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Automatic or manual car? The differences, perks, and downsides

Are you about to buy a car? You may have some doubts, considering what the market offers.

“What should I choose? A city car, an SUV, or a van?”

Not to mention the color and engine capacity — among other aspects you must consider.

When it comes to choosing the transmission type, it’s even more complex. You have your opinion, but you also like to hear it from the people you trust. Some prefer cars with automatic transmissions for the pleasure and comfort of driving, and some don’t give up manual gearboxes as they have more control over the car (and also because they’re more economical).

So if you’re still unsure which car to choose, you’re in the right place. Find out the differences, perks, and downsides before you decide.

Automatic gearbox in a car

The clash: automatic vs. manual cars

Many people won’t exchange their manual cars for automatic ones — not even in the near future. But, on the other hand, some people will never return to a manual car after driving automatic transmission cars.

Some argue that automatic cars offer more comfort while manual ones allow more savings, though this isn’t true, as automatics allow more savings. The opinions vary, for sure.

The main differences: costs, comfort, and speed

Manual cars extend more its revs, almost to the limit. In automatic cars, all you care about is accelerating and braking (or not, as it already happens with self-driving cars).

An automatic car needs no human action to change its speed — meaning you don’t need to press the clutch pedal. Instead, automatic gearboxes know when to change gears thanks to the speed (and revs) you’re driving at.

Regarding maintenance, which is also essential when choosing a car, we can’t deny that automatic cars need more care — because they have much more advanced technology.

Those care are normally more expensive.

Manual car maintenance needs some protection too. In fact, if you misuse the manual gearbox, you can burn out the clutch and damage the engine (which should always be protected).

Fuel costs

This must be the issue that matters most when comparing automatic cars with manual ones.

In older automatic cars, fuel consumption was higher because the gear change happened at high revs. In manual transmission cars, it was possible to anticipate the shift by human action.

With technology’s advances, improved manufacturing, and drivers’ awareness, the opposite conclusion happened: automatic cars consume less than manual ones because the transmission system is more efficient.

The truth is that the first automatic transmissions were slower and had only 4 gears.

Today, automatic cars have 8 to 9 gears, which promotes a change at lower revs. This means that fuel consumption is (much) lower, regardless the car uses petrol or gasoline, electric power, or even hydrogen.

Still, the actual savings depend on who’s driving. Many people seek automatic cars for their ability to accelerate and reach high speeds faster — in such cases, consumption skyrockets.

After understanding the differences between automatic and manual cars, learn about their perks and downsides.

Manual gearbox of a car

Automatic cars vs. manual cars: perks and downsides

Manual cars perks


Manual gearboxes’ maintenance is cheaper when compared with automatic ones. In fact, it’s hard for a manual gearbox to need care.

Greater car control

In a manual car, the driver has complete control of the engine’s power at speed, during turns, and driving downhill.

Available spare parts

If you need a part for your manual car, just go to a mechanic. You’ll probably find what you’re looking for, as many parts are available.

Less brake wear

When driving downhill and with an engaged gear, the car’s speed is controlled by the engine, which tends to reduce speed and prevent brakes’ wear (and also the pads’).

But remember: the gearbox doesn’t replace the brakes. Your safety (always) comes first.

Manual cars downsides

Discomfort in traffic

Accelerating and stopping during traffic isn’t comfortable for anyone. You always need to press down the clutch to get the car moving and change gears.

Less safety

It can happen, regardless of your driving experience. And that’s because, to change gears, you always have to take one hand off the steering wheel.

The clutch can burn out

If you change gears only at high revs, you can easily burn out the clutch.

Automatic cars perks


It’s easier to drive in automatic gears, so the comfort is greater because you only need to accelerate and brake. In addition, there are fewer pedals and fewer actions while driving.

Lower consumption

Automatic cars consume less fuel because they have 3 to 4 more gears (than manual cars). So the engine changes gears at low revs, making it more efficient.


You never need to take your hands off the wheel, so it ensures your and your passengers’ safety.

Automatic cars downsides

More expensive maintenance

Although automatic cars need fewer repairs, they are more expensive.

High purchase price

A car with an automatic system costs, on average, 2.000€ more than a manual car.

Higher oil consumption

The automatic transmission consumes more oil than the manual one. So pay attention to the lubricant level to avoid future engine problems.

After all, which one should I choose? An automatic or manual car?

Now that you know both cars’ differences, perks, and downsides, it’s time to choose. Remember that it depends on what you use the vehicle for, how many miles you drive, and in what context.

Before you decide, test drive the models you have your eye on. This will make the decision easier.