CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

So what's the deal with Manual Trans cars with the Lower Price?

I’m still looking for a used vehicle and saw a couple of Ford Focus Hatchbacks - but the same year, same mileage and same condition were about $1500 or more difference in price with the manual transmission coming in on the lower end.

What is the story with that? Is it inconvenience of the manual vs the automatic or do the manuals not last as long? Or something else?

AND should I spend $3800 (negotiable) on a 2000 Jeep Cherokee Sport with 174K in great condition or $3900 (negotiated) on a 2007 Ford Focus ZX3 S hatchback with 120K in great condition?

Check these out - Focus - http://sanantonio.craigslist.org/cto/3345912503.html

Jeep - http://www.ezautoconnection.com/inventory/view/5964757

What do you think? Two different beasts I know!!

Sadly, not many people in America want a stick anymore, and they tend to sit on car lots for quite a while until a weirdo like me comes along looking for one. A well made manual trans is actually pretty hard to break, but you can burn up a clutch in short order if your technique is not good.

@ Personage
You have got it backwards. Manual will last much longer than automatic.

Stick shift is great. But hard to find. Clutches today are much tougher than years ago. I personally would stay away from the jeep due to my rustout experience with a 1992 grand cherokee. That aside the focus is much newer and will have much better mileage.

Thanks for the feedback!

I love the Manuals but the wife never learned how to use one and I’m not about to go through a Clutch assembly trying to teach her because she may not be able to learn anyway. The Idea was to buy a smaller vehicle for her to use so I could start driving the Mini Van that she is racking up miles on using it for work. I’m retired and just piddle around town.

Truthfully that are so many vehicles for sale I’m getting really confused as to what to buy. That is why I’m trying to get advice in here. I don’t want to buy new because we are primarily on a fixed income.

The Focus if you looked at it - is really clean and well maintained but its a manual. This is my dilemma.

I’ve had about 75 vehicles since 1966 and some were Standard shift on the column and many others 3 and 4 speed on the floor. Sure do miss the cars of the 60’s and 70’s. Those V8’s really performed.

In the US most people want the automatic transmission, therefore lower demand reduces the resale value of the car with a stick shift. As for longevity the manual should outlive the automatic and is cheaper to maintain.

Yeah…Those V-8s did perform, but these days there are V-6s in the 3.5-4.0 liter (Roughly 215-240 CID) range that are very powerful. The new V-6 Mustangs will peel your eyelids back!

If driven correctly, a manual has more potential for longevity. But in practice, so many have driven autos when they do drive a manual, they beat the crap out of it. The only way to make manuals worthwhile, is to make people,drive them.

I expect it costs considerably less for the manufacturer to construct, install, and test an automatic transmission compared to a manual. An automatic is just a more complicated gizmo, and that’s why it costs more.

By the mid 1950s, any domestic automobile make offered an automatic transmission. The automatic had become very popular. Pontiac first offered the GM Hydramatic automatic transmission in 1948 and 80% of the Pontiacs sold that year were so equipped. Ford bought the GM Hydramatic for use in the Lincoln in mid 1949. Nash, Hudson and Kaiser used the GM Hydramatic. Other makes developed their own automatic transmissions. At the same time, the engines were becoming more powerful. The 3 speed, manual column shift transmission often couldn’t stand up to the torque of these more powerful engines and often the column shifters were balky and would hang up between gears. I had a 1947 Pontiac 3 speed manual and it shifted very nicely. However, I had a 1955 Pontiac with the V-8 engine and the 3 speed column shift manual and not only did I have to replace the front transmission bearing, but the column shifter was terrible. Even that far back, GM wasn’t really interested in equipping cars with a manual shift. Fortunately, in the late 1950s, for those who wanted to shift gears, some manufacturers offered a 4 speed floor shift manual. It was rugged, but cost about the same as an automatic transmission. However, by the 1960s, most buyers of domestic cars preferred the automatic transmission. Most imports in the 1950s and 1960s had smooth shifting manual transmsions, but by the late 1970s, the automatic had taken over in the imports as well. Many current generation drivers can’t handle a manual transmission. Hence, the price on a used manual transmission car often makes the car a real bargain.

Demand does affect the price and most people seem to want an automatic anymore. It’s near imposssible to shift gears while texting, playing with the GPS, or wading through the second DVD of Pride and Prejudice… :slight_smile:

You present 2 vastly diffferent vehicles and it’s unknown what your driving habits and expectations are for the vehicle. Any used vehicle should be checked out first.

However, based on those 2 as presented I would go with the Focus if it were me based on age, mileage, and much better fuel economy. There’s also a chance the Jeep may have been driven a lot more aggressively than the Focus.

I could be wrong but from the pics of the Jeep it looks to me like there’s a serious door fitment issue on the passenger side. Note the gap between the front and rear doors as it goes from bottom to top. This might be a sign of a vehicle that has been seriously whacked at one point.

