Manual vs. Automatic Transmissions: The Rivalry

The manual vs. automatic transmission rivalry is real, especially if you’ve ever asked a 20-something guy if they would choose an automatic over a manual.

The soccer mom isn’t a whole lot different, generally, responding with “I don’t even know how to drive stick.”

It’s not as though there are pennants supporting one side or the other, but each side does have its cheerleaders, or something close to that. It seems they will need them, especially if they don’t want manual to become extinct.

Extinction Ahead?

According to the L.A. Times, “In 2006, 47 percent of new models offered in the U.S. were available with both automatic and manual transmissions, according to a study by By 2011, that number had dropped to 37 percent. This year (2016), the number has fallen to 27 percent. The actual sales figures are even lower…Fewer than 3 percent of current U.S. car sales are manual vehicles and down from 7 percent in 2012 and 25 percent in 1992.”

They also noted, “Once standard equipment on all motor vehicles, preferred for its dependability, fuel efficiency and sporty characteristics, the four-on-the-floor is disappearing from major car manufacturers- lineups… This is as true of everyday sedans as of souped-up sports cars. Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo, Volvo, Lexus, Chrysler and Buick no longer offer a single model with manual transmission. Audi, Jaguar, Cadillac and GMC offer only one.”

Myths and Manual

Gas mileage: It used to be said that manual transmission vehicles got better gas mileage, and in the past that was true. Today, however, says “As automatics become more advanced and gain additional gears (eight-speed transmissions are fairly easy to find), they are often now overtaking manuals in terms of fuel economy.”

Manual cars are cheaper: That is true most times, but not always. Some cars that are on the higher end tend to charge the same for both manual and automatic transmissions, such as GMC, Cadillac and BMW, depending on the model.

The coolest sports cars have manual transmissions: If you take a look around, there are plenty of extremely cool—and expensive—cars that aren’t available in manual. Including the 2014 Porsche 911 GT3.

On the Automatic Side of Things

Performance: While manuals tend to win the performance argument, adding in the fun and engagement factor, automatics have a smoother ride, especially in stop-and-go traffic. They also let drivers keep both hands on the wheel, and today, experts argue, they can shift faster and more efficiently than humans.

Easy to use: With an automatic transmission there is no clutch for the left foot to work in concert with the shifting. It takes less time for new drivers to learn, and works well with new teaching methods that want hands on the wheel at all times.

No worries on hills: Automatics are easiest on hills, no doubt about it! Just release the brake and hit the gas. None of this jockeying around to time the clutch release just right while on a hill.

Easy in heavy traffic: Nothing is more frustrating than driving a manual transmission car in heavy, stop-and-go traffic. The constant up and down shifting can become bothersome and an automatic transmission takes care of that problem nicely. It also solves the occasional problem of stalling when traffic starts moving again which is a relief, because no one likes people honking at them.


If you have any questions about manual or automatic transmissions, transmissions in general, or are wondering who to call when you have a transmission problem, call our Northwest Denver center at (303) 421-4140, our Southwest Denver center at (303) 922-4102 or contact us online to get started today! We will diagnose your problem in no time.

Written by Advanced Transmission Center