Spending money on fuel is the worst. I’d rather toss cash into the street and watch as people scramble for it. Pumping gas isn’t my idea of fun.
Luckily, there’s a way to actually have fun while reducing the most boring spending category imaginable… by driving a car with a manual transmission/standard transmission/stick shift/whatever the heck you choose to call a car where the driver is in control of gear selection.
Just a few short decades ago, most cars were manuals. That’s why manuals are often referred to as standards. Because they came standard on most cars back in the day. But today, most people – namely Americans – enjoy texting and nom nom noming Big Mac’s too much to be bothered with shifting gears. THE HASSLE, AM I RIGHT??? When most people are doing something, there’s a good sign you should shift (lame pun) your thinking.
When I was finding my most recent car, it took awhile to find one with a manual tranny. But I wouldn’t drive anything else. Everyone kept pestering me to settle and buy an automatic. But I had SO MANY reasons NOT to do that! It wasn’t just to save fuel – although that was the first reason that came to mind. I vowed to find a manual.
Here’s the list I shared whenever someone told me to give up the search for a stick shift. Since it took me awhile to find the car, I had time to build my defense. I believe this to be the most comprehensive post on the interwebs which sings the praises of a manual transmission. Without further ado, this is why we should all drive manual cars:
1) So You Know How to Do It When Abroad
If you’re reading this and you’re in North America, driving a manual is far from the norm. According to CNN, only 4% of new cars sold in America are manual. But in most countries, a manual is normal. You’ll be laughed at if you’re a grown human and can’t work a clutch when abroad. Furthermore, this not knowing how to drive one could be seriously dangerous when navigating the roads of a foreign country. It’s best to know before you go.
Luckily, driving a manual car is the same no matter where you’re at on the planet. The driving configuration is the same everywhere. Even if the car is right-hand drive, the gearbox and pedal setup are the exact same. The only change is that you’re on the opposite side of the car. So while pulling through a KFC drive-thru to get your greasy chicken bucket may be awkward, shifting gears isn’t hard to get used to from country to country. Plus, if you ever run The Amazing Race, you’ll be prepared. No losing $1 million bucks just because you can’t get into gear like this team did.
2) Better Fuel Economy
As mentioned earlier, you generally get better MPG’s simply by driving a stick. The transmission weighs less (weight savings = fuel savings), you go into neutral between shifts (which drops fuel consumption), and you can coast to stops. My Mitsubishi Eclipse gets 5 MPG better than the automatic version. That results in 19% better fuel economy just for enjoying my manual transmission. I tell you what… saving money can be easy. It’s almost like you’re getting paid to drive a manual. Compare your cars manual vs. automatic transmission by using the handy tool on fueleconomy.gov.
3) The Self-Starting Car!
Have a weak battery and don’t want to replace it quite yet? Are you out in the woods and there’s no one to jump start you? No problem! With a manual, you don’t need a battery. You simple give the car a rolling start. Either by enlisting a friend to push or rolling it down a hill yourself. Once you’re moving, put the car in gear and release the clutch. Kablamo, your car runs! Just remember to always park on top of a hill if this becomes a habit.
P.S. this will get old quickly so buy a new battery. They are pretty cheap, really. Costco batteries have high ratings and a phenomenal return policy. Don’t have a Costco membership? Read my post about Costco here: Costco Membership Fee: Worth It? When Would You Break Even?
4) Keeps You from Dying
Having a manual forces you to pay attention to driving. You can’t be texting or eating Big Macs when driving around town. I know we all say we won’t text and drive but having a manual forces you to keep your word. For the most part. I mean, sure you can still text and drive but it’ll be an awkward dance. Just awkward enough for you to give up and pay attention to the road. If you’re a parent, consider getting your child a manual car so they can’t be as distracted by their phone.
While driving a manual, your feet and arms also move. This means you won’t get cramped up and develop blood clots and die. Okay, that’s a little extreme. But honestly, it’s good to keep your limbs from going limp. And blood clots do happen to older people when sitting idly for long periods of time.
5) Manual Transmission Cars Are Generally Cheaper to Buy
We all know most people looooovvvveee paying for convenience. This means people will pay out the nose for an automatic. And manual transmissions cost less to build as well. Luckily for us, both of these reasons makes manuals cheaper on both the new and used car markets. You can save thousands just by choosing a manual gearbox. Their loss is our gain.
6) Cheaper to Maintain
Oh, how I enjoy saving money. A manual transmission not only takes less fluid but it also doesn’t require an expensive gasket and oil filter kit like an auto tranny does. This is a big win-win as tranny fluid can be freaking expensive. The fluid for my car was $12/quart (after price comparison, of course). The car needed 6 quarts! It was stupid because the car takes 5.1 quarts. Dang you, Mitsubishi!
It’s also easier to replace the fluid in a manual tranny. All you do is pull a plug to drain it. With automatic transmissions, you have to undo about a million little bolts, then awkwardly drop the oil pan and filter while trying not to spill hot oil on yourself. And if you don’t change the oil yourself, the shop will likely charge you more when working on the automatic vs a manual. Inconvenience is either paid by your labor or by paying someone else’s.
7) Repairs Are Cheaper – and Easier to Fix by Yourself
A manual transmission is cheaper to build, cheaper to maintain and even cheaper to fix! I can pull the manual transmission out of my car in an afternoon. I can’t say that about an auto. Also, a replacement transmission if needed will be way less. They are just plain cheap compared to a complicated automatic. Furthermore, repairing an automatic transmission is pretty far out of the shade tree mechanic’s wheelhouse. But a manual tranny is simpler to repair (though still a huge endevour).
8) More POWER!
