idiot and turn the engine off unless you have a death wish). Taking it out of gear is much better than just taking your foot off the gas due to engine breaking plus the lower RPMs = less gas.

      • Garrett says:

        Pat that’s true what you said about coasting but you have to remember in some cars if your just going to let it stall, or put it in neutral you could take away your power braking unless electric. Might as well just turn of the engine ( death trap !)

    • rye says:

      I couldn’s agree more with you… I had 12 cars, only two out of the 12 were automatic, I could not stand driving them. I parked one about 2 years ago, I bought a 350 engine and a manual tranny from an old 1988 iroc-z; I will get it installed this spring. I sold the other one because I could stand getting even close to it.
      No disrespect to anybody, but depending on the vehicle, automatic transmission are for those who are lazy and/or does not know how to truly drive a car.
      I will take any manual car at any time over an automatic, and I have turned down deals after finding out the cars were automatic.

    • Jennifer says:

      I agree with all these points, especially the first one. Where I live, manul transmission Toyota Tacomas and anything VW with a manual transmission sell quickly and usually above blue book value!

  • Ryan says:

    I would echo what Michael said – when driving in snow or on slick roads manuals give you much better control.

  • thomas says:

    I’m sorry but automatics are for people who are either lazy or don’t know how to drive a car… kinda like all wheel drive… it’s for people who don’t know or don’t care to know how to drive their car. This is the only country that is so automatic hungry… don’t we have an obesity problem too… could be related???

  • Sticks are great if your driving a sports car not a Ford Fiesta. Get an automatic for some dinky car. The fun is with the sports car. A Ferrari would suck with an automatic, thats why they have sticks.

  • KM says:

    You rarely if ever do a total replacement of a manual transmission. Most commonly the the clutch is the only component that is replaced and that can be relatively inexpensive compared to replacing an automatic transmission or even components of an automatic transmission. It is common when an automatic transmission fails to need a total rebuild or replacement.

  • KM says:

    In small cars, manuals also let you use all the power available from the engine by having control over shift points. This is why I would never buy a small car with an automatic. Small cheap cars typically have small cheap automatic transmissions that fail prematurely if they are driven hard. A manual can take the abuse.

  • Linda M. says:

    It’s about control, options and power. Automatics use up way too much power! Even 10 years ago, manual transmissions were scarce enough that I had to test drive a Subaru Outback with an automatic. The 2.5L engine is marginal for a car as heavy as the Outback. With the automatic, it was SLOW. I took a chance and got the manual with the same engine and it made a world of difference! With a manual transmission, you not only choose your shift points, you can change them on the fly. You can choose to shift for power and maximize acceleration when necessary, then change your shift points to keep the engine at its most effecient speed to save gas. Best of both worlds. And, yes, it’s fun!

  • Michael says:

    I find it interesting that G hasn’t come back to comment on this…

  • Southy says:

    I love my manual transmission, its true, you have so much more control over the vehicle and it’s way more fun to drive. I’ll never drive another automatic again.

  • tom says:

    This article was obviously not written by a car person.

    The choice of trannies is not going to be in order to gain a couple of dollars a year. That said, manuals will definitely save you money if you know how to drive them. More durable, and even the clutch will last a lifetime with due respect.

    Better gas mileage with a manual too. Don’t be fooled by the EPA ratings that may say otherwise. With a manual you can be sure to be in the most efficient rpm range of the engine, or choose not to if you demand performance.

    I’ve driven manuals for over 50 years, and never get tired of it.

  • Sone says:

    I agree with all the stick fans, but no one has discussed the scientific “control, ” rather than the “feeling of control.” Most people don’t know how to qualify it, but manual transmissions basically give you the control to manually shift the G forces. Having the choice to downshift around corners and exit ramps, etc. helps a whole lot. When it comes down to it, if you pit two GREAT drivers against each other, one auto and one manual (exactly same car), put the same cup full of water in their cup holder and have them drive the same route – the manual driver has more control over how much he spills, and if he is truly a great driver, no matter how good the auto driver, the manual will have more water left in his cup.
    Not sure if that made sense but… anyway, G forces.
    Plus, it’s better for grip – like in icy, rainy or muddy conditions (thus the jeep recommendation earlier). No one’s even talking about rear wheel drive versus front wheel drive.
    and for those of you saying it was faster in manual… it has more low end torque cuz you can push it harder. the ultimate horsepower doesnt change but the lbs of torque see a difference, especially from the driver.

    someone please make a cohesive agreement to my nonsensical stream of thought.

    • Chris A says:

      LOL. Torque production at any given RPM is a direct function of HP. If you have less of it, you also have proportionally less HP, as well. Good sports autos today can switch as fast as any typical street manual even with the best drivers. When all things are equal (gear ratios, rear-end ratio, etc…), the reason a manual is faster than an auto has to do with “drivetrain loss.” Autos use hydraulic systems than are not as efficient as a directly linked non-slipping drivetrain (aka. manual). This is the reason that an identical car with a manual will show more power at the rear wheels, and it’s also why manuals are more fuel efficient at the same speed with the same final drive ratio. I would also speculate that the average weight of an automatic is higher, including the rotational mass of the drivetrain.

  • juno says:

    1st. the 84 escort manual got better mileage than the ’84 & ’11 auto car. So no, auto does not get better mileage. The ’11 manual had a close range gear box. Compare a ’11 civic 5 speed to a auto, or a ’11 small pick up. Compare a TDI Jetta manual to an auto, the Manual wins every time.
    2nd. Decelerating or shifting late does nothing to a manual tranny- I’m a mechanic and have rebuilt manual trannys. The only thing that will kill a manual is not using the clutch to shift or shifting without the clutch. Autos on the other hand can be ruined much easier, once the trans fluid is burned it needs to be flushed. Autos fail if you use them for pulling heavy trailers or driving them hard. Manuals only fail if you don’t keep them filled with lubricant.
    Manual will always be more efficient if you have the same gear ratios: Because Autos convert 5% of the engine power they receive into heat, and that is why autos need cooling lines etc. Manuals transmit all of there power!!
    For the discussion: Yes I have a Nissan 5spd. I get on average 38 highway & 35 city. I drove a auto of the same car(with same 1.6 L engine) and it had no power until you hit 20 mph and it only got 30 city & 34 highway MPG. I have saved money on a manual by being able to change my own clutch for $120 & a couple hours of my time and been able to push start it to get it started when battery is dead. If my Manual ever fails I know how to rebuild a manual trans to. At 250k Miles I wouldn’t trust an Auto. But with a manual- I know the car won’t let me down!! I’m a mechanic and have flushed many auto vehicles trannies and on others I’ve seen how much people spend to have faulty auto trannies rebuilt and repaired and the manuals are much more reliable, but also cheaper by far!!!
    Check this website out- Manuals get much better mileage even in newer vehicles:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rs-UlxhjYrk&feature=grec_index

