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Should you buy a manual or automatic car next?

Traditionally, manual cars tend to be the most dominant among UK drivers. However, in 2023 around 30% of drivers are passing their driving test in an automatic car! The switch to automatic could also be due to the popularity of electric cars which use an automatic transmission. If you’re unsure which to choose in the manual vs. automatic debate, the blog below looks at each in more detail to help you decide! 

Manual vs. automatic cars – what’s the difference? 

When we talk about manual vs. automatic cars we refer to the transmission type. This means how the gears are changed whilst you are driving. The gears are important because they engage the engine with the wheels and need to be changed depending on the speed you are going. A manual car requires the driver to change the gears manually and as you may have guessed, an automatic car can do it automatically. 

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How does a manual car work? 

Manual cars are the most popular choice for drivers in the UK. A manual car has a clutch pedal which needs to be pressed whilst the driver moves through the gears. Drivers change gears by moving the gear stick whilst pressing the clutch pedal simultaneously. The gears have a neutral and reverse and usually range from 1-5 but many modern cars now have 1-6 gears. The general rule is the higher your speed, the higher gear you will need to be in and then change back down through the gears when you slow down. 

Are manual cars right for you? 

There are a number of reasons why manual cars tend to be the favourite, not only to learn to drive but also as the car of choice in the UK.

✅ Manual cars allow you to have more control of the vehicle and help drivers to engage with the road.
✅ When you pass your test in a manual car, you are legally able to drive both manual and automatic cars with a full UK license.
✅ Manual cars can be quicker as they are better at transferring power from the engine to the wheels.
✅ Generally, manual cars can be cheaper to maintain and could help to save fuel when driving.


❌ It can be tiresome to drive a manual car in stop-start traffic as it often includes a lot of clutch work and changing gears.
❌ Manual cars may not be as safe as you will need to take one hand off the wheel to change gears and it can be distracting.

Explore the best manual cars

How are automatic cars different to manual cars?

Automatic cars are automatic by name and automatic by nature! Instead of the driver having to manually change through the gears, the car can do it on its own. Automatic cars don’t have a clutch pedal as there’s no need for it. They don’t need a ‘gear stick’ per se but automatics do have a centre console which includes a gear shift of different options. It includes options for Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive and Sport. When driving, just simply put the automatic car into dive and press the accelerator. The car will then change through the gears itself as you drive. 

Should you buy an automatic car?

Automatic cars are increasingly becoming a more popular option for drivers and for many, it’s easy to see why! Not only can they be easier to drive but it’s also the transmission of choice for electric cars too. Electric cars are becoming easier to finance and this may be one of the reasons why drivers are turning to automatic cars over manual. 

✅ Automatic cars are easier to drive and simple to operate.
✅ They can provide a smoother driving experience as there is less stuttering or stalling when changing gears.
✅ They are more pleasant od rive in built-up areas or stop-start traffic as there’s no need to work a clutch. 

❌ If you learn to drive an automatic car, you won’t be able to drive a manual car and can only legally drive automatics.
❌ In many cases, automatic cars can be more expensive when you compare them with their manual counterparts. If you’re budgeting for a car, you may want to explore both manual and automatics to see how the price could differ.
❌ You don’t have as much control over the vehicle which some drivers don’t like. 

Check out our best automatic cars to buy

Are automatic cars more expensive to insure? 

When it comes to lowering your car insurance costs, you may have heard automatic cars cost more to insure. Due to the higher value of automatic cars and usually, the higher specification, automatic cars can cost more to repair which in turn means more to insure. However, automatic cars have been around for a long time now and as technology has advanced, the gap between manual and automatic insurance costs has reduced. 

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Are manual cars more fuel-efficient? 

Typically, the most fuel-efficient cars were manual cars but as the years have progressed, many automatic cars have caught up to manuals when it comes to offering the highest MPG. Older automatic models can be less fuel efficient due to the singular technology used but more modern automatics now use dual automated clutches or CVT Transmissions which help to optimise fuel consumption. 

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Get a free finance quote from us and if you’re approved by one of our lenders, you can choose any manual or automatic car within your budget from a reputable UK dealer!