Need some help to make a decision about your transmission? We’ve teamed up with Southside Motor Factors to bring you some facts about manual and automatic gearboxes.

1. How do they work?

Manuals (also known as stick-shifts or standards) have a numbered gear stick in between the front seats to the driver’s side. You will need to shift between each gear (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) as you’re driving, choosing a gear that’s appropriate to the speed you are travelling at. Manual transmission vehicles come with three pedals – clutch, brake and accelerator. The clutch is pressed every time you change gears and needs to be managed effectively in order to drive the car smoothly.

Automatics usually have a gear lever in the centre between the front seats, similar to a gear stick on a manual, or at the side of the steering wheel. Gears are usually identified by a letter (P, R, N, D), and once you’re in D you can drive the car at your leisure, changing only when you come to a stop. Automatic transmission vehicles have two pedals – accelerator and brake.

2. Which is more expensive? 

Manuals are notably cheaper to buy than their automatic equivalents, usually by around €900.

Automatics are more expensive than manuals, although with any new car costing a 5-figure sum, you may believe that the extra few hundred is worth paying if you’re devoted to driving an automatic.

3. Which is more efficient?

Typically a manual vehicle is 5%-15% more fuel efficient than an automatic. This figure can vary depending on road conditions and driving habits.

Automatic vehicles are less fuel efficient than manuals as they are heavier, have a more complex engine and don’t offer the driver a choice of gear in which to drive.

4. What about maintenance?

So long as the driver of a manual vehicle keeps it in generally good condition, it shouldn’t require much maintenance. Also repairs are usually quite economical.

Automatics require much more frequent maintenance than manuals, while repairs can be pricey as the mechanic’s work is often more difficult than with a manual gearbox.

5. Which is easiest to drive?

Manuals are not inherently difficult to operate, but they can be tricky to master at the start as you try to get used to coordinating your limbs and managing the clutch in particular.

Automatics are very easy to learn – you either speed up or slow down. The only thought goes into changing from P/N to D and back when you’re stopping and starting.

manual vs automatic gearbox
Automatics are easy to drive but tend to be more expensive and less fuel-efficient than a manual

6. What about hill starts?

In a  manual one of the trickiest skills to master is to take off on a hill, especially for novices. However, many newer cars come with hill start technology to make hill starts less difficult.

Taking off on a hill is quite easy in an automatic. All you need to do is put the car in D and then release the parking brake and accelerate simultaneously.

7. I find myself in traffic a lot, which should I choose?

Driving in heavy traffic can be quite a frustrating experience in a manual car, as you are constantly changing gears and using all three pedals.

If you are in a traffic jam and driving an automatic stopping and starting is far less of a chore than with a manual.

8. Anything else I should know?

Manuals offer drivers more control of the vehicle as you can select the gear in which you wish to drive. Also the requirement to shift gears and manage pedals sharpens your focus on driving.

Automatics will select a gear for you, but it might not always be the most appropriate and isn’t ideal for drivers who like full control. Also when driving on a straight road for a long period of time simply by pressing the accelerator, there is a chance that your concentration could diminish.