  • Big E says:

    KM is right you can’t fairly compare transmisions with a different amount of gears, the more the better mpg, Michael explains it perfectly. Saying automatics get better mpg because the majority of people you “know” driving manuals are idiots is not fair to the car.
    A manual transmission gives you the control to do what you want for better fuel economy, performance and all inbetween. I love it when I drive an automatic and I have to floor the gas too down shift only to have already reached my goal speed by the time it does. I think people confuse automatic with “artificial inteligence” it doesn’t know what your trying to do, it just does what it’s supposed to do, shift gears.

    The EPA gives you the data for manual mpg when it is shifting gears at all the same points an automatic would be. Lucky for most of us we are smarter than a machine and can adapt to the driving situation. I myself average 20% better mpg for my vehicle than what’s stated by the EPA. And my wife is all about performance and control than mpg, she never does my wallet any favors.

  • wade says:

    autos go out less than manuals? Uh. I’ve owned five manuals and in all but one case the tranny always outlasted the engine, and then the repair for the manual only cost 300 bucks and wasn’t required till the 200000 mark. I’ve had two automatics, and one of them went bad at about 130000. I purposly buy manuals for their longevity. If somethings gonna fail, i’d rather it be the 150 dollar clutch verses some internal component of an auto that costs so much to get to that you might as well do a rebuild while you’re in there. Economy wise, the fiesta is an automatic manual which means that it’s a manual tranny rigged to shift itself and thus not a true auto. The new chevy cruze eco has a 6 mpg disparity in the manuals favor. Car makers are trying out new technology like cvt (continuously variable tranny) and even though it may make a car more comfortable to drive, it’s also sucking up the fuel. In my experience auto’s are needlessly complex (i’ve rebuilt a few), and hopelessly unreliable. If your going to own your vehicle for more than a hundred thousand miles you might as well figure in the price of a new trans into your maintenance budget. Autos are a crutch for the lazy. Why do you need a free hand? In most states it’s illegal to talk on the phone or eat while driving. That manual just might save you a ticket or accident. Also, I love the fact that when i’m driving on icy road, all I have to do in an emergency situation is push in the clutch and the wheels become free spinning. I once had a guy driving an auto spin into my lane and hit me because his tires lost traction on ice, and his tranny just kept applying power despite the fact that he was in a spin and headed for my fender. I attempted a panic stop to avoid him and managed to stay in my own lane thanks to my ability to quickly disconnect power to my wheels and thus maintain traction. If the driver of the other vehicle had had the same feature I may have been able to avoid the body shop. So basically unless you wanna eat an illegal hamburger while adjusting your radio and calling your cousin on the cell as you drive through town, a manual will do anything an auto can do and save you money in the process.

    • Henry says:

      I am 16, i live in Colorado and i have my permit. My dad owns a manual transmission and so that’s what i learned on. I have been hooked since my first time driving it and now i’m on the car hunt and i will pass up any car that’s automatic. I just can’t stand the automatic transmission. It’ sooooooooo lazy to drive and no fun. The manual just give you the power to do whatever it feels like sometimes. I drove up a 30% grade dirt road that was entirely ice. With no traction i was able to make it up by putting it in first and feathering the throttle. With automatic we would have never made it ten feet and would have driven off the side. Anyways the point of this is that manual is just better for the future and from now on i will only buy manual transmissions. Lastly, you can still have a free hand with manual you only really shift when you reach third gear and you rarely ever need to shift past that.

  • Peter says:

    Comparing the cost of a manual; number 1; the gear ratios and final drive gearing ratio, are not the same, hence less power. Just compare the 0-60 times for the same models.

    Todays engines deliver much more low end torque allowing for engineers to compensate on fuel economy. The automatics just still don’t have that power ! Add to this, he compares an automatic with a 6 speed versus a 5 speed manual for fuel economy. Give it a 6 or 7 speed manual and then lets see the results.

    As far as repairs; todays automatics rarely break down, but when they do, wow look out ! That’s what automobile companies, don’t want you to know, if you keep your cars beyond warranty. With a new BMW; a new clutch is about 800.00 $, give or take, an automatic is about 10,000-15,000 for a Mercedes-Benz ! Manual gear boxes rarely go, unless you let them run out of gear oil ! Manuals are getting better and better and need less service than autos too. I can make a clutch last over 100,000 miles.

    There are 2 clutches in some models for smooth shifting too.

    There are no filters or anything needing to be tightened, no ATF to be changed or leaks to worry about, just heavy gear oil in a manual transmission, never needs changing. I don’t even think; some newer manuals even need any more clutch adjustments, that was the only thing on older ones and was always dirt cheap, you did it when your oil was changed…

    Automobile manufacturers AND DEALERS, what else is new in the US, are trying to kill it themselves, more money made selling and repairing autos too. Consumers, had not ought to succumb to free markets, more like free choice ! Write the; companies, media and your congressman if need be.

    More than 50% of Europe, still drives stick and I am sure elsewhere too… So theres proof they’re still great products.

    ALL, over the road 18 wheel freight trucks use manuals, no automatic can replace that job, they’re not durable enough !

    Finally; when comes trade in, its true you pay less and get less in trade, however, if you have something nice, BMW or another German make with low miles, you can name your price too, trade or sell yourself ! Trying to get a certain make and model in manual new, its a task, now, try getting it used, even harder ! I had an Audi off lease soon, I put an add in, 1st call called wanted it……

    Manuals will come back and big time when, Americans get off their lazy asses and figure out they’re; still unbeatable economically, cars get more and more expensive, traffic declines in the US, government continues to tighten fuel economy and mass transit continues its up swing since an all time low in 1970…….

