20 Reasons We Should All Drive Manual Transmission Cars

Driving a manual car might not be as common anymore in the U.S., but you’ll gain better fuel economy, more horsepower, a level of anti-theft protection, and respect by driving a manual transmission vehicle.

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. But today, most people — namely Americans — enjoy texting and nom-nomming Big Macs too much to be bothered with shifting gears.

When I was searching for my most recent car, it took a while to find one with a manual tranny. But I wouldn’t drive anything else. Everyone kept pestering me to just buy an automatic, but I had so many reasons not to do that.

Why You Should Drive a Manual Car

Here is the list of reasons I shared whenever someone told me to give up my search for a stick shift and settle for an automatic. Since it took me a while to find a car, I had time to build my defense. I believe this is the most comprehensive post online singing the praises of a manual transmission.

1) So You Know How to Do It Abroad

If you’re reading this and you’re in North America, driving a manual car 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 pretty standard. Abroad, you’ll be laughed at if you’re a grown adult and can’t work a clutch.

Luckily, driving a manual car is the same no matter where you are on 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 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 couldn’t get into gear like this team.

2) Better Fuel Economy

You generally get better miles per gallon 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 five miles per gallon more than the automatic version. That results in 19% better fuel economy just for enjoying my manual transmission. Compare your make and model’s manual versus automatic transmission by using this side-by-side vehicle comparison tool.

You may also be interested in our article: Does running high octane fuel really help? as well as Does an HHO kit really work? (it supposedly bumps up your fuel economy on your car and bike).

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 jumpstart you? No problem! With a manual car, you don’t need to rely as heavily on the battery. Simply give the car a rolling start. Once you’re moving, put the car in gear and release the clutch. Kablamo, your car runs! Just remember to park on top of a hill if this becomes a habit.

P.S. This will get old quickly, so I suggest you buy a new battery. They are pretty cheap. Costco batteries have high ratings and a phenomenal return policy. Don’t have a Costco membership? Learn more in our article: Costco Membership Fee: Worth It? When Would You Break Even?

4) Keeps You Safe and Alive

Having a manual car forces you to pay attention when you’re driving. You can’t be texting or eating Big Macs while driving around town. I know we all say we won’t text and drive but having a manual car forces you to keep your word. If you’re a parent, consider getting your child a manual car so he or she is too consumed to text and drive.

Also, while driving a manual car, your feet and arms are constantly moving. This lowers your risk of developing blood clots and dying. 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 they sit idly for long periods of time.

5) Cheaper to Buy New or Used

We all know most people love paying for convenience. This means people will pay out the nose for an automatic. And manual transmissions cost less to build, as well. Luckily, both of these reasons makes manuals cheaper in both new and used car markets. You can save thousands just by choosing a manual gearbox.

6) Cheaper to Maintain

A manual transmission not only takes less fluid, it also doesn’t require an expensive gasket and oil filter kit like an automatic tranny does. This is a big win-win as tranny fluid can be expensive. The fluid for my car was $12/quart (after price comparison, of course). And my car needs six quarts!

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 an automatic versus a manual.

7) Repairs Are Cheaper — and Easier to Fix Yourself

A manual transmission is cheaper to build, cheaper to maintain, and cheaper to fix! I can pull the manual transmission out of my car in an afternoon. I can’t say that about an automatic. Also, a replacement transmission, if needed, will be way less. Further, 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 big endeavor).

8) More Power

With an automatic, there’s a huge drivetrain loss. So, while the powerplant may be the same between a manual and automatic, a manual will give 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 automatic. 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 the manual that you could’ve bought in the first place.

9) Thieves Get Confused

Because manuals aren’t as common in the U.S. anymore, young thieves don’t know how to drive a stick shift. Heck, most people in America don’t know how to drive a manual car. This means thieves will leave your car alone and move on to the next one. Or they will try to drive your car, fail, and run away scared and confused.

10) Sticks are Cool

Driving a stick shift is cool! Some people use techniques such as “heel-toeing” and really make shifting an art. Please note that heel-toeing isn’t the safest thing to do on public roads if you’re not skilled at it, but it’s not illegal. Meanwhile, anyone can drive an automatic. Funny enough, in Britain, the majority of automatic drivers are disabled or elderly.

11) More Fun to Drive

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 having the ability to select the gear instead of relyig on a computer, it is a lot more fun to drive.

12) No One Asks to Borrow Your Car

Remember what I said about thieves not knowing how to drive a manual car? Neither do your friends. If your friend asks to borrow your car, you don’t have to say “no”; just politely remind him that it’s a manual. I used this trick just a few weeks ago.

