Manual Vs Auto. What's Your Preference?

Got to talking at work the other day with a few friends and customers about the shift in the automotive industry towards vehicles with automatic transmissions (and I'm lumping everything in with "auto" that do not require user input to frequently change gears. DC, DSG, CVT, Automated manual, etc.).

This fired up a debate on "what's best" and bought out a lot of valid debate from both sides (and a lot of invalid, posturing as well). It was still undecided and on the fence either way. So, I thought I would throw it out to the worlds best automotive forum, and see what they say.

So, the question was;

This week, you are out to purchase a new car. This car is going to be your daily driver for 80~90% of the time, with the odd weekend to do what you want. The car you have settled on is now down to selecting options. We are at the "gearbox" selection when the salesperson offers you "What ever you want, we have that as an option".

What would you pick, and why?

Poll Options

  • 313
    Traditional Manual
  • 319
    Traditional Automatic
  • 28
    Mixed Mode (step/tipronic type)
  • 45
    DSG/DC/Automated Manual
  • 19
  • 10
    Other (see comments)


    • Whoa look out all the manual drivers will cry…. too late.

      I don't get the whole me vs them mentality people are having in this thread. Particularly when they get so personal. So immature.

    • -1

      Manual drivers like to stroke their stick first for a good 5 seconds maybe even put the tip in their mouth for a bit before they actually put their damn thing into gear and drive off and by then the lights turned yellow and only 3 goddamn cars make it through…..

  • +1

    I drive a manual Toyota 86 as a daily driver (yes through Sydney traffic). I love it and get bored if I have to drive an automatic because it's more like steering rather than driving.

    • Through Sydney traffic delivering tofu?

  • I've owned a 6 speed CVT Subaru which was great for every day driving.
    I also loved being able to put it in to manual mode and having the flexibility of both.
    Would by a car like that again without hesitation.

    • +3

      6 speed


      Does not compute

      • Are you being facetious?

        • +6

          No, a CVT by definition has no fixed set of ratios. "Continuously variable transmission".

          • @brendanm: Just going by how Subaru advertises it, and the way it changes gears.
            I just did some reading and didn't realise it was simulated. How about that. Learn something new every day.

            I'm not a huge car person (prefer motorcycles) so it got me with the marketing.

      • +2

        Probably referring to the 6 fake ratios programmed in to make it feel/sound more like a normal auto. CVT aren't actually continuous because people didn't like the way they made the car sound so now we have them artificially limited to certain ratios removing their only actual benefit over a traditional auto.

  • I voted manual cos I learnt to drive in a manual (Toyota Hilux) and my first car was then a manual (Toyota Echo). It becomes second nature to feel the gears and you learn to listen to your car more. I also found it’s not as easy to speed in a manual as the car doesn’t accelerate as easily as an automatic. My main car now has CVT (X-trail) which is good for down hill (keeping speed - on the brakes less) and some off road, but it’s not as pleasurable as driving a manual all the time. I’m hoping to get a diesel 4wd with manual when we eventually upgrade.

  • +2

    Depends on the car. I currently drive a manual but it is a light sports car. If I was driving a bigger family car or regularly stuck in stop start traffic then I'd want an auto. My next car will likely be an auto or DSG type to make it easier for my wife to drive when she needs to. My wife's new car has a CVT.

    I'm not sure a manual really does force you to pay more attention. It doesn't take long until it's all just muscle memory on the shifting.

    • +1

      Yeah, I like your last point. I have been driving manual vehicles for 30+ years, and it doesn’t make me pay more attention. In fact, if anything, it’s just an automatic response that muscle memory does for me. I think no more about changing a gear than I do about putting on the indicator.

  • Driven manual all my years (12), and recently forayed into DSG (Audi RS3; only offered with DSG). Sold it for personal reasons, and whilst the DSG was phenomenal, I decided my next car would be a manual again.

