Is a Manual Transmission Cheaper to Repair and Maintain Than an Automatic?

Automobile transmissions come in two main types: automatic and manual. It’s no surprise many car enthusiasts enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of driving a manual transmission car. But some folks shy away from them, thinking they’re more expensive to repair and maintain than automatic transmissions. Is that true?

What’s the difference between an automatic and a manual transmission?

Manual transmission vs automatic transmission repair and maintenance costs
The stick shift in a manual transmission 2004 Peugeot 407 | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The most significant difference between automatic and manual transmissions is the fluid. Although you won’t need to change your transmission fluid as much as your engine oil, you’ll still want to keep it in mind. Changing the fluid every 15,000 miles will keep your car’s transmission in tip-top shape. Plus, fresh fluid will help enhance vehicle performance and make your car run more smoothly. The wear and tear of the gears in a manual transmission, also known as a standard transmission, largely depends on the driver and their driving habits. That also applies to transmission fluid in manual gearbox cars, but it isn’t the case with automatic transmissions. 

Another major difference is the machinery. Automatic transmissions have more moving parts than manual transmissions, so the former leaves more opportunities for something to go wrong. Though the machinery inside manual gearboxes tends to be simpler, they require more transmission fluid changes and clutch pedal changes. 

Is a manual transmission cheaper to maintain and repair than an automatic?

The answer to that question depends on several factors. They include the model of the car, the extent of repairs needed, and the availability of qualified mechanics. 

But generally, a manual transmission is cheaper to maintain and repair because of its more straightforward construction. However, if convenience is your main concern, an automatic transmission might be the way to go and worth the higher cost.

Whatever you decide, keep up with regular service appointments and maintenance. If you do, you shouldn’t have any problem keeping your car running, even years and tens of thousands of miles down the road.

How much does it cost to replace a transmission?

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As with repairs and maintenance, the cost to replace a transmission depends on the vehicle’s make and model. 

“Transmission replacement costs also vary widely, but manual transmissions typically are cheaper, falling into a rough range of $1,500 to $3,000 for non-luxury vehicles,” Cars.com reports. “Automatics are more expensive, with a range of roughly $2,000 to $4,000 for a remanufactured transmission for most vehicles from mainstream brands. CVTs lean toward the higher side of the estimate: One automotive shop estimated that to install a replacement a CVT on a Nissan Sentra would cost $4,000 versus $2,500 for replacing a six-speed automatic on a Chevrolet Cruze.” 

However, if you drive a luxury vehicle, expect a new transmission to cost around $10,000.