automatic vs manual: what is the best choice for you?
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Automatic versus manual seems to be an age-old debate. For many, having a manual car requires more driving skill whereas an automatic is far simpler. There are petrolheads who will tell you that automatic driving isn’t really driving, but in the USA the majority of cars are automatics, with very few people being able to drive ‘stick’. So, which one is the better choice?
Whether it’s price, ease of use, or simply preference, we’ll guide you through the differences between manual and automatic and which might be the best choice for your needs.
What is the difference between an automatic car and a manual?
The main difference between automatic and manual cars is the use of the clutch pedal to change gears. Manual cars require the driver to move from gear to gear as they change speed, whereas an automatic car can select the appropriate gear without driver intervention.
The use of a clutch in manual cars means they are by nature more difficult to drive. There is also the possibility of stalling a manual car, which does not happen in automatics. Many drivers consider manual cars to be more fun to drive as they require more skill and attention to drive.
What are the disadvantages of automatic cars?
The main disadvantage is cost. Both new and second-hand automatic cars are more expensive than their manual counterparts. Another element comes down to preference in that a lot of people consider automatics to be somewhat boring to drive, requiring little skill and experience.
Another element to consider is the cost of repairs. Automatic cars have more complex gearboxes, which means that sourcing the right parts and making repairs could be more expensive and time-consuming.
Having said that, automatic cars are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, with 40% of new cars sold being automatics. There are many pros to having this type of car - the lack of a clutch, simpler driving, and better stop/start driving in traffic. With no concentration needed on changing gears, drivers can focus more on other road users, navigating tricky junctions, and enjoying the journey.
Do automatic cars use more fuel?
It used to be that manual cars had better fuel economy than automatics, however this is rapidly changing thanks to advancements in technology. Automatics that have been built recently will have more gears than they used to have, which can actually help increase fuel economy by working at lower engine speeds. It might be that your chosen automatic car is more efficient than any manual you could have chosen - so do your research and you could end up saving money in the long run.
On the other hand, manual gearboxes tend to last longer so you could consider durability as well as fuel costs when you start shopping for a new vehicle.
Are manual cars more reliable?
As previously mentioned, manual gearboxes last longer. This means they don’t need to be repaired as often as automatics, which can be a dealbreaker for many buyers. There is also the argument that manual cars put more control into the hands (and feet!) of the driver, therefore making them safer due to less reliance on the actual machinery of the car.
It can also be said that the extra presence of the clutch makes manuals more susceptible to danger, because if you lose clutch control you could be in serious danger, particularly on a busy motorway or dual carriageway.
If you consider reliability to mean longevity, then manual cars come out as the winner. They simply last longer than automatics, and this can mean saving a great deal of cash in the long-term.
Are automatic cars more expensive to insure?
Yes, automatic cars are more expensive to insure for a number of reasons. Due to the fact that they are more expensive to purchase, insurance premiums are generally higher, but the complexity of the gearbox also influences costs. Claims for automatic car insurance tend to be higher as well, which is usually down to the high cost of repairing or replacing the gearbox.
Regardless of the reasons why, the difference in price between insuring a manual and an automatic is not a great deal. If you are on a budget, a manual might come out cheaper when you compare all the details. With the increase of automatics on UK roads, buying prices might fall leading to a reduction in insurance premiums too.
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