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Not Much Reason To Buy A Manual, Except To Be A Stubborn Curmudgeon

I wasn’t sure if I should post this discussion, but I thought, hey, we all come here to shoot the breeze about cars and stuff, right? In fact, that’s ALL we’re supposed to talk about here, and I’m bored and perhaps a little starved for an intelligent conversation, so here goes. . . .

Regular readers / posters here probably recall that I am in the market for a daily driver, and I prefer a manual transmission subcompact car, and I am especially partial to the Honda Fit. Regarding whether I should buy a new or used car, I am horribly torn with indecision, but that is a topic for another day.

I have been using some of the fine websites recommended to me by others here to browse for cars. One good thing about shopping for a used car with a manual transmission is it helps you narrow down your search. For example, you search for a popular car like a Toyota Corolla, you might get 100+ matches, specify manual transmission, that narrows it down to, like, 7.

I am very leery of buying a manual transmission car with over 100,000 miles on the clock, just because I know how to make a clutch last 200,000+ miles doesn’t mean other people do, especially people who know they’re going to be disposing of their car at 100,000 miles.

Yeah, I know that modern cars can easily go 200 – 300k miles with proper maintenance, but I grew up in an era where a car was worn out and mostly used up at 100k miles. I’ve got real issues, mentally, with paying more than a few thousand dollars for a car with 6-figures on the odometer. (Seems like the used cars that aren’t near, or beyond 100,000 miles, cost only a few thousand dollars less than a brand new one.)

I guess if one wants to be super-choosy about transmission, color, options, make & model of car one wants, one almost gets forced to buy a new car, or spend possibly months and months looking and shopping for the perfect used car, and asking endless questions on forums like this one, heh heh.

So I get back on the internet to check out “new” Honda Fits (and Mitsubishi Mirages, since I read @cwatkin’s praise for that little car). Out of FOUR Honda dealerships and TWO Mitsubishi dealerships in my local megapolitian area, they have a grand total of ZEE-ROW manual transmission cars in stock.

So I’m guessing if I REALLY WANTED a new, manual transmission Fit I’ll probably have to special order one? Dealers don’t really haggle with you on a car they have to special order, do they? You get to haggle on the car that’s sitting on the lot that no one wants, not the car the dealer has to go find for you because you really want it.

AND – TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY – I see where the CVT Fit is rated 4 mpg HIGHER (that’s significant!) than the 6-speed manual (Fit with CVT: 33/41/36 Fit with 6-speed stickshift: 29/37/32)

This is a transportationally existential crisis for me. I have always taken great pride in driving a manual transmission car. Whenever I’ve had occasion to tell someone my car is manual transmission, I almost always get one of two reactions: 1. They look at me in awe, because apparently shifting a transmission is some sort of superpower they do not possess. . . or . . . 2. They look at me like some kind of a throwback. . . “You drive a stickshift? What is this, 1936?” Either way, its fun. I like to be unique. Some people get neck tattoos and nose rings, I drive a manual transmission, to each his (or her) own.

(At the gym I exercise at, I AM the “freak” because usually I am the only one in the building WITHOUT any tattoos or piercings, but that’s an amusing off-topic anecdote. . . )

In closing, it hardly seems worth the trouble to buy a manual transmission car anymore. Is this really what the world has come to? 4 more miles per gallon from the automatic (CVT) than the manual. . . wow, this is really hard for me to come to terms with.

On a positive note, that 33/41/36 for the CVT Fit, that’s almost identical to what I’ve gotten in my ’93 Festiva, for a car that’s almost a thousand pounds heavier with loads of safety features like airbags, ABS, ESC, and a bunch of luxury features like air conditioning, cruise control, and power windows, backup camera, etc. that my ’93 Festiva doesn’t have, so I can’t say the future is all bad.

The tires on my old Festiva are just about bald. I REALLY didn’t want to send it off to the junkyard on a new set of tires, but I don’t think I’ve got a choice. Its going to take me a WHILE to come to terms with this. :frowning:

ALSO, earlier today I saw a television commercial for the Honda Fit where they actually state the price of the car, as opposed to just an artificially deflated lease (rental) payment. First one I’ve seen since a Buick commercial I saw sometime before Christmas. :smiley:

The CVTs do really improve the MPG. I have a forester, and I get consistently 34 MPG on a 60 mile trip I make frequently, city to city. In the summer that is, in the winter it drops to about 29.

@“Ed Frugal” you are not alone! I also prefer MTs and “go along” with AT for the sake of marital harmony.

Don’t let the 4 mpg difference affect you! To me, the personal preference/enjoyment is worth that small change in mpg. Life is too short to drive unhappy.

I understand your situation with buying a car. So I’m going to suggest something different based on your comments about the under/over 100,000 miles. A used car under 100k might still have a clutch as bad as one over 100k. So consider finding the best over 100k car you can for a price that can handle a possible clutch job (because even a car under 100k might require a clutch job).

More mpg in an automatic isn’t anything new. Many manufacturers have been doing that with computer controlled tranny’s for years. Usually by only 1 or 2 mpg though.

While I shifted (ha!) to ATs years ago, I am leery of CVTs. The last test I read of the Fit with CVT really didn’t like how it drove. Some cars with CVTs drive fine, but it seems that Honda hasn’t got it right yet. Make sure you test drive a Fit with CVT a long time before you go for one.

Call me a stubborn curmudgeon (I’m comfortable with that actually), but when EPA mandates finally extinguish the last flames of traditional automatics in favor of CVTs I’ll go looking for a manual. To my mind, CVTs have not yet proven themselves to be a “forever” transmission.

