Manual vs. Automatic Transmission: Which Should You Use?

Manual vs. Automatic Transmission: Which Should You Use?

It's the proverbial clash between two competing giants: manual vs. automatic transmissions. Many of their loyal fans love to pit them against each other, but no one completely wins here in the end. It's like the Pacquiao vs. Marquez boxing match in 2004. When it looked like Pacquiao was winning—even knocking Marquez down three times during the first round—the resulting fight still ended in a disappointing draw.

Still, it was engaging to watch from start to finish, wasn't it?

So even if it's futile to see which is better than the other, we'll still do some comparison here because it's an interesting topic to discuss.

And besides, it's fun to watch sparks fly from time to time.


Manual Transmission

Stick shifts are often less expensive to buy, since they don't use a lot of complicated electronics and/or technology to make them work. On average, a manual car is a hundred thousand pesos cheaper compared to automatics in the Philippines.

Automatic Transmission

Automatic cars are quite expensive compared to manuals, since they use more complicated components when it comes to their engines.


Manual Transmission

A manual car's design is not as complicated compared to an automatic. Manual cars are fairly straightforward--there are no “very fancy” computers to make it work, only a device that has stood the test of time.

The mere fact that it has less parts mean that there are fewer components that could break down. So general maintenance and repair require lesser service compared to automatic vehicles. Still, keep in mind that manual cars have clutches--and repairing them can bleed your budget dry. This is particularly true for performance, exotic, and European cars.

Clutch replacement is also more expensive for four-wheel-drive compared to two-wheel-drive cars.

Automatic Transmission

Automatics typically need more maintenance, since they require more complex engineering and parts.

Fuel Efficiency

Manual Transmission

Generally, manual cars have gearboxes that have simpler components, with no complex hydraulics or electronics to burden the car down. They also weigh less and have more gears compared to automatic vehicles. This translates to getting more miles out of the fuel you use for your vehicle.

 Automatic Transmission

The beauty of automatic cars is that they're really designed to choose which gear to use for any situation you're at. Some of the most modern ones are so efficient that they actually switch gears much faster than a person shifting gears using a manual. 

Gas Mileage

Manual Transmission

Manual transmissions often do worse than automatics in terms of fuel consumption, but this is mainly due to the human factor, which is obviously less precise than an automated system. Over- or under-revving while shifting and accelerating causes the engine to burn more fuel than it should. 

Automatic Transmission

Automatic vehicles also run fewer miles per gallon compared to manuals, since they require a torque converter to alternate in-between gears. The drawback here is that they tend to shift to a higher gear just as a precautionary measure, wasting engine power and fuel.

Security / Protection

Manual Transmission

The proliferation of automatic cars have made the present generation less familiar with the finer points of driving stick-shift cars. So not everyone knows how to operate it. This makes it a good deterrent for car thieves. In fact, there are some who get turned off when they see a manual car, and move on to another one that operates on automatic.

Automatic Transmission

These vehicles are so common these days that almost everyone knows how to drive it. And it doesn’t help that they’re easy to learn and operate. This makes it much easier for car thieves to steal it.

Control of Vehicle

Manual Transmission

Nothing spells control better than a manual transmission. In fact, it's one of the reasons why a lot of people refuse to shift to automatic.

It's something every manual driver knows--and feels. There's something about driving it that makes you more in-tune with your vehicle. Doing upshifts and downshifts while driving on narrow and curvy roads can be exhilarating, especially if you pound on the accelerator.

Automatic Transmission

Have you ever experienced getting stuck in traffic on the middle part of a steep road incline? If you were driving a manual car, then chances are you sweated like a pig trying to maneuver your car and still remain in one piece afterwards.

Automatic cars take away a lot of these difficulties, giving you better control when it comes to steep inclines. They operate efficiently regardless of how steep the road (or hill) really is.


Manual Transmission

It's a fact: You can drive an automatic car if you know how to drive a manual, but you can't drive a manual if you only know how to drive an automatic. If you don't believe us, then just watch the Amazing Race and you’ll understand what we’re talking about.

Manuals are still used on race tracks and other specialized vehicles, and knowing how to use one is a much safer bet if you want to drive on anything other than your vehicle.

And despite its lessening popularity, manual cars are still being used around the world, especially in Europe. This is especially true in France. Try to go there, and you’ll see why it’s important to know how to drive stick shifts. Believe us, you’ll appreciate their long, winding roads far better than any automatic can.

Automatic Transmission

Matics are more familiar than versatile, and it’s that familiarity that makes it popular among all drivers and car manufacturers today. Most cars right now are shifting to automatics, and this trend will not (or never) stop anytime soon.

Ease and Convenience

Manual Transmission

Let’s face it: manual cars are not easy to drive at first. You need to learn how to shift those gears, and it takes a while before you can master the art of gear shifting like a pro.

And of course, we can’t talk about manual transmission without talking about traffic—or when you’re going uphill or downhill.

These vehicles are especially difficult to use when you suddenly stop halfway while going up or down a slope. There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than getting stuck in traffic while you're in the middle of an incline.

Automatic Transmission

Automatic transmission is undoubtedly easier to use compared to manual vehicles, and there’s a reason for that: you don’t need to use any gears.

This means you don't need to learn how to shift many gears and work on the clutch. They’re ideal to use during traffic, or when your vehicle needs to do a lot of stop-starts on the road. And you’ll find that it’s much easier to work on when you’re still learning to drive.

What's more, an automatic helps you to remain more focused on the actual driving itself, since you don't have to worry about working on the gears. This allows you to use both hands when you’re using the steering wheel, which can reduce your risk of getting distracted on the road.

Driving a manual is like playing an instrument yourself—it requires skill, countless practices, and focus to play it correctly. On the other hand, driving an automatic is like listening to someone play the same instrument for you—and the level of effort on your part is minimal.

And while you and many other drivers have your own preferences, neither one is wrong or better than the other--it all boils down to personal taste. The most important thing here is that it meets your needs, because in the end, it’s really about experiencing your car at its best and most enjoyable on the road.

Updated by Wilbert Tan on July 26, 2020

Also read:

6 Easy Ways to Keep Your Automatic Car in Good Condition

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