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Bad idea to get my daughter a manual if she doesn't know how to drive one?

My 18 year old daughter is ready to buy her first car. We have noticed that manual transmission cars are slightly cheaper. I feel that everyone should know how to drive a manual but have not had the guts to teach her on my car as I wish to drive it for many years to come. How crazy is it to help her buy a manual and then teach her to drive it? Will she wear out the clutch or do irreversible damage before learning? We are considering a 2008 Toyota Yaris. Thanks for any helpful advice. This is a big decision for her and I don’t want to lead her astray!

Its not crazy unless she really has issues with hand eye and foot coordination. I would find a really cheap used clunker of a car with a manual trans and teach her on it so that if you get a 500 dollar car and she messes up the trans its not going to be to bad. You could also help her get a better used car with a manual trans that wont be an arm and leg to repair should she destroy the clutch or trans but the choice is yours. Also consider that most new cars are now automatics with sporty models being the few that have manual numbers as fewer and fewer people know how to drive one.

It's Not Crazy At All. Taught Properly, It Should Take Only A Few Trials To Become Proficient.

What Is Crazy Though Is To Put A Young Person In Such A Little, Dangerous Car. She's Got Her Whole Life Ahead. Small cars don't fare well in collisions with large cars, SUVs, and trucks, which are out on the roads is numbers.

Don't be fooled by recent advances in small car safety. All cars are becoming somewhat safer. In an "accident," physics is on the side of larger vehicles. If savings on gasoline is a concern then earn more money instead.

I have a 23 year-old driver and a 16 year-old driver. Be the parent. Do your homework. Get something larger. She'll be safer and you'll sleep better.


By all means, teach your daughter to drive manual transmission. It’s an important skill to have and not at all difficult to learn. All of my family members learned early-on how to “shift for themselves.” Now we can swap cars whenever necessary.

And the youngsters, now out on their own and buying their own cars, have each gotten good deals on used cars – chiefly because they could drive cars with manual transmissions and are happy doing so.

Whether or not you will actually buy a car with manual transmission is another point entirely, and you can decide later. I will only mention that a few dollars saved ought not to be the deciding factor. Consider the driver’s comfort level with manual shifting. Some of us still think it’s fun. The rest are far better off spending the extra bucks on auto transmission.

The Toyota Yaris is a fine little car. If that is the family choice, go for it.

I think that you should teach her how to drive a stick on your car first, then decide if a manual transmission is right for her. I’m sure that you don’t think your car is more important the she is. And she won’t do much damage to the car. About the worst that can happen is that the clutch wears out a bit faster. Just make sure that she errs on the side of letting the clutch out too slowly rather than too quickly. Dumping the clutch can damage the mechanical components, while slow application might just cause more wear to the mating surfaces.

Nope, not crazy at all. I personally think everyone should learn to drive in a manual. If you can drive a car with a manual transmission, you can drive virtually anything on the road.

There’s been more than once I was the only one available when the car “owner” (read person who borrowed Dad’s car) ended up not sober enough to drive, and I had to be the safe one. I know, I know, we were all under drinking age, but I was the sober one. Had I not been able to drive a standard, we would have had to call for help…landing us all in trouble.

Teach her. She’ll thank you later.


This, According To A Wall Street Journal Article Titled:

Small Cars Are Dangerous Cars Fuel economy zealots can kill you.

"Even though the Smart car and other minis such as the Honda Fit and the Toyota Yaris have fared relatively well in single-car crash tests, they performed poorly in these two-car frontal offset collisions. In the words of IIHS president Adrian Lund, though much safer than they were a few years ago, minicars as a group do a comparatively poor job of protecting people in crashes, simply because they're smaller and lighter."

"That difference is reflected in the real world. The death rate in minis in multi-vehicle crashes is almost twice as high as that of large cars. And in single-vehicle crashes, where there's no oversized second vehicle to blame, the difference is even greater: Passengers in minis suffered three times as many deaths as in large cars."


Some of these little cars are apparently cute and attractive to some people. Many people misinterpret the safety testing and ratings. I guess the choice is up to the individual. I choose safety first, MPG second. All the money one saves driving a mini car seems kind of silly after a tragedy. Like I said, do your homework, be the parent.


Yes, definitely teach her how to drive a manual. I taught our daughter about 7 years ago. Since then her travels have taken her many places in the world where the only rental cars available were manual transmissions. And several times she was the only one in her group who knew how to drive a manual.

When she was learning how to drive a manual, she had no clue why I was encouraging her to do so. Since then she has said several times how glad she is that she knows how.