    • Randy says:

      Actually they do make automagic 18 wheelers now a days and they hold up fine. Just in the USA truckers typically prefer the good old manual transmissions. They tend to have a lot more gears then we are used to in cars too. Oh and Automatic 18 wheelers are more common in europe than they are in the USA. Irony…

  • Nick says:

    Are you serious? Manual transmissions do not last as long as automatics? That is the first time I have EVER herd someone use that argument. I have been around mechanics and every one of them will tell you due to a manual being ALOT less complex than an automatic they have far fewer problems, and replacing a clutch cost at least a thousand dollars less than rebuilding an automatic. My daily driver is a 97 cavalier with a 5spd with 156,000 miles, the transmission is perfect and IT HAS THE ORIGINAL CLUTCH. I sit in rush hour traffic reguraly and if you hang back off the car in front of you, I can coast along most of the time in 2nd gear NOT using the clutch OR the brake, therefore making it EASIER than an automatic in traffic.

    You want some convincing on why manuals are better? Drive a stick shift in the snow, a driver can work the gears based on what they see ahead of them, downshifting and keeping in your 1-2-3rd gears allows you to let off the gas to let the car slow without ever touching the brake, that means so sliding around. See some deep ruts coming up? Go into lower gear so you have more power on tap. Just crusing on the highway at 30mph? run 4th or 5th so you bearly use the gas pedal, that means no loss of traction. You can also use techniques such as starting in second gear, riding the clutch a little to gain a traction advantage. I honestly do not feel safe driving an automatic in the snow, I cannot understand how anoyne would.

    Another issue I have with your argument, you compared a vehicle that has a 5spd manual, with one that has a 6spd automatic. How about you compare apples to apples and take a look at the Chevrolet Cruze Eco. 6spd automatic looses 3mpg city and highway to the 6spd Manual Cruze. If you want to make comparisons, please use a stronger example, the extra gear in an automatic fiesta will obviously perform better.

    Last but not least, I visit drag racing strips a few times a year, and based on the crowds and lines i wait in to race my car, I’d say drag racing is far from “not in style.” Again your bias.

    After reading this I came to one sad conclusion, you, like most Americans, rather have “your hand free for other things” like texting, playing with the radio, or eating instead of using that hand to shift and DRIVE. Driving stick shift keeps you more focused on the road and whats going on with your vehicle, it makes you a better driver. It’s a shame more Americans agree with you more than me.

  • Peter says:

    Mr. Miller received an education here !

    I predict manuals with a ‘ park ‘ feature, so as to allow users to use features like remote starters etc. This would seem easy to do. Right now, there’s is no market for this, especially on the US side ! In Europe with 500 million users @ plus 53 % manual versus; the US @ 300 million with less than 2 %, there’s more incentive, but they are slower than Americans about electronic junk… I know some German and other European car buyers prefer performance and engine technicals to this junk, me too !

    They are getting better and better and and they will make somewhat a comeback, I think a market share of 10-15% is not impossible, to start, considering that 30 % of all cars sold in 1980 had manuals ! Japan and the US are the only heavily ‘ automatic ‘ markets !

    As far as the Japanese; they fell asleep big time ! There’s no need to explain, between the European and Japanese automotive industry who won. Europe itself; east Europe, Russia, China, India, south east Asia, Africa, South America and Mexico now even the US itself, as far as the luxury sector… The Japanese and Americans allowed the European motor industry to become the largest in production both in Europe at over 17 million units and world-wide in many of the above markets.

    China has passed European production, however not in dollars and certainly not world wide, I doubt this will ever happen. Almost 1/3 of China’s automakers are European based ! A vast domestic market there and the Chinese are like the Americans, they have no stomach for the world…

    All your eggs in one basket like the US and Japan in north America gets you nowhere…..

  • Jed says:

    I’m willing to concede a couple things here:

    In most cases, automatics are more fuel efficient than manuals. Certainly if you took the automatics away from the people who are driving them now and forced them to drive a stick, gas mileage would suffer. However, a comparison between a six-speed automatic and a five-speed manual is not valid.

    I agree that you probably aren’t going to come out ahead on buying and selling the car. When buying a new car, I’ve often heard the dealers say “Oh, you want a manual transmission? Those are hard to find; it’s going to cost you” and “Oh, you’re trading in a manual transmission? Those are hard to sell. It’s going to cost you.” But yes – when you find a buyer who really wants a stick, everything works out perfectly.

    As for repairs, I’m really scratching my head here. Manual transmissions are more failure-prone and more expensive to repair than automatics? Again, I suspect that this might be the case if we forced the population at large to switch to stick shifts and they learned the hard way. But even a terribly abused stick is likely to need nothing more than a new clutch. I suspect that not many automatic transmissions ever get repaired or replaced. When the transmission goes, the cost of repair is so high that the car is effectively totaled and it ends up in a junkyard.

    As for the final question – “Convince us automatic trans drivers why we should consider a stick.” – I can only say, if you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.

  • Andrew Orr says:

    You judge out reasons such as “it’s fun”, “you can accelerate faster”, but nowhere in the argument did you mentioning starting up your engine.

    In a stick, if your engine won’t start you can put the stick in the neutral position, get it rolling, and when it’s rolling shift into 1st or 2nd gear and the engine will start!

    Try doing that in an automatic!

  • Andrew Orr says:

    I found another flaw with your argument:

    “… I prefer to have an extra hand, even if it’s to do things I shouldn’t be doing that take my focus off the road.”

    You said it yourself. Doing things like texting while driving ARE illegal in some areas because a driver is more likely to crash since they are paying attention to something else (duh) SO don’t do anything else with your hands while you are driving besides using them to drive!

    Driving a stick forces you do pay attention to what you’re supposed to be doing while in that seat – driving. Whenever I have to use someone else’s car that has an automatic transmission, I find that I am more easily distracted by everything, namely by being more likely to speed (in a manual you are much more aware of what speed you are traveling at, since you have to shift to that certain gear to drive that speed). It’s easier to fall asleep while driving an automatic.

    Automatics are for lazy people. I hate to drive them because I feel so, so lazy and even worse I have less control over the car (read the comments above about driving in snow)

  • Charles says:

    What? Time to put a nail in the manual transmission? Have you been huffing something?

    Driving an automatic is to driving what eating fast food is to eating. It’s lazy. It’s boring. It’s not as safe.

    I’m from Maine, and when you drive in the winter, on snow and ice, you want complete control of your engine. Being able to downshift on demand has saved me from many accidents, since it enables you to slow your vehicle without applying the breaks. Applying the breaks on ice (applying friction to the road) is much more likely to lead to skidding and loss of control, while downshifting slows the vehicle by applying friction to the engine not the road, which is far less likely to cause a dangerous skid in an ice (or hydroplaning) crisis.

