Why Everyone Needs to Drive Manual

Driving a manual transmission provides the driver with a multitude of different benefits over driving an automatic, and the benefits outweigh any negatives that come with the gearbox.

Senior+Gabe+Vecchio+prepares+to+start+his+stick+shift.+This+is+Gabe%27s+first+car+where+he+learned+to+drive+a+manual.

Jacob Nipper

Senior Gabe Vecchio prepares to start his stick shift. This is Gabe’s first car where he learned to drive a manual.

Every morning, you get in your car and drive to school, or work, or wherever you go. You sit in the driver’s seat, turn the ignition key (or press the push button), take the parking brake off (if you are a good driver and understand the necessity of applying the parking brake), shift your car from “park” to “drive,” and you’re off. Or at least that’s what over 96% of American drivers in new cars do on a daily basis.

That other four percent of American drivers does a few of those steps differently. Before they turn their ignition key, they fully engage their car’s clutch pedal. Then, they shift their car out of gear until they’re ready to drive. Once they’re ready to roll, they disengage the parking brake, engage their clutch pedal, shift their car into first gear or reverse, slowly disengage the clutch as they apply gas, and off they go. Then, they have to shift each gear themselves and take their car out of gear at stops until they reach their destination.

Those four percent of American drivers practice a dying art in our country: the art of driving a manual transmission vehicle. I think everyone in America needs to follow this example. Driving a manual transmission provides the driver with a multitude of benefits in comparison to driving an automatic, and the benefits outweigh any negatives that come with the gearbox.

What are these various benefits, you ask? Let’s start with safety.

Automatic cars allow sleepy, bored commuters to enter “autopilot” mode and only halfway pay attention to the road and other drivers while driving. It’s easier, and it takes less mental energy to operate an automatic car over a manual.

But this comes at a price. When you get behind the wheel of a car half asleep and that car allows you to operate it in this state, you are putting yourself and everyone around you in danger due to your lack of attentiveness and slowed motor functions. But, when you get behind the wheel of a manual transmission car, you have to worry about a lot more than just steering inputs, accelerating, and braking.

You have to engage and disengage the clutch, keep an eye on your tachometer or an ear out for your engine note to know when to shift, put your car in neutral when stopping and put it in gear when going, and depress the clutch when coming to a stop to avoid stalling the engine. All of these extra tasks forces anyone driving a manual transmission to pay extremely close attention to their car, the road, and others around them. If not, you’ll burn out your clutch, grind gears, stall your engine, or even destroy it. These conditions force you to stay as alert as possible while driving.

Sure, this sounds like an absolute NIGHTMARE to do if you’ve never done it before, but it becomes second nature after just a few weeks on the road with a manual car. Everyone used to do it before automatic transmissions were common, and everyone got around just fine. The vast majority of European drivers do it every day.

Automatic transmissions allow you to keep one hand free at virtually all times. This allows for cell phone usage, eating and drinking, and other forms of distracted driving on the road. With a manual transmission, it’s virtually impossible to use a phone or eat a burger because you’ll be steering with both hands and frequently shifting gears with your right hand. You’ll have to choose between using your phone and over-revving or stalling your engine, or putting it down to use the gearshift, and unless you’re insane, you’ll go with the gearshift.

There’re also multiple economic reasons to choose a manual gearbox over an automatic.

First of all, you can get up to 10-15% better gas mileage in a manual transmission car compared to an automatic variation on the same car. You can choose to shift your car earlier than an automatic transmission would when accelerating, reducing the gas needed to run the engine. When slowing down, you can engine brake. This technique involves keeping car in gear until right before you stop, which puts resistance on the wheels as they try to coast and slowing the car without using the brakes. This allows for brake pads, rotors, and calipers to last much longer than any automatic car’s would, if done correctly. Manual transmissions themselves also tend to outlive automatic transmissions if driven properly, leading to avoiding multi-thousand-dollar transmission rebuilds if you want to keep your car a long time.

And if none of that boring practical stuff has you convinced, there’s the simple fact that they’re more fun to drive.

Because of the lack of engagement in the driving experience of an automatic, it can get rather boring to drive a car with one. But add a few more dimensions to your commute with a clutch and gear shift, and you’ll never get bored. Driving enthusiasts from all over the world drive a disproportionately high number of manual cars for a reason: they’re a blast to drive. Downshifts, rev matching, executing the perfect shift in the corner of a turn, being in full control over your car’s actions; no other driving experience can compare.

So if you’re a prospective driver about to buy your first car, do yourself a favor and get a stick. And if you are already driving, I urge you to consider a stick for your next car. The added dimensions of a manual driving experience will keep you alert and entertained as you get to your destination, and you’ll never go back.