Should I learn to drive automatic or manual?

Undecided on whether to take manual or automatic driving lessons? We’re looking at the pros and cons of each.


By Marmalade Author

Updated on Jan 17th, 2024

Turning 17 and finally getting to the age where you can learn to drive is one of, if not, the best part of your teenage years. After all these years the freedom of the open roads awaits you - except before you can head on your first big road-trip, you need to learn to drive, sort your insurance, pass your test and find a car! Do you choose manual or automatic?

What’s the difference?

The main difference between automatic and manual cars (aside from the actual mechanical differences which we won’t get in to right now) is that an automatic offers more convenience and will do a lot of the hard work for you - no gear changes, the lack of that pesky clutch pedal and no fear of stalling are the features that really appeal to a lot of people. If you want to drive an automatic, all you need to do is put it into ‘D for Drive’ and you’re off - driving a manual and needing to match your speed to the gears, as well as figuring out the clutch control can be a bit more difficult - so surely it’s a no-brainer? Learning to drive without having to learn clutch control, gear changes and never having to worry about your bite point sounds like the dream, right?

Well, if you’ve read the above and are sold on learning in an automatic, before you call up your local driving instructor to book in lessons, there are some disadvantages to learning in an automatic car that we wanted to look at. 

The cost of automatic vs manual driving lessons: 

Taking automatic car lessons is often more expensive than taking lessons in a manual car. Choosing to learn automatic means you’ll be paying more for your driving journey before you’ve even got your licence. There’s also no guarantee that you’ll pass an automatic driving test quicker than you would a manual one, so the extra money on lessons could span over the same average time to learn to drive a manual car. 

The price of automatic cars: 

Often automatic cars are more expensive to buy than cars with a manual gearbox so when it comes to buying your first car you may end up spending more than you would like - as you need to buy an automatic car. Take a look at the costs of cars you’re considering and the price difference between automatic and manual before making up your mind. 

Running and maintenance: 

Another disadvantage of automatic cars is that not only are they more expensive to buy in the first place, they often cost more to insure and maintain.  - this is mainly because, at the moment, they’re less common than manual cars so things like replacement parts are harder to source. 

Your options may be limited: 

If you get an automatic licence, you can’t then drive a manual car without taking another driving test, but if you learn to drive in a manual car and get a manual driving licence, you’re free to drive either! This can be really beneficial if you ever need to get a hire car, or you find you want to be insured on a friend’s or family member’s car, having a manual driving licence is going to make this a lot easier - as not everyone has an automatic car for you to drive or hire. 

Ease of driving: 

It goes without saying that once you’re used to driving an automatic car, they’re much easier than a manual as you don’t have to worry about gear changes, finding the bite point or have the dreaded hill start fear. Having said that, it’s key to remember that you can drive any car you like with a manual driving licence - you don’t have to take automatic car driving lessons and get an automatic driving licence but if you do, you can’t then drive a manual car so whilst it may be easier to drive an automatic, the freedom to drive whatever you want lies behind a full manual driving licence. 

Is it easier to pass an automatic driving test? 

You would think that, because driving an automatic car is simpler, it should be easier to pass an automatic driving test, right? Well, looking at data from the DVLA¹, in 2019-2020 the average pass rate for automatic driving tests was 39.5%, whereas manual driving tests for the same period of time have a pass rate of 45.9%! 

So - Automatic vs Manual. What will you choose?

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By Marmalade Author

Providing tips and advice for young drivers on all aspects of driving - from getting through the driving test to buying and running your first car.

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