    That – increased safety – alone is enough to justify purchase of a manual transmission.

    The fact that it is also far more fun to directly control your engine torque is just gravy.

    It requires making a few more decisions (and both hands) every few minutes when driving in town, but that’s why they make cupholders and put sound controls on the steering wheel these days. You can do it all, and if you do it often it is second nature.

    Cruising on the open road, you rarely have to touch your clutch. Until you want to pass someone, then being able to drop a gear on demand to hit the hyperdrive at just the right moment is priceless. It’s an autobahn moment, baby. A little adrenaline shot. Makes you feel a little more alive.

    You poor sloppy automatic drivers let a computer run the most amusing part of the car for you. Sad. Pathetic. Mindless. Anodyne.

    Typically American these days, in other words. Go back to staring at Kim Kardashians’ boobs, and sleepwalking through life.

    And quit advocating for the pasteurization and nannyification of every aspect of life. Leave my clutch and shift alone.

  • Javier says:

    If manuals do go extinct, the US will probably be the only country where that happens.

    Though if you consider that most freeways and major roads in the US are straight, level and you could drive pretty much with your eyes closed, the joy of driving a manual is kind of neutralized. In Europe they have their freeways but also twisty back roads with lots of changes in elevation. You’ll hate driving an automatic there.

    Most automatics are still too slow to realize a change in power requirement and if you know how to drive stick, you feel helpless waiting for the slush box to change to a lower gear.

    If manuals are to die (god please let that day never come), I hope DSGs are the way forward. I know they don’t have a manual clutch but behind the scenes its 2 clutches and not the ancient torque converter technology like conventional automatics.

  • Lisa says:

    Who the hell wrote this article? Best car ever is the 5 speed Honda civic….

  • LK says:

    One VERY important item you missed is maintenance costs.

    A manual transmission cost FAR less to maintain overall.

    They don’t need maintenance as often and when they do it is less expensive.

    In addition, an automatic transmission will need replacement far sooner than a manual.

    There are other makes and models that are geared towards sports-minded and outdoor, or simply conscientious, eco-minded people who take good care of their vehicles that wouldn’t buy an automatic transmission car under any circumstances.

    Additionally, because there is more control with a manual transmission, and one who drives a manual is used to shifting, they are simply a safer alternative. You are far more likely to get better than listed actual gas mileage with a manual than with an automatic, often 5 to 12 miles per gallon better than the listed gas mileage. A well driven automatic you might at best get 3-5 miles per gallon better than the listed, and hard pressed to get that extra 5 miles out of a gallon.

    When a car gets older, in general they are worth more with a manual vs. an automatic transmission because, as any good mechanic will tell you, an older automatic is far more likely to give you problems, when a well-built manual will cost far less than an automatic.

    Older well maintained cars with a manual transmission will far outlast an automatic, just as a 2WD costs far less to maintain than a 4WD or AWD over time.

  • nick says:

    Your article is highly inaccurate in favor of automatics. Take a look at http://www.hyundaiusa.com/. The cost difference for automatic is $2750 more than manual and that is on the cheapest model.

    $2750 that is three times the figure you stated in your article.

  • German Girl says:

    Automatics are more fuel efficient than manuals? So then Europeans with their high gas price (7-9 $ per gallon) all waste money by driving manuals and are too stupid to notice that (buy of automatics didn’t increase)?
    No, because manuals are better when it comes to fuel efficiency. And most Europeans would feel ashamed to drive an automatic. Automatics are considered for people who are not able to drive manuals (in other words: bad drivers).
    Or as my teacher in driving school said: “You wonder why many Americans prefer automatics… that’s because many of them are too lazy to learn how to drive. But if you ever travel to US, don’t worry, driving an automatic will appear as easy as kindergarden to you.”

    And if somebody asks, I learned driving on a Seat Leon, now drive a Nissan Micra and sometimes a VW Passat (all manuals), paid the German average (2000$!!!) for my license (incl. driving school etc.). I once drove an automatic and it was very easy and very boring. My left leg hurted from doing nothing and I was in constant danger to fall asleep. Manuals forever!

    • Sandeep says:

      @German Girl, I am a fan of Manual Transmissions as the driver has to be fully involved with driving, using both hands and both legs. Unless, someone is mostly driving in congested city traffic(though I have developed my own strategies to drive in such traffic), AT is quite boring.

  • Anonymous says:

    Very good article…supposing you are trying to be as factually inaccurate as possible. In truth, manuals cost about $1,500 less upfront, cost about $150 less every 150,000 miles in maintenance, need less frequent maintenance, have about 10% better acceleration with high MPG cars, and will last at least as long as an automatic.

    I’ve listed some of your factual errors below.

    1. Purchase price: Manuals typically are closer to $1,500 cheaper to purchase.

    2. Automatic transmission service costs: These are typically needed every 30,000 miles, and run from $120 (most cars) to $500 (VW’s DSG transmission). Manuals require a sub $100 transmission oil change every 100k miles or so. The manual also needs a clutch change every 150k-200k miles, which will run about $500. Manuals cost less to maintain by that math!

    3. MPGs: I looked at the Top 10 Cars list (by data submitted) on Fuelly.com. On average, with 2012 cars the MPGs are the same for manual or auto. Some get better MPGs as manuals, and some do as autos. If you buy a pre-2010 car, manuals get better MPGs.

    4. Power: Manuals DO have more power. Do you want to maximize the power you have in a reasonably priced car with good fuel economy (and 130 HP)? YES. In both the Honda Fit or Chevy Cruise, the manual gets to 60 MPH at least 10% faster! This power is useful when driving uphill, driving at high altitude (where your car will have less power due to thin air), trying to accelerate through someone’s blind spot, or generally trying to work the engine less hard (extending its life).

    5. How long does a transmission last: This varies greatly. Assuming you don’t buy a model with a bad manual (see the Ford Mustang GT 6-speed), a manual will last the lifespan of your car. Automatics do wear out, but a modern car should be able to go 150,000 miles first. In my family, we’ve had 2 auto transmissions go out (both in 90′s Fords), but I’ve never known a person to have a manual transmission or a year 2000+ auto transmission need replacement.

  • Vico says:

    Manual transmissions need repair more often than auto? – Was that based on a survey and/or research of 16 yr first time drivers that just got thier DL permits?

