Manual or Automatic Transmission? What Enthusiasts Prefer to Drive

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Whizzing around tight corners, while rapidly shifting the gears of a manual transmission is exhilarating! However, reality dictates that I spend most of my driving time mindlessly crawling through rush-hour traffic, so the thought of constantly burying my leg into a clutch while shifting from 2nd to 3rd back to 2nd every five seconds has made me think twice about buying a car with a manual transmission. Driving an automatic now-a-days just seems more convenient for day-to-day driving. And apparently I am not alone here.

VehicleVoice recently surveyed its panel to find out how much of the vehicle-driving population still drives a manual transmission. Looking specifically at enthusiasts (after all, aren’t they primarily the ones driving a stick shift?), the data reveals that, despite a significant portion of our sample claiming stick-shift know-how (89%), only a fraction of them (24%) are actually driving one today.

Men are driving them more than women (25% vs. 14%) and younger drivers slightly more so than older drivers (28% of under-40 drivers vs. 23% of over-40 drivers). So why are so few still driving a manual transmission?  Simple: automatic transmissions are merely easier and more convenient to drive, according to those surveyed.

The driving population exposed to manual transmissions decades ago are getting older, so the engaging driving experience that once came with driving a manual transmission is diminishing as drivers grow weary of continuously shifting gears, especially in today’s traffic. One survey respondent pointed out that “Though manual transmissions are more fun to drive, they are a real nuisance when one gets caught in congested stop-and-go traffic.  Since I run the risk of getting in such traffic jams from time to time, I would select an automatic.  If I opted to get a second “fun” car, I would probably get a stick shift.”

New-vehicle buyers are also becoming more aware that the greater fuel economy and performance does not necessarily come from the manual transmission variant of vehicles today as did in the past. “For driving around town, the automatic transmission is more convenient.  With modern automatic transmissions, performance and gas mileage is almost the same as a manual,” noted one survey respondent. So it seems that even enthusiasts are shying away from manuals: only 17% surveyed say they want to buy a manual transmission they next time they are out shopping for a vehicle. Besides being “more fun to drive”, these drivers also want a manual transmission for the feeling of being more in control of their vehicles. However, a staggering 83% would opt for an automatic transmission the next time they acquire a vehicle, 17% of whom want an automatic with paddle shifters. For most drivers surveyed, driving convenience ultimately trumps fun-to-drive.

Another survey taker stated “I just purchased my 2013 Dodge Challenger and made a conscientious decision not to have a manual transmission.  At 45, I am through shifting–it is more trouble than it’s worth for day-to-day driving.”

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