Cars again: Manual vs. Automatic?

<p>O.K., so, I've come close to buying my new car twice in the past week or so, but, in both cases wasn't really excited enough about the cars in question to actually decide to go through with it. </p>

<p>But something interesting has come up - my daughter got a friend of hers to teach her how to drive a manual - and she say's it's really easy and she had it down in one brief "lesson". She tells me that this will expand buying options, and that cars with manual transmissions are less expensive to own and operate. </p>

<p>Last night, I was looking at more cars, at there were a number of manuals on the lot, but very few automatics. </p>

<p>Is it hard to learn to drive a manual? And what about the driving experience - seems like one needs both hands and feet? Is it pleasant? Is it easy? It seems too much like work... also, is it true that they last longer and are less expensive to operate?</p>

<p>I love driving a standard. It's a lot of work as you get used to it, but you eventually do it as second nature. You don't need both hands very often, and, likewise, don't need both feet very often - but what do you ever do with the other foot anyway? Zeus taught me to eat and drive a stick at the same time - so yes, definitely doable. </p>

<p>Can't tell you about learning on one as an adult - I learned to drive by learning on standards, and that was waaay more than one lesson beyond getting around in an automatic. I guess it depends on your definition of "learning;" you can manage to not wreck the car after a lesson from someone good, but you aren't going to be all that good.</p>

<p>If you don't mind the learning curve and if you aren't going to be sitting in a lot of traffic, I would highly recommend getting a manual. The one downside to them is that it's an absolute pain to drive in traffic.</p>

<p>I must be really uncoordinated as I hated learning on a manual so much (that's all my parents had) that I never got my license until I was close to 21 when they finally bought an automatic.</p>

<p>In my family, we all drive stick except my one sister (she also says she's too uncoordinated, motherdear). I learned to drive one when I was 12 (we lived in the country) and my D learned this past year very quickly. Now she can't imagine driving anything else. Her car is a stick shift, and I like the fact that none of her friends know how to drive it; alas, except the boyfriend. The gas mileage is better, and I think you can handle the car much better, expecially in slick weather. If I were you, I'd look for a car that has traction control.</p>

<p>Re heavy traffic, I drive on heavily congested roads, and where the other drivers are mostly insane, and either do not know driving rules, or more likely simply ignore them. This means the driving experience is a lot of slamming on brakes, flooring the engine, making fast decisions, etc. </p>

<p>The net is that the wear and tear on brakes and transmissions is significant (or at least that's what I've been hearing for the last year or so). </p>

<p>I'm guessing a standard transmission is better for this - but - is it as safe?</p>

<p>A big problem I had with the manual was when I was stopped at red lights going up steep hills and there were cars behind me. It was really difficult to get the foot off the brake and put it on the middle pedal, and change gears with the stick shift all while trying not to slide into the car behind me. I grew up in a Boston suburb so I couldn't avoid hills or traffic.</p>

<p>My first car was a standard transmission 65 Mustang that I got while in college. I learned stick on that car, loved it, loved the driving experience. My next several cars were stick -- and then moved to an automatic. </p>

<p>My S (the one that just left for college) drives a manual jeep. I was able to teach him in one lesson. He understood the concept so quickly that I hesitate to call it a lesson -- it was 10 minutes in the school parking lot and he drove it home.</p>

<p>I occasionally drive the jeep now -- and it's a lot of work. Some of it is that the jeep is very truck-like and not as comfortable as a typical passenger car. </p>

<p>I wouldn't buy a manual transmission now -- although it is sort of fun in a sports car. In summary, not that hard to learn, but more to keep in your head when driving. (Braking? don't forget the clutch. Accelerating? Don't forget to shift. Slowing down? Do you need to downshiftg?) I'm not convinced there's a huge savings of either gas or maintenance.</p>

<p>Actually, if you are driving in congested areas with a lot of stop-and-go traffic, I'd recommend that you stay with an automatic transmission. It is just too much of a hassle with frequent stops, the need to shift from first to second to third gear, and you can fall into the habit of riding the clutch and that is rough on the transmission.</p>

