Why drive a manual?



I drive a 2011 Elantra and like it very much. It is an automatic. All of my cars have been automatics - a friend tried to teach me to drive a standard but we didn’t get too far literally and figuratively. But my question is: Why do people drive standard shift automobiles? I can understand if you drive an Italian or German sports car but a Honda Fit !? Can you help me understand? My “guilty” friends seem to have little insight into the matter.




Primarily many people find it fun to drive a manual shift.
Vehicles with lower/marginal horsepower engines you have more control keeping the engine in its best power zone.
And a few think the they can achieve a worthwhile gas mileage improvement.


I’m mechanically inclined and I’m cheap, so I buy used cars that I’m sure will be nice to drive and still reliable. Manual gearboxes last a looooong time. I do not trust a CVT to go more than 100k miles. I recently had a manual with 140,000 miles and the clutch was still good, So if you’re careful about it, you can have almost zero transmission costs for a long time.


Manuals allow for a higher degree of driver control
Manuals are generally more efficient at transferring an engine’s power to the wheels
Manuals are less expensive to build, service, and repair
Manuals are more reliable than automatics
With smaller engines manuals tend to improve both performance and fuel economy (the gap has closed up quite a bit in recent years though)
IMHO people who drive manuals tend to be more attentive drivers


All that said, manuals are very rare, many cars that used to have them available no longer do. Why? Mostly because the great majority of folks like the convenience, most new car buyers won’t own a car long enough to have the infrequent mechanical problems affect them, and automatics now get similar mpgs to manuals.


I agree with all your reasons. The last one is the most important for me as I get older.


I’d add to FoDaddy’s worthy points:

A manual can be push or roll started with a nearly dead battery.
If the neutral safety switch is disabled, a manual can be driven a short distance by the starter motor. Handy when stalled on railroad tracks at an inopportune moment.
And, yes, more fun to drive, especially in a small, nimble car. But I loved my 1979 Toyota 4X4 truck with its manual transmission. It did need a clutch master cylinder somewhere around 20 years.

My 1999 Honda Civic has had no transmission work except for scheduled oil changes, which I do myself. Simple drain and fill. The clutch is the original.


Years ago before we had 5 and 6-speed automatics, many 4-cylinder economy cars with automatic transmissions couldn’t get out of their own way, while the equivalent models with a 5-speed stick would run pretty good. I’ve experienced this comparison in several cars, including the SL models that Saturn had when they started up. I drove a 1994 SL-2 with a 5-speed for 11 years, and that thing would fly! It would accelerate up hills without even trying very hard. My friend had one with a automatic and it was a dog.


My thought was longevity. though having both auto and manual, In the long run it seems inconsequential.


The new Automatics get pretty good gas mileage. Of all of the automatics I have had, maintaining them has made the transmission outlast the rest of the car. Never had to rebuilt one.
The new race or racer cars usually do better with a dual clutch auto, so the manual transmission is out there too.

Manuals are also hard to find and the old days of getting a good deal on a used one is over because of the same reason. When I wanted a manual car 2 yrs ago, I had to buy a new one.

Having said all of that, some of us, including myself, enjoy driving a manual car. It is fun. Even when I drive an auto, my left leg is moving up and down. Last week we went on a long road trip in our automatic and my left leg was getting cramps from not moving, so there is your health benefit.


Even when I’m driving stick, my legs and feet tend to “fall asleep”

It’s not as scary as it sounds, but it’s an uncomfortable situation


I prefer a manual because I have more control. Note, I do not own a vehicle with a manual transmission right now. One vehicle belongs to my wife (highlander), one vehicle belonged to my grandmother and I inherited (Lesabre), and my truck - well I wanted a half ton truck and a manual transmission has been hard to find in a 1/2 ton for quite some time.