    • Henry says:

      I’m 16 and have a permit. Can’t stand automatic and when you live in Colorado there’s 2 unspoken rules about cars. 1 has to be AWD. 2 the only exception to rule 1, is manual. The reason is you will loose control on the icy roads especially in the mountains. Also manual will get you in the mountains with better horsepower because you can downshift to get the RPMs up and you will never stall up here.

  • Arthur says:

    This article I must say is only good for a fuel consumption comparison. I urge you to either talk to people with a strong mechanical understanding of how transmissions work, or go google some more. It is clear you do not have a good understanding of whats bad for transmissions, and the actual costs of maintaining them down the road. There are many auto’s that outlast manual tranny’s, but there are many manuals that outlast auto trannys as well. Your comments about abusing the transmission also don’t address the fact that while a beginner CAN do more damage to a manual than an auto, that same beginner can easily damage auto tranny’s as well. For instance, while in reverse at a decent pace many beginners or ignorant people put the auto trannys in drive. I will agree that some people just aren’t good candidates for manuals and those people should refrain, but most people can easily be taught how to drive a manual correctly.

    As far as shifting early/late in manual trannys, that needs more defining. For most cars, as long as you keep the revs over 800rpms or so, its not hurting anything to shift early. And as far as shifting late, this could be more damaging to your engine NOT your manual tranny…I think it is more important HOW you shift, not WHEN you shift as far as doing damage to your tranny.

    I see that you have published many articles; each time you do, some people are counting on you to do the research thoroughly.

  • RED says:

    rather have a Manual i can fix it my self for a lot less. and if you know how to drive a stick and i mean VERY well. it will out last a auto. snow mud ice man vs auto manual you have clutch you can control the torque auto your stuck.

  • JZD says:

    Driving a sports car automatic is like watching a movie with the sound turned off. You’re missing out on the whole experience.

  • New to Manual says:

    Neat article. I think while the statistics are very useful and true, and are what I suspected I’m sure many manual drivers will be disappointed that stick doesn’t have as many “true” advantages as it used to. However I think the author is extremely biased in the “other” factors paragraph? Has he ever driven a manual? He dismisses both the acceleration factor and the fun factor. While the fun factor is subjective, acceleration is not. As shown in this Consumer reports chart (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/01/save-gas-and-money-with-a-manual-transmission/index.htm) acceleration can be up to several seconds faster.
    I have only been driving stick for a few weeks now, and I wanted to find out exactly how much gas I might save. Even if I’m only saving 1 or 2, I am more pleased with the better understanding and greater control I have of my car

    • red says:

      you can save gas with a manual but you must have a tacometer now you must find your vehicle sweet spot every engine is different. A automatic is nothing more than training wheels. if you really want to do the hardcore route to save fuel chip the vehicle and manually control fuel mixture parameters. NOTE if you do not know what you’re doing you will destroy your engine.

  • Arden Baino says:

    I won’t even argue about the technical advantages of automatics because they offer convenience. That’s what automatics are supposed to do. Make your life convenient. And i am not even after the convenience it offers. I am more into the pure satisfaction and exhilaration of having “more participation” in my vehicle’s operation and automatics obviously doesn’t offer that. I feel compelled to say that driving automatics isn’t real driving (no offense to automatic drivers out there). Manual driving is real driving period. It is a true test of your driving skills.

  • Zack says:

    Manuals are going extinct because americans need that extra hand to stuff there faces! Lol

  • Henry says:

    Automatics are popular in the U.S. but in Europe, it’s the other way around. I drove in Finland and I rented a car when I was over there. The only vehicles I could get was a manual. I had a 1984 Ford Bronco II with an automatic transmission. That transmission was junk. I got rid of it and I had 2 Escorts with manuals. In 2008, I bought a 2004 Ford Ranger with an automatic transmission. That transmission is beautiful. The Ford dealer said they improved the new transmissions, they learned their mistakes, better transmission oils plus automatic transmission flushes. In 1984, there were no automatic transmission flushes. I had that done on the Ranger. When I checked the transmission oil on the 1984 Bronco II, that oil was hot. When I check the transmission oil on the Ranger, that oil is warm to cool. Big difference.

  • FranksonofJoe says:

    I’ve had one manual transmission car. A mid-1980′s toyota celica gts. Admittedly I’m sure I rode the clutch like a $5 prostitute.
    Had the clutch replaced a couple of times and certainly had some gear sticking issues.

    It was not without it’s problems, yet I’m sure the problem was due to me not shifting properly.

    I’m just so used to auto now and don’t think I could go back. It’s a royal pain in the arse in heavy traffic to use a stick shift.
    Engage clutch,1st gear…engage clutch, 2nd gear, engage clutch neutral. Back and forth. Just a pain in the butt. Yet, it was also the most fun I had in a car. So it’s a trade-off.

    Unless I could afford a high end sports car and I live in the mountain somewhere, I’ll be staying with auto.

    • Peter says:

      I have actually heard this,

      Despite VW-Audi’s problems in the US only not Europe or elsewhere for reasons un seen here, their manuals are far better quality that Toyota or Japanese mades cars. I have even heard that to replace a transmission in an average Toyota it costs more with a manual than autos…. True…? They seem designed for autos… True ?

      Shocking when you consider a Jetta mk7 clutch costs 1600.00 an auto about 5000.00 ish and a BMW 3 series cause rear driver configuration, costs 1200.00-1300.00. Whats a BMW automatic cost up toward 7-10,000 !?

      I have a 2012 Jetta S with sunroof and it already has 26,000 miles and it shifts smoother than a babies rear end and gets a high of 38.25 per gallon. An Audi A4 shifts like a tank by comparison !

      Consider the cost is about 19,200 with bluetooth and I live in a rural area and drive allot, please don’t try and tell me an automatic works best for all this and me…

      Americans have become so stupid and have allowed this to happen. Now try and get a manual with some cars. Economics are completely off with autos, but the dealers and car makers have easily convinced buyers that standards suck…..

      Do you know that some newer autos boost the cost of a car more than 5000.00 ! Not just the ole 800.00 to 1200.00 anymore.

      Keep them !