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 stepping on the brakes like in an auto. That’s because you’re able to use the engine and the brakes to stop the car.

14) Learning 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 might 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 starts getting weak, it usually shows signs well before it’s time to replace it. In an automatic, the transmission just starts to slip and you’re in trouble. My brother’s manual transmission in his Mitsubishi 3000GT has been on its way out for the past five years. If he had an automatic, he would have probably had to buy a new transmission by now.

16) Safer, Less Stressful Mountain Driving

When you drive an automatic through the mountains, the car has a hard time understanding which gear is appropriate.

Here’s how my mountain driving goes in an automatic (this is me talking to the car): “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 … again! Don’t overheat on me, tranny!”

Even with the “overdrive off” button (which most automatics have for this very reason), your auto still puzzles itself trying to guess the appropriate low gear. 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 (more maintenance savings).

17) No Computer Telling You It Knows Better

I used to drive my parents’ Oldsmobile Ninety Eight. A lot of speed limits around my town are 45 mph. The car was automatic and it shifted into top gear at 46 mph. 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 it got really annoying.

18) Instant Respect

When you take your car to the shop, the employees will know you sought out a manual. It shows you care about what you drive. They will likely have more respect for you and for the car. Also, the inexperienced mechanics who can’t drive a stick probably won’t be working on your car. Meaning, the older generation, manual veterans will be looking after your vehicle.

19) No Falling Asleep at the Wheel

After you drive a stick for a while, it’s just as easy as an automatic. But it still requires movement. Therefore, it’s harder to fall asleep while driving.

20) A Lesson in Patience

Driving a stick teaches you patience. Since they are less common, 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, and right! This allowed me to get a great price. If you need a car ASAP, look for one that is readily available in a manual. Think 1990s economy car like a Honda Civic; those are great.

In Summary

To be fair, I wanted to compile a list of why automatic transmissions might be better. But all I could think of is that an automatic is the easier alternative.

Read to learn how to drive a manual car? Find out how in our article: How to Drive a Manual Transmission Car

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145 comments

  • I’m a female and learned how to drive on an “automatic” and then when I was probably about 25, someone gave me a car that was a “manual” and I thought who would ever want to drive one of these by choice, what a PITA.. Well 25 years later and going, the only car I will ever drive is a stick shift and I will never go back to an automatic. I’m currently in search for a new vehicle and trying to find a standard is getting difficult, but I’m not giving up and settling for an automatic. There is just something special about driving a standard and no matter how many people try to talk me into going to an automatic because it’s easier and blah blah blah, I’m just not ready to give it up and I’m glad to see articles like this show that I’m not alone.. Here’s to keeping the art of manual driving alive for years to come and remember all good things come back around and this will too..

  • boythatplaysguitar says:

    I’m 14 right now and I really want a manual transmition car when I am 16 so do some of my friends I live in america so most kids say “its dangerous” “its to hard” “Its to old” so ya…… they are just lazy. The main reason i want a manual is so i can drive my dream car: 1967 ferrari 275 gtb 4 nart spider lol.

    • Kathleen Wilson says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi there! Thanks for your comment – we hope our article has been helpful for you. Best of luck in getting your own manual car when you turn 16!

  • Drive by wire, clutch delay valves and throttle mapping that favors fuel economy and the environment over a crisp direct feel have all killed driving manual transmission in newer cheaper cars. Remember when any cheap little European or Japanese car was fun to drive? Felt like an extension of your body? Those days are long gone for these reasons. Do you find you cant quite crisply shift your new manual and can’t put a finger on it? Now you are merely operating a third pedal and a lever, but ultimately the computer is making all the executive decisions. Lower end cars are throttle mapped even worse to help companies achieve better Company average Emissions and Economy numbers. Sign me up for an automatic on the next car I buy I’m done doing all the work with no reward, and paying for the replacement of clutches that wear out because you can not feather the throttle, and hydraulic cylinders made of plastic. End of rant.

  • I want to buy a mini manual, I’m from out of state and I tried to learn but never did so I thinking is time for me to do so.
    I’m a little scare of not be able to get use to it but I’m going for it. 😉

  • Mohammad Ayyad says:

    Well, that was the most comprehensive article ever about stick shifts, simply because I’m also big on these things myself.

  • I must say that when I lived in the US for some time, I was surprised that most people had no idea on how to drive manual. I am from Brazil and manual transmissions are the absolute majority. I’ve personally never driven an automatic car here, only in the US. Sure it’s comfortable driving just pressing the gas and brakes, but changing gears perfectly timing the clutch almost feels like an art.

