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Should You Buy A Car With A Manual Transmission?


Published by AutoGuide.com, April 8, 2013, Written by Sami Haj-Assaad

Is the manual transmission dead? Die-hard auto enthusiasts may shout out: "No way" but is anyone listening? If you're in the market for a new car, a manual transmission might be a good idea, for a few key reasons.

Even as automatics are becoming more advanced than ever, as shown with lightning fast dual-clutch (DCT) setups or fuel-friendly continuously variable transmissions (CVT), manual transmissions have their place in the automotive world too. If you strive for the maximum level of engagement with a car, there's no better transmission out there to give you that feeling of total control. Here are a few other reasons why you should consider a manual transmission car.

ITS ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

Manual transmission cars are more affordable than automatics. That's a fact, and is reflected in the price tag of practically every car out there. Expect at least a $1,000 increase in price when you opt for an automatic transmission, making the choice of a manual transmission car easier on your wallet.

"Cost which is by far the biggest reason that people choose manual," says Viraf Baliwalla, President of the Automall Network, a car buying service. Viraf conducts new car buying seminars, and helps new car buyers with new purchases, to ensure they don't have an unpleasant or confusing experience.

"Those that are buying their first car or even a subsequent car and want to do so within a smaller budget should consider buying a manual," Baliwalla says.

Additionally, manual transmission repairs are considered to be less costly. Where an automatic transmission rebuild or replacement can cost thousands of dollars, a manual transmission usually just needs a new clutch, which costs from $600-$1500 to repair. Of course, how often you need a new clutch depends on how you drive, and while some manual transmission drivers can go through clutches more often, many can last 100,000 miles or more.

Speaking of budgets, fuel economy is another key reason why manual transmission vehicles are considered. When it comes to cars where fuel efficiency really counts, like the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze Eco, the manual transmission gets two more miles per gallon of fuel than the automatic model. Other models see this trend too: the manual equipped Chevrolet Spark, Toyota Yaris, and Dodge Dart all see better fuel numbers than the automatic models.

The benefit might be short lived though. Newer automatics are becoming geared for better efficiency, and have smarter shift-logic which can result in the auto getting better fuel numbers. The Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ are a prime example of this: thanks to different gear ratios than the manual models, the automatics earn better fuel economy numbers with 28 mpg combined versus 25 mpg in the manual.

MINIMIZING RISK, MAXIMIZING FUN

Another key reason to get a manual transmission car is not only to save gas and money, but your actual car. Let's face it, not everyone knows how to drive a stick-shift, thieves included.

"Of the insurance total losses we processed last year that were related to theft, only 14% were manual transmission" says Baliwalla.

Yes, the three pedalled setup is known to stump would-be thieves, and many reports have found cars abandoned by criminals who can't drive them.

Finally, even though new automatics are faster than even the most skilled driver, there is an old-school, tactile feeling of doing something yourself. There's a sense of accomplishment with the perfect upshift, a rev-matched downshift or just knowing a skill that others don't. Many manual drivers find the extra level of engagement, well… engaging!

There's also a feeling of total car control when driving a manual transmission car. A car is placed into a gear, and won't change unless the driver makes it. It means that you will always know what gear your car is in, unlike an automatic, which might have geared up once or twice, and won't deliver power when you need it.

NOT FOR EVERYONE

There are, of course, some drawbacks to manual transmission cars. Your friends or family might not know how to drive your car. While that sounds more like a blessing, it could turn out to be a problem if an emergency occurs and no one can drive your car in a pinch.

Baliwalla explains that transmission topic comes up often with couples looking for a shared car.

"Men tell us that they would be fine with either manual or automatic cars," he says. "However, for the benefit of their wives that will be driving the vehicle, they would prefer we search for an automatic."

There are a few more disadvantages to buying a manual car. Often, manuals transmissions are reserved for the most basic trim package. This means if you want a manual transmission, you'll be left without many luxuries. For example, if you want power front seats, a 5.8-inch touchscreen, leather seats, bi-xenon headlights and other goodies in the 2014 Mazda6, you'll have to sacrifice the six-speed manual transmission. Many other cars get this treatment, such as the Mazda CX-5 and Ford Focus which must be equipped with an automatic in order to get higher trim models.

When it comes to resale value, a manual transmission can be a blessing or a curse. Buyers of that particular car may not want to row their own gears and if you're trying to unload just such a car, it could be a long wait. Conversely, with fewer manuals on the market, your stick-shift ride could be a hot commodity for the right buyer, who might even pay a premium to get it.

Despite advancements in automatics, there are still advantages to buying a manual transmission car. The savings in purchase price and fuel economy are a significant advantage, but so is the potential theft prevention. Of course, there's also no greater feeling of man and machine in unison, like a manual car blasting down the street. There's also a feeling of exclusivity, as not many cars out there are equipped with a manual transmission. With fewer cars being offered with a manual transmission option, maybe now is the best time to get one, since they might not be around forever.

 


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