When choosing a manual or automatic car it’s important to know what the terms mean. An automatic car refers to the automatic transmission, which shifts to most gears without your aid, and without need of a third pedal, the clutch, to shift from one gear to another. A manual transmission means that you have to learn to use a clutch to shift from one gear to another, thus utilizing both feet to drive the car. Essentially, you are the shifter, instead of the transmission doing this work for you.
Some people find little difference in manual or automatic cars. They can easily transition between one method of driving to the other and have a good feel for when to use the clutch to shift gears. The manual transmission car is usually less expensive, generally involves less expensive repairs, and may be helpful in certain cars where a lot of shifting between gears is required. For most people making the choice of a manual or automatic car is highly individualized.
Generally, a skilled driver can shift gears quicker than an automatic transmission does. So for instance if you’re downshifting to slow your speed on a steep hill, you can do this quicker than an automatic car. Unless you actually can shift into low gear, a feature of some automatics too, your car will continue to run at a higher gear, and you’ll need to employ the brakes more to slow it down.
Other people find that the choice of manual or automatic is easy because they hate driving stick shift or manual transmissions. Unless you do a lot of specialized work, like driving over rough terrain in trucks or all terrain vehicles (ATVs), the convenience of automatic transmissions and no extra shifting is worth a little extra money. People may have tried stick shifts in the past and found them just too hard to work, and it does take a little bit more skill to learn how to shift without grinding the gears of your transmission. If you’re not good at it, you can easily burn out a manual transmission, so it may make better sense to choose an automatic.
Actually, except for perhaps racecar drivers and people who drive industrial vehicles, it may be hard to find a car with a manual transmission, especially a new one. Since so many people prefer the ease of automatics, they are most often available on new car lots. It may be easier to find an automatic, and having to order a manual transmission may lessen your ability to bargain for a good price on a new car.
On the other hand, when you have a choice of manual or automatic on a lot, you will pay less almost every time for a manual transmission. Frequently you’ll find some of the economy cars with stick shifts, and virtually no other special features like air conditioning or stereos, called a stripped down or basic model. Large car dealerships may stock a few manuals so they can advertise a much lower price for a car and bring in more customers.
Making the choice between a manual or automatic is really a matter of choice, price consideration, and comfort with driving styles. Manuals require more focus, more foot action, and ability to listen to your car as well as watch engine speed to know when to shift. Automatics require a bit less focus, and may be better if you’re driving with loud people (perhaps crying babies), or in traffic with a great deal of stops and starts. On the other hand, many people insist that once you learn how to operate a stick shift, it’s a skill you’re not likely to forget.