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Manual transmissions might be the only truly polarizing feature for cars and trucks, at least before the electric car came along. Many people feel very strongly about manual transmissions. Most average drivers don’t prefer them, while enthusiasts are willing to pay more for this formerly basic feature. Cars with three pedals are really just a preference, but with pickup trucks, it can deeply affect the useability of the truck. Here are five advantages to owning a manual transmission pickup truck. 

Buying a lifted pickup truck like this one offers a few benefits
Pickup truck | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Do pickup trucks still come in manual? 

While manual pickup trucks are getting rarer by the day, there are still a few three-pedal options on the market. However, finding them isn’t a guarantee at this point. 

Low truck inventory aside, the 2022 Toyota Tacoma and 2022 Jeep Gladiator still offer a manual transmission in certain configurations. While a few other extremely stark base models out there can get a stick shift, there aren’t many left these days. 

Just because there aren’t many manual pickup trucks being made these days, it doesn’t mean that they don’t come with some very real benefits. 

Manual pickup trucks can offer more control

A green 2022 Toyota Tacoma off-roading. Is the TRD Sport, SR5, TRD Off-Road, or another trim the cheapest one with heated seats?
2022 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

The difference between manual transmissions and automatic transmissions is essentially control. Manual drivers have complete control over when the transmission shifts, how high or low revs get, and even which gears are used. 

Despite the advances in automatic and dual-clutch transmissions (DCT), electronic signals still control these transmissions. These can be really good, but they still aren’t the same.

The main benefit to the added control of a manual transmission is traction. With many modern automatic transmissions, like a CVT, controlling torque at low speeds can be tough. More than any other vehicle, pickup trucks need to control low-speed torque. Tasks like towing, off-roading, and hauling all require precise throttle control. No matter how good an auto trans is, a skilled left foot can work a clutch to avoid tire spin or a jerky tow. 

Manual transmissions are generally more reliable 

Ram Heavy Duty 6.7-liter I-6 Cummins Diesel engine with six-speed manual transmission and 4x4 transfer case
Ram Heavy Duty 6.7-liter I-6 Cummins Diesel engine with six-speed manual transmission and 4×4 transfer case | Getty Images

Generally speaking, an easy way to make anything more reliable is to make it simpler. Manual transmissions are pretty simple. This simplicity has proven a boon over the years. A well-built manual gearbox with a good driver should last a long time with little more than a clutch change every 60k-80k miles. Many factors can affect this time frame, but generally, a well-cared-for manual clutch will last a while. 

This is particularly important for working vehicles like pickup trucks. These clutches and transmissions work hard when towing or hauling stuff in the bed. Off-roading also is a demanding activity for transmissions. 

Automatic transmissions might make towing or off-roading easier, but when that auto trans goes, it can cost a pretty penny. When something goes on, a manual gearbox, it will most likely take longer to do such and cost less to fix. 

Manual transmission pickup trucks are usually cheaper

Reliable pickup trucks for every budget like this Tacoma in gold
The ever-reliable Toyota Tacoma pickup truck | Toyota

As far as the automakers are concerned, the manual transmission is viewed as a less-luxurious feature, something primitive, even. This is not a bad thing for pickup truck owners. Admittedly, the pickup truck world has changed a great deal in the last few decades, but once upon a time, having a simpler, cheaper, and less fancy pickup truck was a good thing. It meant when you inevitably scratch while loading lumber or rub it along a tree in the woods, it wouldn’t hurt so bad. However, these days, it seems the more fancy and expensive the truck, the more people want it. Oh, well. I digress. 

For the trucks that currently offer manual gearboxes, the stick is a base model or at least a lower-tier option or a lack of option. For instance, according to US News, the 2022 Jeep Gladiator Sport (base) comes with a 6-speed manual as standard. You have to pay extra if you want the automatic, the way Geroge Washington always intended. 

A manual pickup truck could be safer

Driver's view of the stick shift in a 2021 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck.
Toyota Tacoma manual transmission | Joe Sanots

The NHTSA recently reported a new study that shows the first quarter of 2022 had more road fatalities than any year in 20 years. How could this be if our cars are getting safer? 

While new technology, updated crash testing, and added driving assists make our cars safer, they seem to be encouraging us to become worse drivers by requiring us to pay less attention. 

The presence of a manual transmission automatically (pun?) forces drivers to pay more attention to what they are doing. If you have to shift gears, you can’t drive for long without the car demanding that you interact with it. This is why my dad forced me to learn to drive in a manual. I couldn’t text, fool with the radio, or anything else. With three-pedal trucks, this demand for attention is even more exaggerated. 

Unlike most cars and SUVs, pickup trucks are typically geared very low to handle heavy loads or off-roading. Because of this, gear shifts happen far more frequently, requiring more attention paid by the driver. What many find annoying about driving a manual pickup truck is actually making them a safer drivers. 

Manual transmissions are more fun to drive

For those of us who like driving, manual transmissions are just more driving. You are doing more to control the car or truck. Since pickup trucks are often slow and lumbery, having the stick can give you a taste of sporty driving even if you’re only going 12 mph. 

Not only are stick shift trucks more fun on the road, but they are also more fun off-road. The added control can give drivers a sense of command over the trail. If you have to bump up a rock or a long, you are completely in control of how that approach happens. With an automatic, you can only control the throttle. 

Can you buy a new manual pickup truck? 

As we mentioned before, the Tacoma and Gladiator both come with a manual option. However, the pickin’s are slim. New hybrid powertrains threaten to kill the manual transmission for pickup trucks for good. 

No matter what happens, we hope there will always be at least one new manual pickup truck on the market. However, we know the stick won’t last forever. 


Is a Manual Transmission More Reliable?