The closeup pic of one of the wheels also shows 2 wheel weights in one spot on the outside and that could bring up the point about how many are on the inside. This could point to a problematic tire or vibration problem that someone has been wrestling with. It could also mean nothing but using 2 weights instead of one seems a bit iffy to me. Granted 2 weights can weigh the same as one but that could point to someone not caring about appearance and a lack of professionalism although I do realize this might fall under nitpicking…

Some where in the 1970’s I actually did own a 1953 Buick Riviera, I don’t remember much but here goes - It was Buick’s 50th anniversary, it had the Dynaflo Transmission, I think their first Automatic, Oil Pan Air Filter, Starter Switch in the Gas Peddle and the seats were spring loaded and like sitting on your couch. It was massive and heavy but then of course as things went some airhead moron Broadsided me and put an end to my dream car. 29K on the odometer. Bought it from a farmer who bought it for his wife - she died and he put the car in the barn. Snow rotted out the exhaust system and parts of the rocker panel but I had all that fixed with dual exhaust.

I think sooner or later Manuals will follow the path of the Dinosaurs because the younger generations have not had the opportunity to learn how to drive them and therefore the Corporate Mentality will deem it a feasible waste and attempt to faze them out entirely.

I don’t know for sure but maybe conversely the Manual can make a come back. There is a great difference in Shifting down manually vs the Passing gear automatic version.

The only downside I can remember about stick shift is not being able to hold my coffee cup while driving. But we’ve become so lazy as a society haven’t we?

Not many people want them. When the wife was going to Norway with her sisters and she was going to be the driver, and all the rentals in Norway are manuals, we went looking for a practice car. There was only one manual in the GM dealer lot and they let us use it. Seemed happy to get it out of there for a while. The first car I ever drove was a 58 Chev manual when I was 13, but they can be a pain in the neck in traffic and hard on the knees. I really prefer automatics.

As far as retooling is concerned, it may be cheaper to only have autos in some models. There are too many cars out there that only sell autos. Surprisingly, Toyota only sells autos in many of their legit off road and tow vehicles…the 4runner, Sequia and FJ. There has to be a reason as most who buy these have been thought of in the past as being the most capable of driving a standard. The reason is that autos perform better in the situations that these vehicles were made for.

Welcome to economics!

It’s supply v. demand, pure and simple. There is not a lot of supply for manuals, but even less demand.

As for which will last longer, I think its a bit of a wash. Most automatics nowadays will likely outlive the car body itself, so I think their longevity issues are massively over-hyped. Not that long ago, it was a significant issue, but now? Not so much, IMO. Manual transmissions will tend to last longer, sure - but if the body wears out at the same rate, does it matter? The bigger question with manuals isn’t the transmission itself, but the clutch. If you don’t drive the car properly, the clutch will likely wear out well before an automatic transmission would. And on some cars, replacing the clutch is a bear and a half. Some coworkers have spent upwards of $1200-1500 replacing their clutches recently.

Of course, the line between the two is getting blurred rapidly. Now you have some automatics that are really nothing but computer controlled manual transmissions. In fact, if you bought a new Ford Focus with an automatic transmission, that is what you would get - a dual clutch automatic, where you essentially have two manual transmissions, one with 1st, 3rd, 5th, and reverse gears and the other with 2nd, 4th, and 6th. They’re hardly any different than a manual in function, except they’re automatically controlled. And thanks to that control, the clutches should last much longer than you would get from an average driver in a classic manual transmission vehicle.

@ dagosa
Not sure that I agree with the automatics performing better in those intended situations. I go the the gulf coast often and having the ability to rock back and forth with a manual to get out of a sand trap is essential to getting out - automatic don’t do that as well - and we can also add the stuck in snow routine - I remember living in NY and having a manual get me out of a snow pile while the Automatics just sat there spinning - even with the advent of Posi-traction it was still more difficult to get free.
Of course Bing is right about the heavy traffic problem and the pain in the knee. Both Manual and Auto have their advantages.

Simply supply and demand, only about 15% of cars are sold with manual, most people can’t drive one, and many cars don’t offer one anymore. It costs the manufacturer so much to certify a manual trans version to the EPA for mileage and emissions that they can’t spread over the tiny few they might sell to those of us that actually buy them. Europe is following the US fast! About half of cars sold in Europe have automatics now. Those of us that buy used and keep them until the die save a bunch of money!

Back in 1968, my brother owned a 1963 Studebaker and was having some difficulty getting parts. He saw an ad at a Buick dealer for a 1963 Buick LeSabre and it had a ridiculously low price. He figured that something was wrong with it, but went to look anyway. To his amazement, the car was in great condition with low mileage. He took it for a test drive and it drove very well and the engine ran flawlessly. When he got back, the dealer offered him a great price for his trade in for his Studebaker. It was going to cost him very little for the trade. When he pressed the sales manager about the price, the manager finally said, “Look, the Buick is a manual transmission with no power steering or brakes. Very few people want the car. I also have a little girl who really wants a Studebaker. She came around while you were test driving the Buick and really wants your car”. Well, my brother traded for the Buick and everyone was happy.

Surprisingly, Toyota only sells autos in many of their legit off road and tow vehicles

For towing you’re better off with an Automatic then a manual. The automatics can tow MORE. Just have to get a dedicated tranny cooler.

One other reasons manuals are cheaper…is because they are far less complicated and cheaper to make. Many auto transmissions today are computer controlled and thus have a lot of electronics. Not to mention the many clutches and valve body. I’ve never even attempted to rebuild an automatic…but have rebuilt a couple of manual tranny’s.

The reason sticks are cheaper is that only 1/3 of Americans know how to drive one…So the market for them is much smaller…