<p>I drove a stick shift for years and I really do think that they are more fun to drive, and certainly you do have more control in most driving conditions... but I went to an automatic when I was living in San Francisco and it could be pretty frustrating to have to start from a stop on steep hills (occasionally downright scary) - as the car will tend to slide back as you shift it into gear. The solution to the slipping back problem unfortunately is to ride the clutch -- as noted, not good for the clutch.</p>

<p>So basically -- I don't think you are a good candidate for a manual transmission at all. Besides, the fun is when you have a fifth gear or overdrive and you are on the open road....</p>

<p>latetoschool, it sounds as if your congested roads will make driving a stick very unpleasant. I also think cnp55 is corrrect to be unconvinced on the cost savings. There is a very slight savings in gas. (Because the manual is lighter.) It does cost less to service a manual transmission than an automatic, but how often does this need to be done, afterall? You are probably more likely to kill the clutch on your manual. A stick does beat the manual on performance testing (0 to 60,) but again I wonder how significant this difference is for a non-professional driver.</p>

<p>If you are getting driving lessons around here (NJ,) the schools don't even allow you to use their cars.....you have to learn on your own. THis is because it is so easy to kill a stick.</p>

<p>Sticks are fun to drive if you're not in stop-and-go. When you are, it's a headache. Plus, anything we learn as adults takes longer to be mastered. If you're always avoiding nuts on the road, your reactions won't be as quick & instinctive as those of the long time stick driver.</p>

<p>I leared to drive a stick on a 1971 Triumph Spitfire. Probably one of the world's most unreliable vehicles. H was just a boyfriend at the time, so I guess teaching me to drive was his idea of a cheap date. He's never driven an automatic, but I've since begun to prefer them in my advancing age.</p>

<p>Another consideration is resale. Have you looked into how the transmission type affects this?</p>

<p>My first car had a manual transmission, and I agree that's it's not difficult to drive one. But it is hard to drink a latte, play with the radio/CD player, watch for other cars and drive a stick at the same time. I'm glad that I know I can drive any car, but I prefer an automatic with power everything now.</p>

<p>I do a lot of urban driving, so manual isn't practical for me, although I prefer it on longer trips. All the clutching and braking I did around here ended up aggravating an old knee injury, too. </p>

<p>When car shopping for D last year, we settled on a Subaru Forester. The manual transmission version was nearly $3k cheaper than the automatic, and since she lives in the mountains and drives mostly on country highways and byways--often in snow--, much preferable from a performance standpoint as well. Also, Subaru has some kind of a cam thingy in their manual transmission that prevents the "Cosby effect" (getting stuck on a steep hill with your clutch engaged--"COME AROUND IDIOT, COME AROUND"--) very effectively--it prevents the backwards rolling and allows you release the clutch normally without "riding" it.</p>

<p>I learned to drive a stick as a young adult. (H's car was a stick.) My H tried to teach me, but he always gives too much info, so I asked him to write down the steps on index cards taped to the dash, and take me to an empty parking lot and let me teach myself. (He stayed in the car, but wasn't allowed to say anything.) It didn't take me long at all, once I had the steps down. Then I had a friend take me out to practice. My oldest S paid me a compliment once, when driving in Germany. Said I shifted much smoother than H!</p>

<p>Came in handy when we lived there, since automatics are very rare there. I am still reaching for the gear shift or the clutch - mainly at traffic lights and around corners - now that I'm back to an automatic. We haven't bought manuals in the US since that first car mainly because the resale is more difficult (even though we usually drive cars into the ground anyway. Nothing left to re-sell.) Although I don't mind stick, I do prefer driving an automatic.</p>

<p>Wow, where did you find a carlot full of manuals??? I had a friend looking for a particular model of manual and couldn't find it.</p>

<p>Anyway, I think people should learn to drive on a manual if possible - not that I followed that advice with my own kids. You feel the road better, and have a better understanding of how the car works. Having said that, I wouldn't want to drive a manual in San Fran or Boston - places with heavy traffic AND hills. Hills can be scary. I drove a manual in a hilly city, and I finally had to go to a parking lot and measure the rollback, doing it myself and watching my husband, before I felt completely comfortable with rollback distance. If people pull up too close behind you, there sometimes is nothing you can do.</p>

