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Manual transmissions

Suppose you are buying a car (new or used) and you absolutely have to have a stick shift…how would you go about finding which cars have manual transmissions? Most sites don’t let you search by transmission type.

Search by the type of vehicle you are interested, then sort through them to see what type transmission they have. It takes some time, but usually each vehicle description lists transmission type. Some vehicles are built only with automatics.

Manuals are getting harder and harder to find, but there are still some out there. Keep looking.

Midsize or smaller w/4cyl, or sporty typically have available manual trans. Few others do. What kind of car are you looking for?

Why would you “absolutly have to have a stick shift”? Don’t know how to drive an automatic??

Why insist on a manual?

In my life I have owned six cars. Two of them had automatics. They were both stolen. One wrecked ('75 6-cyl Nova) and the other ('85 Accord SEi) never found. The '85 had a “club” on the steering wheel. Here in Wash. DC we have a serious problem with teenagers stealing cars. Most of these juvenile delinquents don’t know how to drive a stick.

You need to do some research. Go to the individual manufacturers’ web sites. Try,,,,, etc. I usually try to look for a link that reads “specifications.” It may be a little tedious, but it is part of the research of buying a new car.

If you would tell us about the other features you want in a vehicle, we might be able to recommend a particular model. Are you looking for a truck, SUV, sedan, minivan, econobox, or something sporty? How many seats? Usually these questions are more important than the type of transmission.

I had 5 cars before 1953 with manual transmissions. Since then I have had 16, at least, with automatic. As you probably assume, I never had some of them long, but I only had a problem with one, a 1959 Ford station wagon. Something in the housing broke.
83 Dodge p/u 9 years, 93 Caravan 4 years, 94 Dodge p/u 3 years. 96 Dodge van 12 years and still going.

I can think of a few other reasons to want a manual transmission.

-It is easier to change the fluid. When you drain the fluid from a manual transmission you get out a larger percentage of the fluid than with an automatic. If you want to do a full fluid change with an automatic transmission, it will cost you more. Keep in mind some vehicles don’t have a drain plug for draining the automatic transmission fluid, so with those models, add the labor of removing the pan and replacing the gasket for a simple fluid change.

-You have more control of the vehicle with a manual. If you are driving uphill through mountains at highway speeds, an automatic transmission can downshift to maintain speed, especially if you are using cruise control. In the same situation with a manual transmission, you can keep it in the same gear if you so desire.

-An automatic transmission is easier to overheat.

-Manual transmissions seem to last longer. Look around for cars with more than 300,000 miles. You will find some with their original manual transmissions still going strong, while a comparable automatic will have at least one transmission rebuild or replacement in its history. If the owner knows how to use a clutch properly, you might find some of the manuals with the original clutches too.

-A clutch job usually costs less than an automatic transmission rebuild or replacement.

-Almost all vehicles with a manual transmission can be towed behind an RV on all four wheels without mofifying the transmission or the hubs. If you want to tow an automatic behind an RV on all four wheels without modifying it, you will be limited to a few models. If you get one of the few automatic models that can be towed behind an RV on all four wheels without modifications, towing it will cause wear to the transmission. (To be fair, whether you tow a manual or an automatic, you will need to install a braking system and an electrical connection for the lights.)

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying the OP should not buy a car with an automatic. We still don’t know why she is insisting on a manual transmission. Today’s modern automatics last long enough (when properly cared for) that these issues I list aren’t usually that big of a deal…until you are faced with paying for an automatic transmission rebuild. At that point you might want to sit down to prepare for the shock.

If you don’t keep your cars very long, these issues probably don’t matter. I, however, buy my cars either new or slightly used and try to keep them for at least 200,000 miles. That is why I prefer manual transmissions.

Whitey, I can think of four more, good reasons to buy a stick.

  1. On a MT car, there’s only one “big ticket” item that can fail and total the car; on a AT, there’s two.

  2. On an AT, a battery or starter failure means you ain’t goin’ NOwhere! (Lost my starter at Mesa Verde Nat. Park–i.e. middle of nowhere–thankfully in a MT car).

  3. Unless we’re talking about sub-compacts and/or sporty cars, you can pick up a used MT cheap! (In fact, if you couple a MT to a compact-to-midsize domestic (not subcompact), they can’t GIVE 'em away!)

  4. If you own a MT, you now can drive ANY car in a pinch! (The downside of this is that, if you’re too tired/drunk/whatever to drive your car home, there’s no guarantee your buddy will be able to help out).

In addition to most of the European and Japanese brands, Ford is usually pretty good about offering their cars with manual transmissions, though you might have to special order them in. A lot of the problems Ford has had over the years, especially in the 80’s and 90’s, were with their automatic transmissions so the manual transmission versions of their cars were a really good bet.

For a while I had an '88 Taurus with a 4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed manual transmission and, even through the one I had was in really bad shape from the old owner, it’s still one of my all-time favorite cars. If I ever saw one in decent shape for sale, I’d buy it up in a second!

 If he wants a 4 cylinder with manual transmission, it is unlikely that he would want any extra features such as radio, heater, A/C, power steering, p/locks, p/windows, tach, etc, things that might add extra weight, or break down and need repair.  
 I would rather change automatic trans fluid every 3 or 4 years than push a clutch and change gears 100,000 times.  (in 3 or 4 years).

You won’t

Got my reason for looking for a stick shift … you feel in control when you are doing more than turning a steering wheel.

As to searching, most car manufacturers list “Manual”, and “auto”. They also have “build your own”, where you can decide to build with stick.

I see many manual transmissions being listed as also having cruiz control, which does not seem workable. How does cruiz control feature work with manual transmissions?

Cruise works just like in an auto, except when you accelerate you’re limited to the torque provided by the car’s 5th gear (assuming you are cruising in 5th). For quick acceleration you would have to downshift yourself which disconnects the cruise. In my old 87 Accord with a stick the cruise worked just fine.

Did your '87 have a clutch switch? My '86 doesn’t, which means you can start it in gear and if you put the clutch in with the cruise control on, the engine revs uncontrollably!

I am willing to bet that if the OP wants a four banger with a stick, she probably still wants a radio and a heater. You would be hard pressed to find one without those features anyway.

I’d rather push the clutch pedal and change gears. But then, I’m not afraid of a little work.

Well, that’s fine on highways and rural roads. I drive a stick myself, but it gets real old real fast in stop-and-go traffic. ATs have improved in cost, reliability, and efficiency to the point that I may seriously consider an AT on my next car (for the first time, in over 30 years of driving). Maybe a “manumatic” so I can play at shifting gears when I’m on the open road!

How does crui[se] control feature work with manual transmissions?

Hitting the brake or clutch pedals kicks it out. You press the “resume” button to go again. Of course, this means you can’t shift with the CC engaged. ('98 Saturn SL2)

Hi meanjoe,
Just curious. I’m driving my 1st manual and loving it (03 Xterra), but I’m not sure what you mean by #2. If you lose the battery or starter on a MT, how is it easier to get going with a MT than an AT? Thanks!