  • Jarrod D. Johnson says:

    Hmmmmmmm! I’m working on getting my manual driving up! I don’t really believe manual to be fun. It’s just a start of how things were at the time.

  • Trevon Prabhat says:

    Will that was an amazing post. I am a 14 year old boy and I love manual transmissions my dad teaches me to drive his suzuki swift dzire in the parking lot. Anyway I noticed that many people were being babies and saying that hey don’t want to use manuals because there’s traffic. Well in india there’s tonnes of traffic and almost 80-90% of people drive stick. Moreover people rarely rear end or bump into each other. Also because auto cars came pretty late in India, you’d find people ranging even from 50-80 years old driving stick. It just warms my heart. And what’s more that even they’d agree that manuals are much better.
    -Trevon

  • Miss Cellany says:

    Don’t tell people to heel-toe on public roads, it’s not encouraged in the UK (and I believe the rest of Europe) to drive like that. You’d fail your driving test if you took it in the UK and did that. Your right foot should be working EITHER the brake or accelerator, your left foot only does the clutch. Some people do drive heel-toe here (rally drivers do it I think) but it’s NOT something you’re meant to be doing on the public road as it’s not considered safe practice (your foot could slip).

    If you take your test in the UK in an automatic you can ONLY ever drive automatics unless you retake your driving test in a manual. That’s why all our learners are taught in manual cars and take their test in a manual even if they will later be driving only an automatic. Imagine going to hire a car and only manuals were available, and then having to walk away in shame because you only had a licence for an automatic? It would be embarrassing…

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Miss Cellany,

      I’ve updated the post to include a warning about heel toeing on public roads. Good tip.

  • A major con of manual transmissions that you seem to be forgetting is that sometimes they can simply be a pain in the ass. Driving my old Jeep in a metro area is anything but “fun” as I’m constantly depressing the clutch and switching between the first 3 gears every few seconds. I don’t even have time to change a radio station. Not only that, but manual transmissions have a lot that can go wrong with them too. My old Jeep slips out of second all the time, and I have a hard time shifting into gear sometimes. The gear oil is full, so my mechanic said it could either be the clutch, slave cylinder, master cylinder, or the gearbox itself. Personally I don’t have the money or the time to sit there and try to diagnose the random problems my Jeep’s transmission could be having, so I sold it. Best decision I ever made. While I now know how to drive a manual, I will be absolutely sure to get an auto Jeep next time I get one. I’d rather pay the $1,000-$1,500 every 20 years to get the auto transmission overhauled and not have to constantly shift than get a manual and have a whole slew of problems with it, not to mention being a general pain in the ass to drive in Indianapolis.

    Plus auto transmissions are only getting better. Most fuel economy arguments still lingering from the 80’s are a thing of the past now that the auto technology has gotten better.

    It’s a good life skill to know how to drive a manual, but that doesn’t mean you should break your leg to make it a daily driver.

  • Jimmy Brooks says:

    I am a courier for a realty service and I have driven an automatic for two years on the job and now I’m about to get a new car. I drive minimum 200 miles a day 30 – 40% of that is traffic. I’d really like to buy a manual transmission car because I feel like I would enjoy it more but many people have said that for my job it will drive me crazy because driving a manual for 8 hours everyday will become frustrating. Any input?

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Jimmy,

      It could go either way. After a few days, driving a manual becomes second nature and you almost forget you’re doing it. But then again, if the clutch is at all stiff or has an uneven throw, it could get tiresome. Is there a way you can borrow a manual car for a few days and see how well it fits the role?

      • James Brooks says:

        That is a really good idea I will see what I can do. I think it will be fine. Its going to be a 2016 Camaro SS I’ve heard that the clutch is fantastic on those!

  • William Ray says:

    Hi! Will, Really fantastic article. I enjoyed a lot. I can recall my dad’s driving lesson to me at a very first day. He told me the same thing you mentioned in the article.
    Keep it up! Stay awesome.

  • Better Fuel Economy – it is just not true unless your car 20y/o. Even more, it absolutely opposite.
    You Know How to Do It When Abroad – in 2016 this point is quite obsolete
    Manual forces you to pay attention to driving – just not true. Even more. When you driving automatic you both hands always on steering wheel. If something happening you do not have to change your hand position. You always ready.
    Cheaper to Maintain/Longer Transmission Life – not true at all. You have to replace clutch disks from time to time. Just in few years (depends on how you drive)
    Automatic usually have problem after 15 – 20 years at least. So if you wanna buy 20yrs old car… yeah buy a manual )
    I love feeling to drive manual car (especially sport car on empty highway).
    But if I have to drive A – B every day in heavy traffic…. in a city… no benefits at all.