  • Lalaine says:

    In “Cost of Replacing a Transmission”, I might have to fight you there. If the driver is quite skilled with shifting gears, then he should have very few to no errors while driving a Manual, which would prevent the transmission from breaking down. And what you said about Automatics being more reliable is not necessarily true. Manuals are much simpler mechanically than Automatics, meaning Automatics have a lot more parts and equipment compared to Manuals, making them more complicated and since there are more parts, there would be a higher chance that one of them may break down. And in transmissions, if one thing breaks down, the rest is soon to follow.

    One more thing. You forgot to mention MAINTENANCE. Yes, fuel consumption difference between Manuals and Automatics may not seem much anymore, but the cost of maintaining them is a different story. As I said in the previous paragraph, Automatics have a lot more parts compared to Manuals. It means that Automatics have more parts you will need to replace during maintenance, therefore increasing costs. And having more parts to fix also means that your mechanic will also have to charge you more, unless you’re a really good haggler. Also, Manuals require lesser fluids than Automatics, they pretty much only need engine oil for their gears nor do they need cooling fluid, and engine oil replacement in Manuals is not as frequently required as those in Automatics. In other words, Manuals are pretty much cheaper than Automatics when it comes to maintenance.

    And another thing. Only a FEW cars have Automatics that consume less gas than their Manual brothers. The converse is still holds true for most cars that still have a Manual counterpart, or at least have equal consumption.

    I have a feeling that you haven’t really owned a Manual car. Because driving one and owning one are two different things.

  • Randy says:

    For my money I will drive stick shift as long as I can. I grew up on automatics, and I will say they are often mechanically better than the stick shift these days. Not because an auto is inherently better, but rather because that is where the manufacturers have put there R&D money. The auto often has more gears than the stick of the same year now.

    I personally get better gas mileage with my stick shifts. Because I stay entertained shifting gears, I accelerate slow and shift often, it entertains me. When I drive auto, and I do often, the girlfriend owns auto, and I drive auto at work, I get bored. I fix the boredom with my right foot. End result I get better mileage with a stick shift. It is simply more engaging.

    The reliability thing is greatly debatable, I have seen that go both ways. Dodge trucks were often far more reliable with a stick than an auto, for instance.

    Maintenance costs favor the stick shift as all you have to do is drain the fluid and replace. The auto requires a flush, which requires special machines. Off course most new car buyers don’t plan to keep their rig long enough to worry about that.

    Also I save tons up front, by buying a used stick shift. All that lost resale value that you are talking about, well someone else lost that, and I saved it.

    I often won’t consider buying a vehicle if I can’t get a manual. The auto really is boring to me…

  • Melody says:

    Hi All,

    I think it’s each individuals preference as to what they drive. I grew up in an auto shop with my grandfather. I started driving tractors and motorcycles at a very young age. Later I was driving every type of vehicle made being involved in the auto shop. This being said, I would take a manual over an automatic any day! I am a car addict, I currently own 5 cars. I absolutely love driving a stick shift. I am in business and have to travel, when traveling I always look to rent a manual transmission ( hard to find though). I have owned many types of cars and I have had more mechanical problems with my automatics than my manuals. I completely agree with Randy, the maintenance costs of a manual are much less than the costs of an automatic.

    I love driving a manual in any type of environment, city, country, ice, whatever. I can’t explain it, but I just get bored in an automatic. Sure I’ll buy an automatic as a spare car and husband drives an automatic, But when making a major purchase for my commuter car I always buy manual. I current drive an ’06 C230 and an ’01 Chrysler Seabring LXI. Both cars have been low maintenance and very dependable.

  • Hoss says:

    Stick shifts are so much cheaper to run than automatics. The fluid change for my Subaru stick costs, not figuratively speaking, half of what the automatic transmission does. Manual transmissions are also far more reliable than automatics; although my direct experience is with older cars, from what I read and hear and personally know, a typical manual lasts indefinitely while automatics have a much shorter life. I’ve never owned an automatic that lasted more than about 130,000 miles without major work.

    My mechanic brother blames much of that problem in general on owners’ lack of auto fluid changes, but that makes my point: how often did the owner of a stick change fluid? Quite likely never, and the trans lived forever. True, you might have to do a clutch job once in the car’s life, but those are cheap compared to auto transmissions. They’re also far easier to do for the shade tree mechanic. I got 183,000 miles out of the first clutch in my Geo (but admittedly only 95,000 miles when my son got his driver’s license).

    Automatic transmissions also force a car to coast farther than a manual trans, thus eating up brake linings in the long run. If the most modern automatics equal the manuals in fuel efficiency, they do it at the cost of hugely increased complexity. You won’t get many bells and lights and fault codes flashing with your manual. You almost certainly will with your Incomprehenso TX Walletbuster automatic transmission.

  • Jareth says:

    Noticed the author started bashing manual transmissions about halfway through. Not really an informative article; it was written with a large bias for automatic vehicles.

    • Chris says:

      Darwin wins every time when the sheeple crash into things because they were too distracted to drive, permitted in part from thier automatic. Just think of it as natural selection :)

      • Jennifer says:

        Haha! I say this all the time. And as a student of neuropsychology I can confirm that “automatic” everythings are making the human brain less intelligent and make less neuroconnections thus limiting brain growth. Stick with manuals! And the ultimate ‘app’ … Your brain!

  • Poqui says:

    I drive a manual transmission, I like the adrenaline that comes from driving it. I also really like it that my kids don’t like to drive manual so they don’t ask to borrow my car. They will drive their mother’s mini-van on a date rather than take my 2005 Nissan Altima. WIN!

  • Ian says:

    Very biased… the cost to replace an automatic is often much more expensive than a manual. Even the cost to rebuild a manual is much more affordable than automatics today. I drive a 93 Trans Am with a T-56 6 speed manual. Manual transmissions require less maintenance (autos require more frequent flushes, combined with filter replacements and often a new pan gasket) which significantly racks up the price of driving auto. A manual requires skill to drive, which is something that many drivers on the road today lack. I’d like to see people try to text, put on makeup, eat, etc when driving stick. I believe the world would be a better place if standard shift were actually standard today.

  • F. R. E. says:

    Years ago, BMW found that the most economical way to drive their cars was to accelerate with a heavy foot (2/3 to 3/4 throttle), but upshift at only 2000 rpm. You can do that with a manual transmission, but not with an automatic transmission. If you use a heavy foot with an automatic transmission, it will upshift at higher speeds and lose fuel efficiency.

    If automatic transmissions were really as fuel efficient as manual transmissions, why do they require an oil cooler? Manual transmissions don’t have oil coolers.