Also, here’s something I’ve posted before. Years ago a father asked if he should teach his daughter how to drive a standard shift. Someone replied with this, which hit home for me because it was the same experience I had with our daughter:

Teach her yourself. On a quiet Sunday morning, drive to a big parking
lot by some circuitous route where you’re showing her the basics of
shifting. Then let her try. When she lets the clutch out for the first
time, the car will stall. She will immediately look at you for help
using the same smile she used when she was 6 and you knew everything in
the universe.

Remember that precious moment because it may be the last time you’ll experience it.

What Is Crazy Though Is To Put A Young Person In Such A Little, Dangerous Car

According To A Wall Street Journal Article Titled:
Small Cars Are Dangerous Cars

While I agree that generally a smaller, lighter car is less safe, all else being equal. Statics prove that. However it must be remembered that the most important safety device is the driver. If you want proper data, you need to adjust for the fact that drivers of small cars are not the same as the general driving public.

I would suggest that on average the drivers of small cars are younger and more aggressive drivers than those of large cars.

I remember my first static’s class look at a General Electric study of street lights in, as I recall Hoboken NJ. They installed street lamps on all the even numbered streets and left the odd number streets without street lamps. The result was as expected, crime was reduced.

However someone decided to look at a little deeper. While it did not show up on the original study, the odd numbered streets had crime increase almost equal to the decrease on the even numbered streets.

Back on topic, I suggest that today few people need to know manual. I Have never owned an automatic transmission car. Both my kids learned on a manual, but not everyone does nor do they need to.

I think the driver's ed classes in almost all schools do a disservice to their students by NOT teaching them to drive with a manual transmission. I only know of one that does. It's in a rural setting where fathers need their kids to help out by driving wheat trucks during harvest and so forth.

By all means, teach your daughter to drive one. Not knowing how is akin to being handicapped. I have taught several people to drive manuals. They include three kids, two sisters, and one daughter in law. My neice specifically asked for a manual transmission car so her mother, who refused to EVER learn, would not be able to borrow it from her.

The trick to teaching it is to start out by letting her observe how you do it. She's ridden with you all her life, but probably never REALLY watched what you were doing. Then head to a wide open parking lot, like a school on a Sunday. She won't wear out the clutch on the Yaris in question, unless it's already 99% gone. Go for it. She'll have it down in half an hour.

There are three completely separate questions here, and as usual I have opinions on all of them of them.

Should you buy her a stick-shift car? Depends on whether she will be driving in congested traffic or moving traffic. Stick shifts are a real pain after an hour or two in LA-style stop and go traffic. If traffic is reasonable, she will probably like the stick. I have never known anyone who simply disliked sticks in general although they knew how to drive them. My daughters learned sticks at 16 and when they moved up to better cars, they both chose sticks. Others have expressed concerns about choosing subcompacts. I would echo those concerns.

If she learns in a new stick shift car, will she damage it? Almost zero chance of substantial damage. My daughters taught all their their friends in high school and college (at least a dozen kids that I know of) how to drive stick in my old Volvo wagon. All those learners combined shaved a total around 50k miles total off a clutch that would have lasted 150k miles otherwise.

Is it important that she learn to drive a stick? Absolutely! I was touring western Europe last month (Spain, France, and Italy) Since I have little interest in architecture, I found myself peering in the windows of parallel parked cars as we walked around the cities. Perhaps one in one hundred cars had an automatic transmission. The rare automatics I saw were in Mercedes and larger BMWs. Central/south America is similar. In Asia most of the private cars are sticks but the tourist rental cars are automatics.

When my kids were born, I made a mental list of all the skills I would make sure they would learn before they left home, just in case someday they really needed to know. Among these were: Swim, drive a stick shift car, perform routine car maintenance, ride a motorcycle, groom-saddle-ride a horse (though we live in the city), assemble and fire several types of firearms (though we own none).

I think it's a bad idea to get your child one of the smallest cars out there. It fared poorly in crash tests, as shown by the ranking here:

Sure it's cheaper, but teen driving is probably the most risky thing she'll do all her life. Do some more research and get a safer car.

As for a manual, ok, if she's good at learning on YOUR car. You don't want to find out she's not a good learner with a car you're now stuck with. The $$ you save buying a manual you'll likely lose on selling it, most folks want automatics.

I was that daughter whose first car was a manual. My dad told me how, I practiced while he rode (& probably prayed haha). The next day, I was told if I wanted to make it to class, I would figure it out and I did! The best practice, is trial and error when the roads aren’t too busy (maybe let her ride around the neighborhood untill she feels comfortable). I stalled out and mis-shifted many times before perfecting it. I’m really glad I learned, it’s not something many younger kids can do!

I also say go ahead, buy the manual, and teach her. When I met the woman who became my wife I drove a stick- a 1970 Plymouth Duster with three on the floor- she learned to drive a stick- and now she’s the one who insists our new cars have manual transmissions. And we’ve driven a couple of cars 150K+ on the original clutch so I think she learned how pretty well. Might go full circle and get a new 6 spd manual transmission Dodge Dart.

