Is There Any Point in Learning to Drive a Manual Car?

If you pass the driving test in an automatic car, it means your licence allows you to drive vehicles with automatic or semi-automatic transmission only and restricts you from legally driving a car with manual transmission.

If you did want to drive a manual, you’d need to take another driving test and pass it in a car with manual transmission. You’ll then be able to drive both manual and automatics.

While it’s true there are still some benefits for having a manual licence over a automatic licence, with each passing year, these benefits are becoming far less significant. So the questions is, is there any point in learning to drive a manual?

Those that do ask that question often ask other driver’s opinions and often receive a response that’s either inaccurate or somewhat biased due to them having a manual licence. Let’s take a look at some of the typical answers given to that question:

“It Really Limits Your Choice of Car if You Can Only Drive Automatic”

If you have a manual licence, you will of course have the choice of both automatic and manual cars that are for sale, so yes, having an automatic licence will reduce your choice. But it doesn’t reduce your choice to the point where you’ll struggle to find a suitable car.

The popularity of the automatic car has grown hugely in the UK and over the last 10 years, the amount of automatic cars purchased by consumers has doubled, leading to greater numbers of automatics being manufactured.

In terms of new cars, if a manual version is manufactured, an automatic version is also often manufactured, meaning that your choice is less limiting than you might think – you just wouldn’t choose the manual version.

In fact with tougher emissions regulations, many new cars are hybrid – almost all of which have an automatic transmission only.

Statistically around 2.7 million new vehicles are sold each year in the UK and around 40 percent of cars sold in the UK are automatic. That leaves the automatic licence holder with a choice of almost 1.1 million new cars to choose from. That’s hardly going to leave you struggling to find a car.

The second hand car market has a similar range of automatic cars on offer. In fact, due to popular demand, in many major cities, second hand car dealers will often have a greater number of automatics on sale compared to manual. This is because drivers are finding the constant operating of the clutch in a city ‘stop start’ environment tiring.

“Automatic Cars Cost More”

An automatic car compared to its manual version does often cost a little more due to the complexities of the automatic transmission. However, due to the popularity of automatics, many more are being manufactured and with ever increasing sales, cost comparison between auto and manual is now closer.

It’s worth remembering though that when it comes to selling or trading in your car, you’ll likely get a higher offer if it’s automatic.

“Automatic Cars Use More Fuel”

That statement is certainly true for old automatics. Old automatics often only had 3 or 4 gears (meaning the engine worked harder), were slow at changing gear and were often much heavier than their manual version.

However, fast forward to the modern automatic and things have changed significantly. More gears means that engines needn’t work so hard, faster gear changes and a serious weight loss program means that automatic cars easily equal manuals in terms of fuel efficiency.

In fact with all cars now having onboard computers, selecting the ‘ECO’ option allows automatic cars to operate in a way that will often use less fuel than their manual version. After a few years of ownership and careful driving, it can often be far more economical to drive an automatic over the manual equivalent.

Economical Automatic Car
Modern automatic cars are often more economical and fuel efficient than the manual version

“Automatic Cars Cost More to Insure”

Car insurance premiums are among other things, related to the cost of the vehicle. If an automatic car costs more than the manual equivalent, it’ll cost a little more to insure.

Additionally, automatic transmissions are more complex and expensive to repair than manuals. Though it’s rare for an automatic gearbox to malfunction, it’s one factor that determines insurance premiums.

While those that insure automatic cars tend to pay more than those that drive manual, as automatic cars increase in popularity, the cost of insurance is getting closer.

“Automatic Cars Cost More to Repair”

The automatic gearbox is more complex than the manual, meaning that there is potentially more to go wrong. But with transmission technology now so advanced and perfected, in reality the automatic gearbox is now extremely reliable. Additionally, with automatic transmissions being computer controlled and precise, they aren’t susceptible to driver error such as gear grinding and wrong gear selection.

“You’ll have Trouble Renting an Automatic Car”

If your driving licence is for automatics only, you’ll not have quite the same level of options as a driver with a manual licence when renting a car. You’ll be restricted to the automatic vehicles they have available.

That being said, car rental companies are aware of the increasing popularity of automatics and update their vehicle stock to reflect this. Your options may be limited, but it shouldn’t be a problem.

The only problem you might face is with van rental. Though electric vans are beginning to appear on the market (automatic), vans are almost always traditionally manual due to manufacturing costs.

“Automatic Driving Lessons Cost More”

Yes, automatic driving lessons do usually cost a little more than manual lessons, but you’ll need fewer lessons. Obviously everyone learns at a different rate, but as a rough guide, if a learner needs 40 hours to reach test standard in a manual car, around 30 hours would be needed for an automatic.

Less hours are required due to there being no clutch control or manual gears to learn and as such, the fewer hours required offsets the more expensive lesson price.

So, Is There Any Point in Learning to Drive a Manual?

As a country that traditionally prefers the manual car, the UK is in a transition. By 2040, the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars will be banned, leaving the automatic electric car to become the norm. As each years passes, this transition will gain momentum, leaving the manual car less favorable to drivers and learners alike.

If you are considering learning to drive and passing the test in an automatic car, realistically there’s so many automatics out there now, you’ll not run into any problems. The only consideration you might need to make, is if you think that you might need to drive a van, as they’re still primarily manual transmission.

The manual transmission car will soon be a thing of the past and will increasingly be driven by enthusiasts rather than necessity. So no, there’s not much point in learning to drive a manual. Learn automatic, it’s easier and it’s the future.

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