There are two types of motorists in this world: those who like shifting gears by themselves, and the others who prefer the car to do it for them. The debate as to which is better between manual transmission (MT) and automatic transmission (AT) is an age-old one; it can even be considered a war between the fans of each type, and we, motoring journalists, are always caught in the crossfire.
I couldn’t count how many times my friends have asked me as to which is better between the two. Some of them were new drivers who wanted to buy a new car, while most were long-time drivers who (I think) just wanted to spark some debate. I oftentimes just laugh it off and say “whichever you prefer, it’s your car anyway.”
Now, before we settle this question once and for all, I’ll spill a full disclosure here first so you would know where I stand – I am a fan of convenience and efficiency, meaning I love doing things with less effort and better results.
In addition, when I say manual, I’m referring to those cars that have clutch pedals, while automatic transmission covers all type that doesn’t have the third pedal, such as CVT, DCT, conventional torque converters, and automated-manual transmission. For the technical distinction between the automatic transmission types, refer to this guide.
Fuel efficiency and Control
Manual Transmission cars are often regarded as more efficient compared to their automatic gearbox counterparts as they give more control to the driver. In principle, the higher the gear is, the less RPM and torque are required, which means less fuel is consumed. To add to this, a manual gearbox also weighs a lot less than its automatic transmission counterpart which means less weight to carry around for the vehicle leading to better fuel economy.
While the statement above can still hold true to this day, a lot of modern automatic transmission vehicles have improved over the years. Coupled with improvements to engine technology and with the advent of CVTs means that automatic transmissions are now on par if not close to their manual gearbox counterparts. When it comes to being able to manually shift a gear, automatics have also come a long way as some now come available with manual mode or with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. With that said, manual gear-shifting is now no longer exclusive to those with a clutch pedal.
When it comes to comparing the maintenance cost of an automatic versus a manual transmission, the manual gearbox will come out as a less complex device. They are essentially composed of parts that do not need any electronic intervention, thus, one less thing to worry about. As such these kinds of transmissions are less costly to maintain.
Just beware of breaking your car’s clutch pedal and the other mechanisms that surround it. This can be a real headache for you later on if you choose to go with a manual transmission vehicle.
As far as pricing is concerned, price tags of vehicles equipped with a manual transmission will cost less than a vehicle equipped with an automatic gearbox. If you find a vehicle that is can be had with both a manual and automatic transmission and is on the same trim level, you will notice that their price difference is about P50,000 or a little more if other features are added. While this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for most if you are on a budget, that P50,000 could mean a lot of savings especially if you are buying the vehicle with cash.
Ease and Convenience
Now, this is the clincher. Cars that come with an automatic transmission are more convenient to drive since the car does the shifting for you. You won’t need to worry about stalling your engine because of missing the clutch pedal or mistiming a shift. This is gravely felt when driving amidst heavy traffic.
You might argue that for long-time drivers, it isn’t a problem at all, but trust us, having one less thing to worry about will help you focus more on the road ahead and is more convenient.
Choosing which transmission you should go for will differ from person to person. If you value convenience over anything else then an automatic transmission will suit you best. Plus if you will find yourself driving more in the city then an automatic gearbox will do you wonders as all you will need to do is press on the gas and brake. If, however, you are someone who wants a little more control in their driving experience then a manual gearbox is what you should go after. That being said it still boils down to your personal preferences and where you feel like you will be driving the most.