Learner Driver News

27 September 2019 by Geoffrey Insurance

Automatic or manual gearbox?


In the UK, automatic gearboxes have traditionally had a poor rep. They were slow, cumbersome and not very fuel-efficient. However, today they are able to change gear far quicker than humans, often returning better fuel economy figures too.

With their long, straight roads and busy metropolitan areas, automatics are far less hassle and enjoy a 96% market share in the States as a result. With the UK’s road becoming more and more congested, you can see why autos are becoming more popular, if not as in-demand as with our friends over the Atlantic.

As a result, as development has continued, the market share of automatic gearboxes has grown hugely in recent years – by 70% since 2007 in fact.


So what’s the benefit for new drivers?

Well, clutch control using a manual takes some practice – that’s why learners are infamous for stalling their cars! With an automatic, there’s no clutch to use as the gearbox takes care of that for you, selecting gears appropriate to the road speed.

In other words, driving an auto means you have less to think about whilst learning all the other aspects of driving, allowing you to focus on your road positioning and speed.

Of course, learners are infamous for stalling cars – it is all part of the learning journey. Over time though, abuse of the clutch can get expensive, with replacements costings hundreds of pounds. Since you don’t use a clutch in an auto, this is something you won’t need to worry about!

DID YOU KNOW: Electric cars don’t have a gearbox at all, and drive like automatics. Soon manual gearboxes may be a consigned to the history books!


What about the downsides?

Because of their added convenience, most car manufacturers charge a premium for an automatic version of their cars. On the flip side, when it comes to selling an automatic equipped car, you should be able to sell it for more than a manual equivalent too.

More importantly though, if you learn in an automatic then you will only end up qualified to drive in one. Whereas if you learn and take your test in a manual car, you can use either transmission choice moving forward.

For some – and it’s totally personal preference – manual gearboxes are more fun to drive. You have more control, and it can completely change the driving experience. You can however look to get the best of both worlds by purchasing a car with a semi-automatic gearbox; some have paddles behind the steering wheel so you can change gear manually (without using the clutch) like an F1 race driver!

Finally, the choice of your transmission may affect the cost of insurance. If an automatic gearbox does break, it will likely cost more to repair than a manual one due to its sophisticated parts. 


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