The thought of purchasing a new car is always an exciting treat to look forward to; even more so now that there are an array of innovative models to choose from. However, while you may be swayed by modern features and a vehicle filled with gadgets, it is first vital to determine whether you are best suited to a manual or automatic car. Whether you are newly passed or have been on the roads for years, this will most definitely take a considerable amount of consideration. To help you to make a decision, we have put together a guide to the difference between manual and automatic vehicles.

How To Spot The Difference Between Manual And Automatic Vehicles

Before making your decision, it is imperative to consider aspects such as your personal preferences, lifestyle and the amount that you plan to drive. For example, those who have a long commute each day or drive as part of their job role may opt for an automatic simply down to their ease of use. However, others may prefer the reassurance that they are in full control of the vehicle with a manual. Regardless of what option you are more swayed towards, it is vital to familiarise yourself with the ins and outs of each before making your decision. Having worked on hundreds of vehicle types over our many years of providing servicing in Milton Keynes, we have put together the most common questions that people are likely to ask when on the search for a new set of wheels:

Automatic Gears

The Key Difference Between Manual And Automatic

Although cars are composed of hundreds of moving components, the difference between a manual and automatic vehicle is pretty straightforward. There is only one key element that differs, making it easy to distinguish the two, even if you are somewhat novice when it comes to the automotive world.

The difference between a manual and an automatic vehicle is its transmission, more commonly known as the gearbox. A manual car is equipped with a standard clutch pedal, which you must press down in order to change gears using the gear stick. When pressed, the clutch pedal temporarily disconnects the engine from the wheels, meaning that the driver can shift between gears to aid speeding up or slowing down.

An automatic vehicle, on the other hand, does not feature a clutch pedal as the gearbox is designed to automatically switch to the gear that best matches the speed that you are driving. For instance, as you speed up, the gears will instantly begin to increase then as you come to a stop, it will move back down to the first gear. This means that on the gear stick of an automatic vehicle, instead of number there will be letters. These letters relate to the different functions that you can choose between and include park, reverse, neutral and drive. For a more in-depth explanation of the various letters and numbers, take a look at Your Mechanic.

Car Keys

Manual Vehicle: The Advantages & Disadvantages

Whether you have always driven a manual vehicle and considering transitioning to automatic or are planning to begin driving lessons, its vital to take into consideration the advantages and disadvantages of manual vehicles before going ahead. Take a look at the table below for the key point:

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Many manual drivers say they feel more in control of the vehicle when they change the gears.When driving a manual vehicle you have to take one hand off the steering wheel to change gear as well as pushing on the clutch pedal, which learners can find tricky.
Braking becomes easier, as the car does not have a torque converter which pushes automatic vehicles forward.You might not have as much of a comfortable ride compared to an automatic, as you are constantly pushing down on the clutch to change gear.
Manual vehicles tend to be easier to maintain as they are less complex internally than automatics. If you do require repairs, during, for example, your MOT or service, they are considerably more affordable.Learning to drive a manual vehicle can be a lot harder than an automatic as you must master hand-foot co-ordination to avoid stalling.
If you learn to drive in a manual vehicle, you are free to also drive an automatic without having to do extra lessons or re-take your test.Stopping and starting on a hill is harder in a manual vehicle and requires practice to prevent the vehicle from rolling or stalling.
Manual vehicles are far more common in the UK, which means that you can pick up a used car for an affordable price.
Although automatic vehicles are more economical than they were in the past, manual alternatives do tend to be more efficient. You can find more information on fuel efficiency and how to improve yours in our previous article.

Vehicle Pedals

Automatic Vehicle: The Advantages & Disadvantages

Much like their manual alternatives, automatic vehicles also come alongside plenty of benefits, along with drawbacks. Familiarising yourself with these will help you to determine which route is best suited to you. Find out more in the following table:

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Many drivers find an automatic car easier to drive and handle.Automatic cars can cost a lot more to purchase than a manual vehicle due to their complex design. They are not an ideal option if you have a limited budget as even second-hand automatics will be more expensive.
When driving an automatic, you can concentrate more on your driving speed and road positioning as there will be no need to change gears.Maintenance will cost you more, again due to the design and price of part replacement should a problem occur.
Automatic gearboxes make for a smoother ride as there will not be any stuttering when gears change due to clutch control.Many drivers find that they start to miss the ability to change gears and admit that driving an automatic vehicle can be somewhat boring.

Automatic Gearstick

What Is A Semi-Automatic Car?

If you really are torn between a manual and an automatic vehicle, then opting for a semi-automatic may be the best route for you. A semi-automatic car allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds as you will still be free to change gears as you would do so in a manual but without the need to press down a clutch pedal. This is made possible by combining the basics of a manual transmission with the features of an automatic. Much like any other transmission type, a semi-automatic vehicle uses kinetic energy generated through the engine to power the wheels. However, the clutch pedal is replaced by an automatic clutch connected to the motor which controls your changes in gear. This means that it will remain just as easy to drive as an automatic but with the ability to give full control through the use of a gear stick. For a more detailed guide on everything you need to know about a semi-automatic transmission, take a look at Cars From Japan.

The only downfall with a semi-automatic vehicle is that when the car changes gears electronically, it can struggle to complete the function as quickly and smoothly as some drivers may want it to. This can cause sudden changes in speed which is then often followed by heavy breaking.

Man Driving

What Is Better To Learn To Drive In?

Learning to drive is a very personal experience and what may work for one learner, may not for another. However, if you are planning to begin lessons and unsure whether to opt for a manual or automatic vehicle, there are a few things to keep in mind that may influence your decision. The most important factor, which has been briefly mentioned previously, is that if you learn in a manual, then you will be free to drive both manual and automatic vehicle legally. Your licence will cover both, which means that there will be no need to retake lessons or your test should you choose to switch between the two. However, if you pass your test in an automatic, this is the only vehicle type that you can drive. As there is so much more to learn when operating a manual, it would simply not be safe to get in the driver’s seat without any training. Should you pass in an automatic and then decide you would like to drive a manual, you will need to retake lessons and your practical test, which may prove expensive.

In light of this, and with affordability in mind, we would always advise opting for beginning your lessons in a manual vehicle. Although it may take a little longer to grasp, it is most definitely a more sensible option in terms of future-proofing your life as a driver. Manual vehicles are also more cost-effective in terms of purchasing your first car and repairs, which is ideal in your first few years on the road. Both AutoTrader and RAC have lots of options for those looking for a cheap yet reliable first car. If you are yet to book driving lessons, then we recommend heading over to driveJohnson’s, who offer both manual and automatic lessons across the UK.

Manual Gears

Automatic Or Manual: Which Would you Choose?

A new vehicle is always a significant investment, which means that taking the time to determine whether a manual or automatic is best for you is imperative. If you are someone that thoroughly enjoys driving, then we highly recommend going for a manual, as it gives you every aspect of driving. If you are more of a lazy driver and simply wish to get from A to B, then an automatic vehicle may be for you. Again if you are slightly nervous when driving a manual or find it hard to concentrate when changing gears, then an automatic will make your drive smoother, easier and marginally safer.

Regardless of whether you choose a manual or automatic vehicle, remember that both can always be enhanced to improve, for example, its performance or fuel-efficiency. This means that it may not always be necessary to invest in a brand new vehicle as you can make updates to your existing model. If you are interested in ECU remapping in Milton Keynes or any other vehicle upgrade, then please do not hesitate to contact the team at Unit18!

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