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Stick Shift vs Automatic Transmissions: Which One Is Better?

August 15, 2019 by Steven M. Gursten

Stick shift vs automatic: The pros and cons explained to help solve the debate

Stick Shift vs Automatic Transmissions: Which One Is Better? | Michigan Auto Law

Is a stick shift (manual transmission) better than a car with an automatic transmission?

This is one of the great controversies of our time. It ranks right up there with “Beatles versus Stones,” ketchup versus mustard, chocolate versus vanilla or U of M versus MSU.

So today, I’m going to cover the main points of contention in the stick shift vs. automatic transmission debate and let you decide what’s better – or, at least, what’s best for you and your family.

Which car is more likely to help improve driver engagement and reduce distractions?

With one hand on the wheel, one hand on the gear shift and your feet operating the clutch and the accelerator, you have no limbs left with which to text, check social media, send an e-mail, dial a phone number and/or accept a call on your cell phone. As a car accident lawyer who now has a majority of the cases I am litigating involving people who were texting on phones and driving distracted just before the crash, that seems like a pretty good reason for why more people should be driving a stick shift.

The flip side of that argument is that merely shifting gears can be inherently distracting and interferes with a driver’s attention and concentration. 

Proponents of this argument contend that all of the multi-tasking required by a stick shift puts inexperienced drivers into a more dangerous position. 

But the stick shift advocates win this one.  Manual transmissions have been in existence for more than 100 years.  This, along with the explosion of injuries and car crashes caused by distracted driving and texting these days makes the “shifting gears is more dangerous” argument ring hollow.

Which car leads to more stress?

Some people claim that there are studies (none of which have I been able to find) that show that drivers of manual transmission vehicles experience higher levels of stress than do drivers of automatics.

Is there a false sense of security when driving a car with an automatic transmission?

Important that we also remember that not all stress is bad.  When driving, maybe a little stress that causes us to concentrate more on driving safely is good.  Drivers of vehicles with automatic transmissions have less to do. It’s a lot easier for drivers of automatic transmissions to engage in texting and using their cell phones, putting on makeup and eating and drinking while driving.

Which car controls better?

Many drivers find a manual transmission vehicle easier to control – accelerating, braking, navigating slippery roads and responding quickly to avoid an accident. However, older drivers occasionally have difficulty shifting and operating the clutch. Additionally the manual transmission vehicle can be difficult to park – especially on a hill or slope.

Which car gets better gas mileage?

Although automatic transmission vehicles have improved considerably in the fuel efficiency department, cars with a stick shift still tend to win this race.

Which car is easier to maintain?

Because manual transmissions are less complicated they tend to be easier and less costly to maintain.

Which car is more affordable?

Of course, there are lots of variables that go into this factor, but the overall consensus is that a car with a manual transmission is generally less expensive. 

Which car is more readily available at my local dealership?

A car with an automatic transmission. Despite the many benefits of driving a car with a manual transmission, they have fallen out of favor among drivers over time and, thus, they can be a lot more difficult to find. So you may have to do some searching and shopping around if shifting gears is how you want to ride.

Which car is more likely to get stolen?

Although many people believe that car thieves would be less likely to steal a manual transmission vehicle (because  a car with a stick shift is more difficult to drive and/or the thieves don’t know how to drive a stick or both), I haven’t been able to find any statistics to support this theory.

Which car is more likely to get borrowed by a friend or family member?

A car with an automatic transmission. Why? Because so few people know how to drive a car with a manual transmission anymore.

Which car is least likely to leave you stranded with a dead car battery?

 A car with a manual transmission. All you have to do is put the car in neutral, get it rolling and pop it into gear. This won’t work with an automatic transmission.

Which car is safer?

I don’t know. I do know that as an accident lawyer, more and more of my cases now involve people who were texting and using cell phones just before they cause a car crash.  When it comes to driving, technology seems to be advancing faster than our ability to use it safely. But my own personal experience based on the people I’m helping aside, I have found no research or study that one or the other – stick shift vs automatic – is safer.  

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