    A highly skilled driver can still get getter fuel mileage with a manual transmission. When the EPA rates fuel mileage, you can assume that they are not driving the manual transmission as efficiently as possible; probably they are driving it the way a typical driver would, or simulating driving in that manner.

    With a manual transmission, you are better able to get unstuck on slippery surfaces. You can use the clutch to rock the car rhythmically to get out; that is impossible with a modern automatic transmission, although it was possible with older Hydramatics and Powerglides because L and R were next to each other and the transmissions could be quickly shifted between L and R. That caused no undo transmission strain if you gave it only a little gas.

    If the battery on a car with a manual transmission is to low to start the car, you can start it by pushing if the battery is not totally dead. You can also do that with any car having an automatic transmission, provided that it was made before 1956. In 1956, they started eliminating the rear hydraulic pump from automatic transmissions thereby rendering push starts impossible.

  • Jennifer says:

    It is nice to hear different opinions in manual vs auto because I have alway driven a manual and am considering switching due to their being a very limited selection on the market today.

    Here is my interjection on the side of a manual owner. I live in a land covered in ice and snow 6+ months a year and prefer a manual for controling the car on the slippery conditions. I realize you can achieve the same actions with an automatic, but that’s what I tell myself. I also like that a manual makes you think more. So much of technology today inhibits humans using their brain and parts of the physical brain are suffering from it.

    Anyway, that’s my opinion. I

    • F. R. E. says:

      With an automatic transmission, if you become stuck on ice or snow, you are more likely to need help to get out.

      With a manual transmission, you can often rock the car forward and backward by rhythmically partially engaging and disengaging the clutch to make the car rock a bit farther each time until you become unstuck. It is totally impossible to do that with a modern automatic transmission, although with some pre-1970 automatic transmission it was possible to do it my rhythmically moving the selector between low and reverse (which were next to each other) while applying just a small amount of gas. Modern automatics cannot be shifted quickly enough between low and reverse.

      Regarding the difference in fuel mileage, you can read my previous post. An unskilled driver who does not understand how to get the best possible fuel mileage with a manual transmission may very well get better fuel mileage with an automatic, but a knowledgeable skilled driver can get better fuel mileage with a manual transmission. Any driver who really wants to can be come knowledgeable and skilled, but most drivers are rather sloppy and have little interest in improving. As long as they can get from point A to point B, they think that they are doing fine.

      • Jennifer says:

        I believe that manuals are better in the snow and ice. I have never owned an automatic and so I’m only going by what I hear those drivers say. I know all too well the tricks of getting yourself unstuck in the snow using a manual.

        I am glad to know I am probably getting better gas milage in my manual. I really want a manual suv that is awd, early to mid 2000s and am not having much luck.

        • Chris says:

          You might have some good luck with Jeep products. They have some lower-end models with maunal shift transmissions and manual shift transfer cases too. That way you can get 4WD when you need it, but still have the 2WD for optimal fuel economy in good driving conditions.

          • Jennifer says:

            I have been looking at a few jeeps. Thanks for all the great information you shared Chris!

  • Chris says:

    I can’t even begin to start with how this article fails to show why the manual is a failed idea. I am an automotive engineer with a degree in both mechanical and electrical engineering. I design automatic transmissions. I drive a manual. That should say something right there.

    Automatic transmissions cost considerably more to design, produce, assemble, and replace. Countless hours go into tuning every millisecond of a shift map, countless engineering dollars are wasted building the clutch pack and body out of materials over specification so Billy Bob can punch it from a dead stop while eating a sandwich and not have to worry about blowing a seal. They are, in general, clumsy, heavy, and break OFTEN. The author makes it seem like they are reliable. He cannot be farther from the truth. Past 75k miles, most automatic transmissions are ticking time bombs. The ONLY reason automatics can be similar in price to manuals is because of economies of scale. And even still, most cars have roughly %5 markup for the “auto” version.

    In addition, automatic transmissions promote distracted driving. Have you ever tried talking on a phone while driving a manual? How about texting? It is not possible. I can’t tell you how many teenie boopers in Mom’s minivan cause problems on the road because they just can’t wait to get home to tell them about what happened at school today. Manuals would never eliminate the problem. But I can guarantee it would help.

    The author also fails to mention the effects of being able to use engine braking and how it saves money on brake replacements. I have a 5 year old car with about 75k miles on it. The original brake pads are over halfway used up (all discs). I would have spent about $600 at this point in pads and possibly another $300 in a rotor here or there if it weren’t for my ability to use engine friction to slow the car instead of my brakes.

    Lastly, your brain is the best judgement of how to react to a given driving scenario, not a controller. A controller cannot make judgement calls about what to do if your speed and engine speed approach a shift threshold. All your auto trans tries to do is get you into top gear as fast as possible to conserve fuel. It cannot tell if you are driving up a steep hill and need constant torque. Conversely, it cannot tell if you are on a slippery road where dropping a gear would put you in great peril. It is only as good as the sensors it is attached to.

    Driving manuals is rewarding in itself. You feel more connected to what you are doing, you pay attention to the road, and you are in complete control of your vehicle.

    • F. R. E. says:

      I agree with most of your post. However, you have not considered that the driver can overide the automatic transmission. The driver, on mountainous roads, can prevent the automatic transmission from shifting to a higher gear when doing so would be helpful. He can also shift the automatic transmission to a lower gear to improve engine braking. The driver need not be a slave to the automatic transmission and should shift it manually when appropriate.

      It does take some knowledge to be able to use an automatic transmission to best advantage, and not all automatic transmissions are the same. For example, if with closed throttle, you shift to a lower gear for improved engine braking, the automatic transmission will drag the engine up to a higher speed thereby causing increased wear on clutches or bands. But with some automatic transmissions, it is possible to eliminate that problem by quickly and briefly depressing the accelerator while shifting to a lower gear thereby avoiding increased wear, but that will not work well with all automatic transmissions.

      Automatic transmissions also vary considerably in durability. Some will last for upwards of 200,000 miles with little or no attention while some will require expensive attention at less than 100,000 miles.

      There are very good reasons to purchase a car with a manual transmission, but let’s be fair.

