Pros and Cons of Automatic Versus Manual Versus Self-Driving Cars

It used to be that you only had two choices: automatic or manual (stick shift). Now, with electric vehicles increasingly taking over the roads, manual transmissions are heading for a die-off. But, that isn’t for years to come, and high-end manufacturers of cars bought for the driving experience (i.e. luxury cars and sports cars) will never give up the true-blue driver’s favorite, the manual shift. Driving a manual transmission car is simply much more interactive than an automatic so for car aficionados there is no comparison.

Automatic vehicles are the most popular cars these days, and many people wouldn’t get very far trying to drive a stick shift without seriously damaging the transmission in a car. That’s because most of us never learn how to shift gears in a manual car and some of us never even care to try driving one.

Automatic transmission cars will begin to dominate the industry even more in the future because electric vehicles will most likely never be available with a manual transmission (although there are talks of some manufacturers trying to crack the code on how to do just that). Also, self-driving cars or semi-autonomous vehicles are already available on the market with automatic transmission. Self-driving vehicles utilize cameras and sensors to change lanes, slow down and speed up. In a way, you could say that semi-autonomous vehicles are ultra-automatic because the vehicle decides on speeds (and therefore transmission shifts) if you allow it to do so.

Here are the pros and cons of all three types of cars: Automatic, Manual and Self-Driving:

Automatic Pros:

  • Automatic cars are easier to drive. You don’t have to shift gears. The car does it for you.
  • You don’t have to work three pedals in an automatic vehicle, just two: the brakes and the accelerator.
  • You can keep both hands on the wheel, which makes for safer driving. Young drivers often need to drive with both hands on the wheel at all times while they gain experience on the road.

Automatic Cons:

  • Automatic vehicles cost more. An automatic transmission is a more complicated piece of equipment than a manual transmission. Therefore, it costs more to fix.
  • Automatics have more maintenance needs because of their complex system.
  • Automatic cars are less fuel-efficient than manual cars because the torque convertor utilizes fuel as it does the job of switching gears.

Manual Pros:

  • Manual transmission cars are cheaper to buy upfront.
  • Manual transmissions are also less expensive to maintain because they are designed in a much simpler way and cost less to fix.
  • These are cars are more fuel efficient because they do not use extra power to shift gears with a torque convertor.
  • Manual cars are stolen less often, probably because they are less popular to drive than automatics. Those looking to sell parts from a stolen car also know that some essential parts are incompatible for automatics.

Manual Cons:

  • In a manual transmission car, you may have to replace the clutch at some point even though your transmission will have you spending much less in upkeep.
  • You have three pedals and need to learn when to use the that third pedal. You have to learn how to drive this kind of car. It won’t come automatically, so to speak.
  • You can’t have both hands on the wheel at all times because you need to shift gears with you right hand.
  • Driving a manual car is troublesome in traffic jams because the driver has to constantly work the clutch.

Autonomous Pros:

  • You can be less than focused on the road, for almost a minute in some luxury cars, because sensors and cameras will tell the transmission as well as the acceleration-and-brake systems to slow down or speed up based on the traffic all around you.
  • Far fewer accidents are expected in driverless cars because they take over when the failure fails to respond or see properly.

Autonomous Cons:

  • These cars will be more expensive than others because the high-tech equipment costs a lot of money. Insurance will therefore cost more too. In a few years to come, it’s expected that the prices will level off.
  • For the price you’re paying for self-driving features, there won’t be much difference in terms of wear-and-tear on the transmission. These cars are automatic and will have similar maintenance needs.


No matter the trend on the road, you still need Auto Insurance to drive any car. Until cars become fully self driving, paying car insurance is still a fact of life for car owners. While manufacturers may begin consolidating sales with insurance when vehicles are more responsible for accidents than their owners, but that day has not yet come. For any type of car you choose to drive, contact an Insurance Specialist at AIS for the best rates and the best coverage available. (888) 772-4247.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements, nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here and the language contained therein will govern such policy. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.

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