Here’s Why the Myth That Manual Transmissions Are Faster and More Fuel Efficient Than Automatics Is Bogus

People choose cars based on various factors. An informed in-market car shopper will typically consider a vehicle’s fuel economy and other aspects like performance, design, and features. The question of which car is the most fuel-efficient is a matter of endless debate, and the primary issue underpinning the discussion is a vehicle’s transmission. 

One myth that has prompted many to make uneducated decisions when purchasing the few remaining manual cars is that they are more fuel-efficient than automatic transmissions. It is a notion that many people believe, but it couldn’t be far from the truth. Below, we’ve shed some light on the matter and why the myth is utterly bogus.

Manual transmission pros and cons

A black gear select from a manual transmission versus an automatic transmission with a silver plate.
Manual transmission gear select | Getty Images

US Agencies highlighted that the primary difference between manual and automatic transmission is that the former offers a driver more control. At the same time, the latter provides more convenience and ease of driving. And while some factions in the automotive industry are biased toward manual options, there are pros and cons to it.

Switching gears manually makes driving fun and exciting with added control. Nonetheless, it becomes a drawback when driving on city streets with stop-and-go traffic. You’ll have to switch to a lower gear every time you start moving the car. You’ll have to be a seasoned driver and always alert lest you face tickets and traffic-related penalties and fines. 

Manual transmissions are easy and less costly to maintain and repair than automatic, simply because they aren’t as complicated. The disadvantage is that learning the tricks of driving a manual car takes time. New drivers learning manual transmission are more prone to rollbacks and stalling than automatic cars, which are serious safety risks. 

Manual transmissions aren’t faster or more fuel-efficient than automatics

Vehicles with manual stick shifts have dominated the industry for years. That’s because many people thought they accelerated much quicker. It may be because there was no alternative back then, but things have changed. Automatic transmissions may not offer the needed traction to get a car from 0-60 mph instantly, but there’s a reason automakers are gradually phasing out manual vehicles.

HowStuffWorks clearly explained that advancements in technology and the automotive sector have led to a faster automatic transmission, superseding manual cars in the speed-performance scale. In fact, continuous variable transmissions (CTVs) shift gears quickly with higher responsiveness than the initial automatics. They’ve become the standard gearbox that many automakers prefer. 

Unlike popular opinion, automatic transmissions have higher fuel mileage than manual transmissions. According to Cenex, manual cars had more fuel efficiency because the gear was locked once you released the clutch. During its nascent age, automatic transmission used viscous fluid coupling that caused the transmission to “slip” when slowing down, but it hurt fuel economy at high speeds. 

Following a road test, the manual Mazda2 Touring recorded an additional 2 to 5 miles per gallon. But the automatic version of the Mazda3 Grand Touring delivered better fuel economy. With the introduction of CVTs, vehicles can automatically adjust the gear ratio, which results in improved fuel economy. With a CVT transmission, you get fuel economy that wins over manual and automatic transmission by almost 5 mpg.

Manual vs. automatic: which is right for you?

ACKO discovered that “Manual cars are faster and have a higher fuel mileage than automatic cars” is one of the many myths about cars people believe. Your choice narrows down to your preference. If you want more driving control, a manual car might be the right choice, but it would be best to choose one with an automatic transmission for convenience.

As far as fuel economy and speed are concerned, it would help to choose a car based on facts and not myths. In many cases, automatic cars are quicker than their manual transmission equivalents. Besides, shifting gears in the latter takes time, hurting the ease and convenience of driving. 

Edmunds determined that almost 99% of vehicles with automatic transmissions were sold in 2019. That demonstrates that consumers have a higher preference for automatic cars. Fuel costs money, a car that can even increase fuel mileage is always welcomed. You may have to splurge more dollars purchasing one, but you’ll be improving your fuel economy if you think long-term.

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