Regarding driver control, there is one specific instance where a 4 speed auto with overdrive drives me nuts. It’s cruising in the 45-50 mph range. If you let off the throttle a little, or maintain speed, the torque converter wants to lock. Then if you need to accelerate, the engine lugs. Give it more throttle, the torque converter unlocks and you accelerate with adequate power…until you let off the throttle a little. Then the torque converter locks and the engine begins to lug again. I’ve noticed this more with trucks. At any rate, I’d much prefer a manual in that scenario. I’d just leave it in 4th. I know, I could turn OD off or select “tow mode” in the auto, and I sometimes do. But that sort of defeats the purpose of an “automatic”.

I’m editing this to add - now that current automatics have as many or more gears than a manual trans, and often a manual mode where you can selects gears at the push of a button…I prefer those over a manual. 5 speed manual vs 4 speed AOD, I still prefer the manual.


Some people grew up driving when most non-luxury cars were manuals. In the late 50s and early 60s the full size sedans from Chevrolet, Ford, Pontiac and Studebaker and of course the vast majority of pickups had manual transmissions so most people could drive them and as one of that generation driving a manual is like walking, there’s no thinking involved, it’s just normal driving. But today’s automatics are so far advanced that they have become the standard rather than an expensive option.


A manual transmission has a simpler internal configuration and therefore is generally less expensive, more robust & reliable, and if it does break, less expensive to repair. It used to be the case 20+ years ago that manuals tended to yield faster 0-60 times and better mpg’s, but with the 8+ speed automatics now available, that’s mostly no longer the case. Beyond that, well, it’s pretty much covered in the comments above. I’ve driven both manuals and automatics for 40+ years and continue to prefer the better feel and control of the engine rpm that a manual provides. There’s definitely downsides to manuals too. Like you have to shift correctly or the engine lugs or stalls, and starting out from a stoplight, it isn’t as easy make a smooth & quick get-away with a manual. In the past 5 years or so most cars on the road have automatics with very powerful engines (compared to my 26 year old manual-equipped Corolla), and it’s not uncommon for the driver behind me when the light changes to green to think I haven’t noticed b/c I haven’t started going yet & they give me a quick beep to alert me, when in fact I’m already in the process of shifting and letting out the clutch.


I like the control of driving a manual. I am not one to say the transmissions are more reliable as I’ve broken more manual transmissions that I can remember. All but one were in a race car. I’ve never broken an automatic. The six speed ZF autos in my current Mustang and my wife’s Audi can be manual shifted to give me the control I want when I want it but can be full auto when I want that.

But I can still drive a manual if presented with one without even thinking about it. Muscle memory is a grand thing.


The newer 6 speed autos are pretty nice. I’ve never driven an 8 or 10 speed. You’d think that at some point there’s a diminishing return on multiple gears.

I wonder how the rebuild cost for a 6-10 speed auto will compare to the rebuild cost of 4 speed auto with OD?


I assume you have the 5.0 with that 6 speed in the Mustang? I owned a 2013 F150 for a short while with the 5.0 and 6 speed auto. I liked that combo pretty well. I can imagine it would move a Mustang pretty well!


I’m not a big manual fan. My Morris was a manual, and my VW Bug. But depending on the seats, pushing that clutch in all the time in traffic can be very hard on the knee. A Chevy Malibu in particular I had to drive was a killer on my knee. Plus it’s a pain in the neck having to shift all the time.


Speaking of knees, @Bing, many years ago I had some knee problems that seemed to fail all efforts to clear up then on a trip in my old Bronco I was stuck in some heavy traffic and realized that with a yard full of manual transmissions I might not ever have any relief. I bought an old Camaro and drove it for a year or so and left the stick shifts resting in the yard until my knee was well. If not for reaching my limit on pain all at once I might have gone on and had surgery done to the knee. In heavy traffic the clutch can be a real pain.


re: Knee problems

If the problem is knee arthritis, a physical therapist named Jim Johnson wrote a pretty good book on how to self-treat. I found his ideas pretty helpful for my knee anyway.