In the future, will we still have gearsticks?

And should you pick manual or automatic when you're learning to drive?

There’s a lot happening in the motoring world at the moment, from the emergence of autonomous vehicles on public roads to the fact that we may no longer see petrol and diesel cars rolling off production lines in the UK come 2040.

But what about manual vehicles? Do they still have a place, or is it all about automatics these days? Pass ‘N’ Go, which offers driving lessons in Middlesbrough, Sunderland and throughout the UK, investigates:

The rise of the automatic

Research carried out by Contract Hire and Leasing and reported by Car Keys tells us that automatic gearboxes are now taking precedence over manual on UK roads. It’s based on data showing that close to 650,000 new cars with automatic gearboxes were registered in Britain in 2016 — a rise of 55% compared to 2013. And that’s not all — 45% of new car enquiries across the country are for vehicles designed with automatic gearboxes too.

Mike Best, Head of Sales at Contract Hire and Leasing, tells us:

“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.

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 increased fuel consumption and emissions.”

But manual driving tests are still more popular

If everyone’s choosing automatics, why are the majority of new drivers choosing manual cars to learn in? That’s what an investigation by The Telegraph tells us, with their data showing that around 95% of driving tests taken in the UK were conducted in manual vehicles.

Well, one of the big reasons for this is likely to be that if you pass your test in a manual, you’re allowed to drive both automatics and manuals. But if you learn in an automatic, you can only drive an automatic. It seems UK drivers like to keep their options open.

Pros and cons of an automatic

Automatic gearboxes offer a lot of benefits — so much so that some supercars don’t even offer a manual option because there’s so little demand.

Automatics are also generally considered to offer a more relaxing drive, with one study showing that the heartrate of drivers in an automatic is close to that of a passenger. Whether we want people to be chilled out while driving is a separate question — but on the upside, automatics are more fuel efficient than manuals, which is better for the environment.

There are downsides, though. Automatics generally cost more to buy, and unsurprisingly, some research suggests people driving automatics are less attentive to the road, since they don’t need to concentrate as hard. Yikes.

Pros and cons of a manual

Good old manual cars have their benefits too — they must, since our roads are currently dominated by them.

Some drivers say they find a manual offers more control, especially if conditions are slippery or you need to navigate around obstacles in the road — you can change gear and brake accordingly.

And then there’s the big one: manuals are cheaper to buy, and when you’ve got to cover petrol, insurance, MOTs and so on, savings on the car itself are often welcome.

That said, they’re not considered as fun to drive — some people even find them tedious, especially when it’s rush hour and you’re having to constantly hold down the clutch and change gears.

Manual vs automatic cars: which is cheaper to insure?

Another factor to consider when you’re deciding which type of car to buy is the cost of insurance. Admiral’s research suggests that premiums for automatic cars are 5.63% higher, apparently because of the increased claim cost and frequency in automatics. They also found — somewhat alarmingly — that the average premium for drivers with an automatic-only licence was 43.89% higher than those with full licenses. Crikey.

So what’s the best decision? It seems to us that the sensible choice is to go with the full licence so you have the full choice of vehicles. That way, you can make your decision after you pass, depending on what’s on the market at the time. Best of luck with the test.


Photo by Andras Vas on Unsplash

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