  • Being from the UK, I think some points are good, but some aren’t quite there. Of course, these are points I see from a UK perspective and not say..from the USA where you are, though I do definitely still take issue with the second one, even for the USA

    1. For me, not a real issue considering I ..learned in a manual
    2. It used to be the case, that automatics weren’t as efficient, but these days, it’s typically the opposite. My Prius is an automatic, and doesn’t come in a manual option. All new Toyota hybrids are automatic. All vehicles in the future will also be automatic
    3. I didn’t even know that automatic cars CAN’T be started by rolling em. Fair enough really. Thanks for the heads up
    4. Trust me when I say it most definitely is possible to become distracted with a manual car, though I take your point RE: it is a little harder in a manual
    5. Fair point. Again, my car only does come in automatic transmission
    6. Again fair point
    7. Fair point
    8. Fair point
    9. That one is only true for the USA really. In the rest of the world, it’s not really the same, though when I first got in an automatic, I thought “The hell is this” and had to have a quick look on YouTube before I got in the car 😀
    10. Would agree that it is definitely more fun using “stick” or..manual cars
    11. Same as above really, but I guess equally, I can just press the accelerator and beat a lot of manual cars when they attempt to try and race me.. (I don’t race btw, but sometimes people just don’t like being overtaken by a Prius 😀 )
    12. This is true even in the UK. Automatics ARE easier to drive..sure, but quite a lot of people just feel uneasy driving an automatic if they’ve never driven one
    13. True. The Prius definitely slows down slower than my previous cars
    14. True, but in the future, we’ll all be driving either electric or hydrogen cars – both of which will be automatic, if not fully autonomous
    15. I didn’t know that, but again I buy Japanese. The Prius lasts forever 😀 It could also be the case that with manual cars, being a thing for the minority over there, and for enthusiasts, you guys actually look after your cars a bit better
    16. I didn’t know that one. The UK has a lot of hills, but not so many mountains!
    17. Not something that bothers me particularly really
    18. As most people have a manual here, you don’t get that same “respect”
    19. I guess it depends on how you see it. I do spend the majority of my time on the motorway tbh, or as you say the “highway”
    20. Again, not an issue in the UK. If any thing, it’s the opposite way around really.

  • Hi Will. I enjoyed reading your post. I also prefer driving manual transmissions. I drive a toyota corolla here in Mexico!! It makes you pay more attention!! Thank you for your post.

    Marco

  • Thanks for the post. I agree that there are a lot of really great benefits to driving manual cars. I really like that it helps to increase the life of the transmission. That is a really great benefit. I also think it is great that it helps to increase fuel economy as well.

  • I agree with this post 100%, Manuals are better than automatic transmissions in most scenarios. For me I don’t own one, nor ever driven one before, and although I do want to buy a manual car I cannot imagine myself driving a stick here in Honolulu, Hawaii. The traffic here is the second worse in the nation and the distance between one place to another is relatively short compared to most places because we are on a small island, so the freedom and enjoyment with riding out on the open road with a stick is limited here on the island. My friend owns an Altima coupe that’s manual here in Hawaii and he told me don’t get a manual because of the nasty traffic here. Sigh

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hey, Austin. Traffic can be a killer. I lived in a city with bad traffic for one summer. My clutch leg definitely got a work out. I’m not recommending you get a manual in your situation but here’s a helpful video if you ever find yourself driving a manual in traffic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1A6bzdb8MY It’s all about keeping a consistent speed, which is better for overall traffic flow anyway. People who move up 6 feet whenever they get the chance cause a ripple effect that goes on for miles.

      Anyway. it would be pretty cool to carve some of those incredible mountain roads in a manual though!

  • Can you please let me know a list of few manual cars that are good for driving, passenger friendly, cheap, with less maintenance, good resell value? (both old and newer models)

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Good news. Many manual cars offer all of the above. Though I’m not sure where you’re from. I ran your IP and I think you’re from India. If this is the case, here are two good resources that will help you narrow down your selection: http://www.zigwheels.com/newcars/best-manual-cars, http://www.gaadi.com/best-Manual-transmission-cars-in-india If you’re from the US, I’d consider a Honda Fit (anything Honda, really) or a Ford Fiesta. The best brand for resale in the US has been Subaru. No wonder why. Those cars are reliable and they are handy for more than just looking good in a new one when out on the town. Let me know if this answer wasn’t sufficient and I’d love to help further.