The world of motoring is constantly transforming, with new technology that has brought about autonomous vehicles on public roads to recent legislation that has caused a major decline in diesel.
However, one car-related debate has stood the test of time for many years: manual or automatic? Pass ‘N’ Go, which provides driving lessons in Sunderland, Middlesbrough and throughout the UK, has investigated what the future might hold for the gear stick and its pros and cons for new and existing drivers.
Driving tests and manual cars
It seems that when it comes to learning to drive, manual cars reign supreme. An investigation conducted and reported by The Telegraph found that only around 40,000 out of 720,000 driving tests taken by learner drivers in the UK were conducted in cars with an automatic gearbox.
But why is this? The reasoning behind this overwhelming majority pertains to your future driving limitations. For example; if you obtain a full driver’s licence after passing your driving test in a manual car, you will be able to drive vehicles with both automatic and manual gearboxes. On the flip side, learn to drive in an automatic vehicle and you will not be entitled to drive a manual car.
Cars with automatic gearboxes on the rise
However, despite most of us learning to operate a vehicle in a manual car, it appears that we’re opting to go automatic later in life. Research carried out by Contract Hire and Leasing and reported by Car Keys shows that we are now seeing many more vehicles with automatic gearboxes on UK roads. Close to 650,000 new cars with automatic gearboxes were registered in Britain in 2016 — a rise of 55% when compared to figures recorded just three years previously.
Aside from cars we’re actually buying, it seems that more people are curious about automatic vehicles too. 45% of all new car enquiries throughout the country are for vehicles which are designed with automatic gearboxes.
“New automatic transmissions are extremely intelligent. It’s now common to see seven- and even nine-speed automatic transmissions, such as the Mercedes-Benz 9G-tronic. They enable smooth, efficient driving at low revs, therefore burning far less fuel and reducing emissions,” said Mike Best, the Head of Sales at Contract Hire and Leasing.
He added: “Manuals often create bad driving habits such as over-revving, riding the clutch and using the wrong gear. These are things that cause wear-and-tear, as well as increase fuel consumption and emissions.”
The advantages of a manual gearbox
With automatic cars offering an easier and apparently more eco-friendly drive, why are there so many manual cars still being used in the UK? Some claim that a manual vehicle offers more control of the vehicle. For example, when travelling along a slippery road or approaching an obstacle, a driver can use the brake and change gear accordingly in a manual car.
Cost also plays a large part in many people’s inclinations to continue to drive with the stick. Manual cars are often cheaper than automatic vehicles, which is an important feature for many buyers.
However, every product has a negative. For manual cars, it’s potentially that they can get tiresome to drive — especially during rush hour, when you must constantly hold down the clutch and change gear.
The advantages of an automatic gearbox
When it comes to automatic cars, there are a variety of benefits for motorists. In fact, many supercars, such as Ferraris, don’t even offer manual gearboxes due to lack of demand.
People who drive or have driven an automatic car often claim that they provide an easier, more relaxed driving experience. One study revealed that the heart rate of drivers in an automatic car was similar to that of a passenger! For the environmentally conscious drivers, these cars are more fuel efficient than manual cars, too.
But what about a disadvantage? Weighing up both vehicle types, automatic cars are generally more expensive. Research has also suggested that automatic drivers are less attentive, due to the fact they don’t need to concentrate on driving as much as in a manual vehicle, which has the potential to be dangerous if true.
Insurance: manual vs automatic cars
Buying a new car is only part of the amount you have to spend to run and own a car — what about insurance?
Findings appear to suggest that anyone looking for cheap insurance should steer clear of automatics. According to research conducted by Admiral, the average premium to insure an automatic car was 5.63% higher due to the increased cost of claims from that type of vehicle and the claim frequency. They also found that the average premium for drivers with an automatic licence was a huge 43.89% higher than drivers who held a full licence.
Overall, both types of car have pros and cons, and the debate essentially boils down to personal preference. Looking at it logically, the sensible thing to do would be to learn to drive with a full licence and decide on which car you would like to purchase later!