What WE think doesn’t count for much…How does your DAUGHTER feel about it?

I guess I disagree with most. In this day and age, get her an automatic if you are willing to fund the car. Save yourself headaches. When I taught our kids to drive, we had nothing but manual transmission cars. They both loved to drive them but here, twenty years later, they each have two car families and all are autos. I was weaned on standard and all my cars and trucks are autos. Cars with manuals are now for fun !

Buy an auto, it will be worth much more come trade in time, more then the difference you pay now !
Don’t bother to teach her drive a standard. Let her make that decision when she drives her own car, then you can help her then if you wish. Swimming, mandatory, ball room dancing, absolutely, a second language , without a doubt, visiting forgien countries, for sure…driving a manual, forget about it !

Just you and I Jos…we are the only practical non rednecks in this discussion. ;=)

I’d teach her how to drive a manual on my own car then let her decide. Personally I prefer a manual transmission, but many people who do lots of city/stop and go driving soon get tired of shifting gears. Taught correctly how to drive a manual will not only save at the time of purchase, but also on gas and in many cases prevent having to pay to have an automatic transmission rebuilt years down the road. Clutches don’t wear out very fast if they are used correctly. The last clutch I had replaced had been in the car for about 260K miles and included Charlotte, NC city traffic 5-7 days a week. The clutch that replaced it now has about 210K miles on it.

The argument about small vs. large is one you’ll have to weight out for yourself. We have 7 cars in the family with 5 of them being compact cars and 2 being intermediate. My 21 year old son drives a '02 Ford Escort. One of my brother’s was T boned a few years ago in I think an '08 Nissan Versa which turned the car over and totaled it and he wasn’t hurt. My other brother hit a cow in an '01 Nissan Maxima about 1 1/2 years ago and spent a few weeks in the trauma unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center with extensive head injuries. In the early '80’s I turned over a '78 MG Midget ragtop. I wasn’t wearing a seat belt and of course there were no air bags, the only injuries I had were cuts and a very badly bruised left arm. Another reason the injury rate is probably higher in small cars than large cars is because there’s probably more small cars on the road than large cars. I do agree with the point that a small car is probably less safe when in a collision with a large car. Who knows how much less safe?

As a woman I’ll weigh in on this discussion, if I may.

In answer to your question, I’ll strongly suggest that the first and foremost consideration is SAFETY. Two specific safety considerations to keep in mind:

  1. The crash safety of any car your daughter buys.
  2. The mechanical reliability of the car is a safety issue. You don’t want to buy a car that saves money if it is a car that is apt to leave her stranded due to mechanical problems. Stranded is vulnerable.
    So buy a reliable car that is at least mid-sized for safety. If that means buying the basic model without any of the options that add cost, then go for safety and wait to have the options until later years when she can afford them.

By all means, teach her to drive a manual. It may come in very handy at some point. Teach her on your car. Okay, it may wear out the clutch earlier but I doubt by all that much. You want her already to be comfortable with a manual such she doesn’t have to think about it BEFORE she is trying to get used to a brand new car that will otherwise have her challenged to keep focused on driving safely while learning all the new ins and outs of the new car. She is a young and therefore a relatively inexperienced driver so any new car will be more distracting for her to get accustomed to than it is for a more experienced driver.

If she likes driving a manual well enough after learning in your car, then by all means consider buying a car with manual shifting as long as it is a SAFE car. If it turns out she is more comfortable with driving an automatic then buy that for her to drive. She’ll still have learned the manual in your car and have that skill if and when she has need to make use of that knowledge and experience.

Good luck.

I’ve always thought that it helps to divide the learning into two separate steps: first learn to manage the fundamentals of being on the road without also needing to think about shifting. Once that is well underway, something in the order of a few weeks perhaps, then bring in manual shifting if there’s some reason to do so. That is of course somewhat dependent on where you live: city congestion vs rural open space.

Generally I agree with the idea that it’s useful for most people to at least know the fundamentals of driving a manual transmission, but that’s NOT to say that it’s necessarily valuable to OWN a manual transmission car. If you like it for whatever reason, great. If not, get an automatic. It’s no big deal. I agree with Caddyman about letting it be her choice.

In Isreal if you take your drivers test in a automatic you legally can’t drive a stick unless you retake your test with a stick. Driving a stick is very enjoyable to me, I love it. Plus being able to drive stick has gotten me out of alot of jams in my day. It’s a good skill to have. However I fear it’s a lost art. With few exceptions you can’t buy sticks any more. Alas I think driving sticks will go the way of stoking the fire in your stanley steamer.