      • Chris says:

        The problem with your assumption is that you assume people who drive automatic transmissions understand how a gearbox works. I would be comfortable in saying 90% of people (including the esteemed author, as he makes known in his comments to other posters) who drive autos don’t have the foggiest what the “L” is on the bottom of thier stack, let alone figure out tricks with the throttle to force the controller to do what you want. Also, accelerating to trick the controller into shifting into higher gear to brake is just….asinine. Speed up to slow down. Does not sound safe at all.

        And you only wear your clutch during engine braking if you are a total newb at driving your vehicle and can’t rev match. Two objects spinning at the same velocity, in the same direction, do not slide if pressed together. Basic physics.

        • F. R. E. says:

          I agree that most people who drive with automatic transmissions do not understand how a gearbox works. My post merely explains how a driver CAN override an automatic transmissions; I am not assuming that they actually understand HOW to do so and the advantages of doing so. And, with some automatic transmissions, there is no way to prevent wear when downshifting to increase engine pumping losses to reduce brake wear; attempting to do so will cause a severe jerk since the instant you touch the accelerator to rev match, the hydraulic pressure will be boosted before the engine has time to rev up. That is a design issue.

          Many, or perhaps most, people with manual transmissions do not know how to use them to best advantage either. Rev matching is not something that drivers are likely to learn in driver’s education. However, it is something that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation teaches in the beginning rider’s course, and it should also be taught to car drivers.

          Heel-toe downshifting is not taught either and now many cars have the brake and accelerator positioned to make it impossible. That makes using a manual transmission awkward since one cannot rev-match to downshift while braking.

          Before cars had synchromesh on low gear, drivers were taught not to shift to low gear when the car was moving; they were not taught how to double clutch, but I learned that from my father before getting my license.

          According to my late father, in earlier times, driving students were taught the basics of car mechanics before getting behind the wheel. Of course a driver need not know every detail, such as whether the clutch has coil springs or a diaphragm spring, but it is helpful to know the basics.

          One would suppose that with modern computer controls, it would be much easier to design the mechanical and hydraulic parts of the automatic transmission since the computer could, by using speed sensors and valves which would control pressure via applied current, eliminate the need for orifices, over-running clutches (except for the torque converter), etc. Of course designing the software would be challenging, but it is easier to modify software than to experiment with springs, plungers, etc.

  • Eroch says:

    Let’s assume an average driver, not a hot-rodder, nor gramma behind the wheel.

    Gas savings: negligible. Automatics are darn near as fuel efficient as manual transmissions these days. Not a valid argument anymore. There are exceptions and a bit of savings for 100% city driving, yet a very minor savings.

    Cost of ownership: depends on vehicle. Let’s take a honda accord manual transmission for example. 8-10 hrs. labor to replace the clutch assembly. The average person would go through a clutch @ 150,000 km. That’s an average, some clutches last forever and some go much sooner than others. The average driver of an automatic transmission rarely experiences transmission failures. It can happen, but much less often than manuals.
    If the average person wanted to keep that vehicle for many years, that’s a few clutch assemblies, potentially being replaced.
    At the end of the day, it’s more of a crap shoot than having an automatic.

    Fun factor: no doubt about it. Manual transmissions are more fun.

    Safety: some might argue they have more control in a manual transmission. Perhaps in days gone by. With ABS/traction control etc. these days, there’s plenty of safety to go around for all vehicles.
    ***Although I will say with today’s idiotic drivers that insist on texting or talking on their phones while driving; in that case, manual transmissions are safer as they require all your attention in the city.***

    I’ve had both automatic and manual, back and forth.
    There’s only one reason I have manual now, the fun factor.

  • F. R. E. says:

    You are talking about the average driver. The average driver knows very little about cars and has no interest in learning. He also has no interest in improving his driving and is content simply to get from point A to point B. However, a person who understands cars, pays attention to his driving, and endeavors to drive as well as possible, can probably, with a modern car, drive at least 150,000 miles (240,000 kilometers) without having to have the clutch replaced. He can probably get better fuel mileage with a manual transmission.

    Also, many car thieves are unable to drive with a manual transmission. Therefore, a car with a manual transmission is less likely to be stolen. It’s unfortunate that there are no statistics on that and that therefore, insurance companies do not take it into consideration.

    There are some accidents that occur most often at parking lot speeds with an automatic transmission that would be very unlikely to occur with a manual transmission. Also, there have been cases in which the accelerator sticks with an automatic transmission, causing an accident, which could more easily be prevented with a manual transmission.

    It’s unfortunate that there are no statistics to compare the accident rates of the two types of transmissions.

    A driver who simply wants to get from point A to point B as effortlessly as possible, is not mechanically inclined, and is lazy, and has little interest in acquiring the skill to operate a manual transmission as well as possible, is probably better off with an automatic transmission.

  • Thescorpio says:

    Im my opinion the author either does not know what he is talking about, or he does not a true driver and just thinks that moving the car forward is driving. Even though automatic cars have gotten better, stick shift cars are still more reliable than automatic cars. It you break manual transmission, maybe you didn’t take the time to really learn how to drive a stick shift car. The automatic transmission is prone to more wear and tear by design. In the event that you are able to repair an automatic transmission, that vehicle would never have the same torque as when it was purchased new. If you replace a clutch or a manual transmission, you will feel no difference. The car will feel like when is was new. Full power would be restored. I guess the author is not a driver. He is more the passenger type. In an automatic car, you are a active passenger, not a driver. I would never purchase an automatic car even if I was able to find it cheaper. In the event that I get an automatic car as a gift, I would gladly take it, and then I would trade it for a stick shit car!

  • Mark says:

    I love my manual transmissions. I’ve owned both and cost of repair and replacement is far less for the manual (and easier to do). Granted, misuse of the clutch can be costly. As for shifting early or late, that is not so much the issue as is grinding dog clutch due to forced shifting. Syncros are very good at ensuring smooth and grind free shifting. As for passenger cars and minivans, I don’t see a point in manual transmissions.

    However, I can’t imagine trying to pull a heavy load in a truck without being able to slip the clutch in slow speed situations. With an automatic its either take off or don’t go. A clutch gives the driver the ability to take advantage of higher RPMs while limiting the power transfer to the wheels (to avoid sudden takeoffs). Try taking off uphill in an automatic on a slippery surface. You can’t tell it to start from second and traction control is not useful in such situations. Now try it in a manual by starting from second gear or by starting from first while slipping the clutch. You’ll see the difference.

    I’m a motorcyclist as well and I couldn’t imagine taking low speed tight corners and u-turns without the ability to slip the clutch.

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