<p>Manuals are cheaper to buy, more expensive to own. They have more regular wear parts that need replacement over time than an automatic. Things like clutch assemblies will need to be replaced. Additionally, unless you're very good at driving stick, you will wear these down faster than normal.</p>

<p>If you live anywhere with hills or traffic, standard transmissions are a huge pain. I'd say go with the automatic, especially since many cars now have triptronic style transmissions that allow you more control over the automatic transmission, without the extra part wear.</p>

<p>Thanks for all the responses. I think I've heard enough to conclude that a manual/standard isn't for me. If there isn't any significant cost savings, resale value is harder, and it's harder to drive, there's no point. </p>

<p>I'll warn D too - we were planning to buy her new car around December/January; she says learning stick was easy, but, she goes to school in a city where there are no hills at all. Comparatively her grad/law school short list is Boston, Pittsburgh, somewhere in Ohio, etc., all places where there are lots of hills, and snow. I didn't know about the issue with hills, and I am sure she doesn't know either. Actually, I don't get how anyone drives anything in Boston, period, that city strikes me as a driver's nightmare. (No offense to anyone who lives there - stunningly beautiful, interesting and fun city but whoever makes decisions about transportation infrastructure has to be on psychotropic drugs. I only travel there maybe once a year and even my cab drivers get lost and confused.) </p>

<p>In the original car thread, whoever posted (one of the Moms?) that I should get off the internet and actually go look at the cars - excellent advice, that. When I go see these cars and test drive them, they're, like, o.k., nice, somewhat interesting but not really very exciting after all. Very different impression than I get from studying specs and reviews on the internet.</p>

<p>Cangel, my latest interest is the Ford Mustang GT, and the Saleens. Tons of these in manual, not as much of a selection in automatic. I gave my local dealer some numbers last night for a Saleen; if they can meet my numbers, I might buy today. But then again, maybe not. </p>

<p>The thing is, I've spent some time lurking the owner's forums on Edmunds, and everyone there seems to be delighted with the manual transmissions, but then I'm assuming that these are also people who might tend to hang around the internet posting obsessively about their driving experiences. That's not me - I just want something new, fast, fun, interesting. I don't want to have to change my life. I want a car, not a relationship and new lifestyle.</p>

<p>On balance, I think manual transmission is a nuisance; it is fun (in the ego-building) to be able to drive stick shift, since so many people in the U.S. don't, but in stop and go traffic the need to focus on shifting is distracting and a strong negative in my opinion and experience. On a curving or hilly road, a car that handles well will be fun to drive even with automatic shift. On an unclogged interstate or other straight, fast road, you don't shift much anyway. So in either case there's not much point in stick shift. I</p>

<p>In terms of gas economy, you get decent mileage on many compact and intermediate cars (think Honda Accord, VW Jetta, even Mercury Milan), most of which are conventionally equipped with automatic shift (although the Accord stick shift is very smooth). Or one could consider a hybrid, though opininons on fuel economy seem to differ.</p>

<p>We've gone back and forth between manuals and automatics. I now prefer the automatic just because its easier and less to mess with. My H. at present has automatic but really misses driving a standard and says his next car will be a manual. Son (19) just bought his first manual and learned to drive it in a couple days (sports car). Have to say his sports car with bigger engine and similar weight gets better gas mileage than our automatics.</p>

<p>We've always had one manual and one automatic car or truck. Like everyone else, I find driving the stick car much more fun on long drives but a real pain in the butt in stop and go traffic or yes, the dreaded stop signs or lights at the top of a hill. We just gave the stick car to our daughter to take back to college and she spent a good part of the summer learning and becoming comfortable with it. The real downside to it is when she comes back after graduation she's going to have to drive all the way herself or find another east coast student that knows stick to drive with her.</p>

<p>I just went from standards (since I got my first car at 25) to an automatic. Why? Well, my left knee had started to make a crunchy noise and ache in the morning. Two weeks in with the new automatic, and my knee isn't crunching anymore. My kids--both of whom drive standards--are contemptuous and tell me I've wimped out.</p>

<p>Frankly, I think everyone should learn to drive a standard--in many parts of the world they are WAY cheaper to rent--and I always enjoyed driving one. But... it was time to lose that stiff clutch. (I will also comment that clutches vary enormously in how hard they are.)</p>