With an automatic, there’s a huge drivetrain loss. So while the powerplant may be the same between a manual and auto, a manual will give you more power to the wheels. By driving a manual, the ‘15% rule’ is usually used. A manual will allow for 15% more horsepower than an auto. Automatics are parasites to the engine. You miss out on a lot of ponies when driving an auto. And if you want to modify your car to go faster, it’s much more cost effective to buy a manual. Think about it for a second. If you try to beef up an auto, it’ll take a lot of money just to get it up to the power of a manual that you could’ve bought in the first place.
9) Thieves Get Confused
Because manuals aren’t commonplace in North America anymore, young thieves don’t know how to drive them. Heck, most people in America don’t know how. This means thieves will leave your car alone and move onto the next one. Or they will try to drive your car, fail, and run away scared, confused, and they will hopefully rethink their lives. Since manual tranny’s stop most thieves, there’s less of a reason for you to spend loads on an aftermarket alarm system.
10) Sticks are Cool!
Driving a stick shift is just plain cool! Some people use techniques such as ‘heel toeing‘ and really make shifting into an art. Anyone can drive an auto. Which, funny enough, I guess in Britain the majority of auto drivers are the disabled and the elderly. Makes sense. Though note that heel toeing probably isn’t the safest thing to do on public roads if you’re not skilled at it. So be aware. But it is not illegal.
11) For Fun!
Something about rowing through the gears is fun for most people. I don’t know why exactly. Man/woman and machine working in harmony, I guess. If you want to, drifting your car is also so much easier! By increasing power, reducing weight, and with you selecting the gear instead of a computer… it is a lot more fun to drive. Here are 3 fun ways to initiate a drift.
12) No One Asks to Borrow Your Car
Remember when I said thieves don’t know how to drive a manual? Neither do your friends. If your lazy friend asks to borrow your car, you don’t have to say ‘no’, just tell politely remind them that it’s a manual. I used this trick just a few weeks ago. I didn’t have to tell this guy ‘no’, I just had to say, “It’s a manual… “ And he was like, “Oh, right. Dang. Thanks though.”
13) Engine Braking
If you need to stop quickly, you can downshift while hitting the brakes. This will slow you down much faster than just hitting the brakes like in an auto. It’s because you’re able to use the engine and the brakes to stop. Safety first! I mean… 13th.
14) Possessing a Lifelong Skill
Some people take great pride in driving a manual. After all, it is a skill. Anytime I can add a skill to my portfolio, it’s a good day. Even if you don’t want to drive a stick every day, I encourage you to learn. You never know when it may come in handy.
15) Longer Transmission Life
Generally speaking, the life of a manual transmission is greater than that of an auto. Most autos seem to go out before 200k.
Plus, on a manual, if the transmission does start getting weak, it usually shows signs well before it’s ready to die. Whereas an auto just starts to slip and you’re screwed. My brother’s manual transmission in his Mitsubishi 3000GT has been on its way out for the past 5 years. The synchros grind but it still goes in gear. If he had an auto, he would have probably had to buy a new transmission right away. But now he can baby his manual tranny and not spend a dime.
16) Safer, Less Stressful Mountain Driving
When you drive an auto through the mountains, the car has a hard time understanding which gear is appropriate.
Here’s how my mountain driving goes in an auto (the is me talking to myself while alone): “You’re failing at life, auto transmission. You don’t know when to shift! You don’t have eyes! You just up-shifted and there’s a big climb ahead. What now, gearbox! You’re torturing yourself! Now it’s time to downshift… once again! Don’t overheat on me, tranny!”
Yeah, I get bored sometimes when I autos…
Even with the ‘overdrive off’ button (which most auto’s have for this very reason) your auto still puzzles itself trying to guess the appropriate low gears. In a manual car, you can see what’s down the road and shift accordingly. When an auto shifts up and down over and over, it’s decreasing its life. It’s slowly killing itself. That’s sad for everyone.
Plus, engine braking is really helpful when descending a mountain. Overheating your brakes in an auto is dangerous and expensive. With a manual, you can easily let the engine help with some of the braking. A manual means you don’t have to replace your brake pads and rotors as often. That’s always a good thing.
17) No Computer Telling You It Knows Better
I used to drive my parents’ Oldsmobile 98 as my beater car (though I was able to double its fuel economy so it was a good car). It was so annoying because a lot of speed limits around my town are 45 mph. The car was automatic. It shifted into top gear at 46mph. So either I could speed or I could force a downshift by driving 45 mph and burn a lot of fuel being on the top of the rev limit. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but that got really annoying.
When you take the car to the shop, the employees will know you probably sought out a manual. It shows you care about what you drive. They will probably have more respect for you and the car. Also, the inexperienced noob mechanics who can’t drive a stick won’t be working on your car most likely. It’s the older generations, the manual veterans who will be looking after your car.
19) Less Chance of Falling Asleep at the Wheel
After you drive a stick for awhile, it’s just as easy as an auto. But it still requires movement. Therefore, it’s harder to fall asleep while driving. But this of course doesn’t apply to highway driving since you’ll just remain in top gear.
20) A Lesson in Patience
Driving a stick teaches you patience. Since they are rare, you have to spend more time looking for one when buying. I looked at probably 100 Eclipses online before I found my perfect manual. So of course I knew the market up-down-left-right! This allowed me to get a great price since I knew everything there was to know about recent sales. If you need a car ASAP, look for one that is readily available in a manual. Think 1990’s economy car like a Civic. Those are great.
To be fair, I thought I would compile a list of why automatic transmissions are better. But that was hard. All I could think of is an auto is the ‘easier’ alternative. But then again, why do anything just because it’s easy?
Learn how to drive a manual by reading this article.