Advantages of a Manual Transmission

The manual transmission has been on a sharp decline for a long time now, ever since the automatic transmission was first introduced by GM in 1940. By 1957, around 83% of all America-made cars came with an automatic transmission, with manuals serving as the minority ever since. Nowadays, only 10% of America’s cars come equipped with a manual transmission, with sales hovering around 5-10% for the last 15 to 20 years (before that, every 1 in 4 vehicles was a stick). 2012 was the first time manuals have seen an increase in sales for 7 years, but is it likely to increase? Time will only tell, but the obvious question you might be asking is: are there any advantages of a manual transmission to be had? We certainly think so, and here’s why.

Advantages of a Manual Transmission

YearUS Sales with a Manual Transmission
20126.98%
20113.85%
20103.95%
20094.4%
20083.71%
20072.91%
20067.16%
20056.67%
20045.46%
20038.21%
20028.48%

A manual transmission is not for everybody, this much is certain, but why is that? Here’s what we think: when the majority of people think about a car, they are only thinking about transportation to get from point A to point B. Not much else is important, and anything that can complicate the process is reason enough to avoid it for most.

So what’s so complicated about a manual transmission? Well, there’s only one, which is that a manual transmission has a steeper learning curve to it and takes time getting used to. It might seem like an empty-headed excuse to avoid standard transmissions altogether, but when you observe the behavior of buyers, it makes a lot of sense. When most people purchase something, they want easy and immediate results. When you buy a new computer, you aren’t looking for one that will require time to learn, you want one that can be used right out of the box. Isn’t that why a certain computer company named after a particular fruit is doing so well?

Obviously the same can be said about car buyers, but there’s a lot of advantages of a manual transmission that not many people take into consideration, which is why the majority of cars on the road have an automatic transmission. But when you purchase something based on ease and convenience, oftentimes you do so at the cost of more rewarding benefits. That’s why when you tell a stick driver that sales of cars with manual transmissions are continuing to decline or that some automakers have decided to scrap manual transmissions altogether, you can often see a part of them die.

advantages of a manual transmission

For the most part though, the people who purchase manuals are often the ones who love the physical act of driving, and love that they are in more control than those who drive automatics. There are more advantages of a manual transmission as well, and here are just a few:

  • Price: Manual transmissions typically cost less than their automatic counterparts (at least $1,000 less), and that’s because manual transmission have less moving parts as well as being less in demand (lucky for the manual transmission lover, that’s a good thing).
  • Less maintenance: Since manuals have less moving parts and are by nature far simpler than automatics, this means that they are easier and cheaper to maintain. A manual transmission service often costs as much as an oil change, and a manual is serviced less frequently than an automatic.
  • Less problems: An automatic transmission develops far more problems than a standard, and repair costs for an automatic are usually a minimum of $1,500, while a complete rebuild on average costs $3,000-$4,000. A manual transmission on the other hand, since it’s less complicated, means that fewer things tend to go wrong with it in the first place. The most frequent repair for a manual transmission is often clutch replacement, which usually doesn’t require changing for hundreds of thousands of miles.
  • Fuel economy: Although technology for some automatic transmission models has advanced enough to put them on par with manual transmissions when it comes to fuel efficiency, manual transmissions, when driven correctly, have traditionally performed better than automatics. This is largely due to lower power loss and the ability for drivers to optimize their driving for better fuel economy.
  • Habit: Those that have being driving stick ever since they first got their driver’s license are continuing to drive stick, and trade-in numbers are reflecting that. Maybe stick drivers know something automatic drivers don’t, maybe it’s that once you drive stick, you can never quit.
  • Control: When you ask people that drive manuals what’s the one thing they love most, you’ll often get the answer: control. There are those who actually enjoy driving (no really!), and those that do prefer a manual transmission to suit their needs. Being more involved in their cars’ performance is enough to keep stick drivers coming back again and again.
  • Performance: Manual transmissions usually have better acceleration, less weight, and less power loss than an automatic transmission in the same car. So for those that love performance cars, especially sports models, a standard transmission is often a no-brainer.
  • Theft deterrent: It might not be something many people think about when deciding on a car, but manual transmissions also act as a theft deterrent. Since most drivers in North America can’t drive a manual transmission, it effectively reduces the chance of your car being stolen.