Manual vs Automatic Cars – A Guide for Learner Drivers

Car gear stick

Do you ever recall watching your parents driving when you were a child? Wondering what on earth the clutch pedal was for, and how your parents knew when to change gear? Which foot did what, and why were they doing different things at different times? And how does the gear stick come into it all? 

It’s no wonder that even before they get behind the wheel for the first time, many young people decide that they’re going to learn to drive in an automatic car. 

It’s natural to look for options to make the whole process easier, but we’re here to help you decide if learning to drive in an automatic car really is right for you.  

Can you learn to drive in an automatic car?

Yes, it’s perfectly OK to learn to drive in an automatic car, and they are increasing in popularity. The instructor’s automatic car will probably have dual controls, as you’d expect, but it will only have a brake pedal – no clutch.

Can you drive a manual car with an automatic licence?

Uk Driver's licenceNo. When you pass your driving test in an automatic car, your licence will only permit you to drive an automatic car in the future. If you change your mind later and want to drive a manual car, you’ll have to take your test again to change your licence.

If you pass your test in a manual car, however, you can easily switch between manual and automatic cars on the same licence. This gives you greater flexibility to drive different types of car in the future.

Is it difficult to find a driving instructor in an automatic car?

Unless you already own an automatic car that you can use for lessons, you’ll need to find a driving instructor with a suitable car. However, this shouldn’t be too difficult. 

The Driving Instructors Association has created a search engine called Find a Driving Instructor. Just enter your postcode and use the tag filters to edit the results for instructors offering lessons in an automatic car.

Personal recommendations are a great way to find a good driving instructor, too, so put out feelers to local friends or social media groups for instructors offering lessons in an automatic car. Read more about how to choose a driving instructor.

Is it better to learn to drive in a manual or automatic vehicle? 

Driver in carThere are some situations when driving an automatic car might be a better option. For example, some disabilities might make it easier to operate an automatic car. And if you mostly drive on congested city roads, not having to constantly change gears could make journeys less tiring.

But if the main reason for avoiding a manual car is the idea that it’s just too difficult, give it a chance. You may think you’ll never get the hang of clutch control or a gear stick, but most drivers find in a very short time that the movements become so engrained that you don’t even think about it – you might say that driving a manual car becomes…automatic! 

There are also entrenched fans of the gear stick who maintain that they feel more in control in a manual car and prefer it even in built up areas with lots of gear changes. There’s no real research to suggest that this kind of reasoning is anything but personal preference, though, so try both and make up your own mind.

Environmental benefits of automatic cars

If environmental factors play a role in deciding which type of car you learn to drive in, you might be interested to know that hybrid and electric cars are all automatic, so there’s no gear stick. Even more impressively, electric vehicles use just a single gear for both accelerating and decelerating without impacting the car’s performance.

Taking automatic driving one step further is Nissan’s Leaf electric car, which uses just one pedal for both accelerating and braking. Depress the “e-pedal” to accelerate, and ease your foot off it to brake. 

The system aims to maximise a car’s efficiency by reducing much wasted energy that comes from constant accelerating and braking. This should also improve the comfort of the driver, as there are less things to worry about.  

Are manual or automatic cars cheaper to insure? 

Many factors are used when insurers calculate premiums, so it’s not straightforward enough to say that one type of car is cheaper to insure than another. 

The pricing team here at 4 Young Drivers says that on the basis of vehicle transmission alone, there’s no cost difference between insuring an automatic or a manual car.

Insurance for learner drivers

Whether you’re learning to drive in a manual or automatic car, if you’re using your own car or a car belonging to a parent or friend, take a look at our Short-Term Learner Driver Insurance

It gives you all the benefits of a temporary insurance policy in your own name, from 7 days to 6 months, with absolutely no risk to your parent’s or friend’s no claims bonus should you have an accident in their car. 

Tags: Driver Training, Learner Driver Insurance, Learner Drivers

Released On 2nd Sep 2019

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