Besides, I prefer driving a manual. The only reason I now drive a slush is because of medical issues. Note: “slush” is what we used to call automatics.

Happy motoring,
the #1 curmudgeon.

My grown kids (early 40’s) have Fits. One is the automatic tranny, the other is a manual. I’ve driven both and the manual is fun and peppy. The auto was just not fun, kind of sluggish and doggy. Totally different.

To my mind, CVTs have not yet proven themselves to be a "forever" transmission.

There’s a transmission shop I use for fluid changes…and they LOVE CVT’s…they usually have 1 or two in their shop every week. Some are very serviceable…while other designs are a drop and replace.

Having spent some time in Europe, the preference for manuals is more than economic. German men think only sissies drive automatics; the same in Britain.

When renting a car over there, some don’t even stock automatics.

I like shifting gears in the country, but city commuting is for the birds with a manual.

With the number of people who can’t shift a manual transmission for my main vehicle I will have automatic. That removes the chance if I become to ill to drive at least if I have someone with me they can drive me home.

I’m going to replacing my current 2003 Mustang GT, with a new car in about a month. That new car will be 2016 Mustang GT, and it’s going to have a manual.

When you go to a dealer, they will have a listing for all cars for sale within a large radius so if there is one within that radius, they can get it for you. Negotiation is possible in some cases. You are looking for a car that is hard to unload so in your case, I’d say it is entirely possible.

There usually is an additional delivery charge, but since they have car carriers constantly going between the dealerships, that to could be waived if you are willing to wait a little bit.

As for the gas mileage. You will not exceed the EPA estimates with an automatic transmission. It will be difficult to even match them. At least that is my experience, I don’t know anyone who exceeds the EPA estimate with an automatic, but I’m sure I’m about to find a few who have or claim to have after I post this. Autos suffer more than manuals in winter as they hold lower gear ratios longer when the engine is cold.

A manual is a different story. I usually exceed the EPA estimates with a manual and I know other who do also, but I also know some who don’t even come close. Its driving style. The automatic follows a preprogrammed shifting pattern where the manual is much more flexible.

But there is one other factor, many of todays 6 speed manuals are performance transmission with close ratio gear spacing and lower final drive axles, so the automatics get the advantage here for fuel economy. A wider ratio manual with a higher final drive ratio would easily beat any automatic for all but the most spirited drivers.

My daughter was quite dejected when she could not orderd a M/T in her Escape.
She’s had a manual since the first truck I got her for her own. ( old GSA motor pool Ranger )
Then a Mustang, Then she married and Troy had a Miata, the Miata became a Civic Hybrid and they added a Jeep… all of them manuals.

Couple of points here;

I still prefer not having a CVT as much as possible, mostly because we keep our cars “forever”.

I still enjoy driving a manual, so gas mileage is not really much of a game changer, I do not have one now because wife and daughter don’t want to be bothered.

As far as the gas mileage estimates on manuals, I always get better mileage and I guess it is because of the estimates not factoring in all the miles you can coast in neutral :smiley:

If I buy a used manual shift car with 60K miles or more, I factor in the cost of a new clutch in the purchase price and then decide on what price to pay for the car. Most who buy them, don’t know how to drive a stick and that is the reason they are getting rid of the car in the first place.

I get better mileage than rated with a CVT. But then I do drive conservatively, although at 5 MPH over the speed limit. 15 Forester. Rated is 24/32, I get a consistent 34 city to city, summer.

I’ll wait and see how it does for reliability. But I do plan to replace the ATF at 40k.

And here they come.

Great comments, everyone! I always know I can get an interesting / informative discussion going here.

Makes sense that CVT transmissions would be prone to failure. As I think was mentioned on another thread some months ago, in the name of energy efficiency we’ve gotten toilets that don’t flush, lightbulbs that don’t light up a room , water heaters that don’t provide enough hot water for a good shower, why not transmissions that fail prematurely too?

More & more cars have 'em now, too. Soon it will be hard to avoid a CVT if you want an automatic.

I did test drive a manual transmission Fit, but it was an EX. Had a sunroof, ugh! Who invented that torture device? After all the sunburns on my head, not to mention the leakage I dealt with on the one I had on my Jeep. . . . ugh, never again! If all cars came standard with a sunroof, I’d pay extra to NOT have one!

Now that I think of it, that test drive was over a year ago. Time starts to run together as you get older. . .

I’m a little surprised that folks mostly support my position, I guess I was kind of expecting people to tell me to “hang it up” with the manual transmissions already. On the other hand, this IS a forum for automotive enthusiasts, people who are into cars and driving are a lot more like to “get it” on an issue like this.

Of course I’ve got time on my side, and dealer inventory changes all the time. Perhaps by this summer circumstances will be different.

BTW, being a stubborn curmudgeon is kind of my specialty. I think it serves me well. In life, as in investing, it often pays to zig when everyone else zags.

This would be the place to get support for your position! Nearly all of us CAN drive a manual (and their kids, too!), some don’t choose to anymore for various reasons. Most of the populace can’t drive a manual anymore so dealers don’t stock them… Except Mustangs and Camaros, MX-5’s ect. Criminals walk away from manuals because they can’t drive them.

I see this as a general decline on manual (pun intended) skills overall. Lots of kids can’t fix anything, including dinner. They throw it away and start over. They can’t change a simple flat tire. You can’t get a kid to train to be a machinist even though high paying jobs go begging. You don’t see you people on construction jobs so much anymore. Try hiring a competent contractor these days. Most of their work I wouldn’t accept on a job I’m doing, let alone one I’m paying for.