    Some days I miss the sheer pace of DSG gear changes, and the lack of thought or effort, but overall appreciate the engagement of a manual. I’ll get another DSG eventually, but I’d like to have one manual car around (before they’re all gone).

  • Manual. Have a manual CR-V

  • "Other" - EV don't need variable speed gearboxes. Once you've driven an EV, its hard to go back.

  • Im surprised so many people are picking manual, even though clearly most of you are buying auto's.

    This is why hardly any manufacturers are offering manuals anymore and will probably die out soon

    • -1

      Technically speaking, a whole lot of people don't understand the difference between a dual clutch, CVT, tiptronic (this isn't even a thing of its own) or standard auto. They just see anything that they could switch to "D" and drive away as auto.

      From that perspective, the poll results could be seen as of this writing as:

      Automatic: 320 votes
      Manual: 247 votes

      • Which is still disproportionately high when you consider less than 8% of cars sold are manuals

  • I bought a new Kia Sportage equipped an old school 6spd auto transmission recently. can't be happier after the previous CVT Outlander.

  • +1

    I don't care what's "best" from a performance angle, I prefer rowing a manual. The lighter weight and relative simplicity are just bonuses.

  • My main car is a 1991 MX5 and it's manual. I live in Sydney and don't mind it in traffic. I have considered getting the ND and would get it in manual if I did. The reason for this is because I feel more like I'm driving the car when it's a manual as opposed to being driven by the car if it's auto. Plus I'm more aware of everything when driving a manual.

    If a car doesn't have a lot of power then I'd want it in manual. If it has more power or if I have to drive more than one other person then I'd probably go with an auto. I'd rather my passengers have a smooth ride. But if it's just me then I want to have a fun time.

    • +1

      Owned an ND and now currently own a NC (Because of passenger legroom). NC is an excellent car, best daily and best I have ever used.

      • I'd like to get an NC if I see one cheap enough and I had the space to put it. I almost got a nice yellow NC with hard top for under $10k with 90000kms but it was an auto. Plus I would have to sell the NA because of space issues. I couldn't do it.

  • -1

    Seems like ozbargain idea of a fun car is either a GTR or a WRX, really?

    • what do u think is fun then?

      • -2

        McLaren 720s, Porsche 911, Lamborghini Huracan?

        • How many Ozbargainers do you think could afford one of those?

    • +1

      well yeah, I own a WRX because I cant rego a tank

  • I will just add one thing to this debate. Manuals are safer. The idea that you need to drive and pay attention and not let the gears been shifted and use your mobile phone…I am sure that considering that we have a 9-1 ratio of automatic to manuals in the road, take a look on speeding/mobile phone usage fines ratio between automatic/manual drivers and you will find the proportion is not the same. Of course that stats is nowhere to be seen.

    • +3

      You sir, are talking out your ass

  • Every situation except gridlock traffic - manual

  • +1

    There is only one correct answer and it has ALWAYS been the same!

    All depends on the driving conditions!!!

    If you are driving in city traffic and experiencing heavy traffic regularly then AUTOMATIC is the only way to go.

    If you are driving mainly out of the city then MANUAL is the best way to go.

    There is also the argument that manual cars are more economical and powerful than automatic cars.

    Of course it depends on which you learnt to drive

    But city vs country driving are the main traditional determining factors.

  • My A45 is a tricky one in traffic, it really isn’t fond of driving off the line slowly lol.

    But really it comes down to the car.

    I used to be strict manual, no matter what. Until I got my first auto for the work commute. In most cases I’m perfect content with an auto, but those times on fun drives I wish I had a manual. My STI that I had was 6sp manual and a ton of fun, I had no issues with that except for the morning commute to work. Could feel the clutch just starting to die faster than it should.

    In regards to diff auto tho:
    CVT I rather dislike.
    Normal auto is more ideal for daily driving
    DSG/Dual clutch/etc are great for popping gears and fast shifts on leisure drives, but annoying on a daily commute as they feel more like they’re riding the clutch or can be finicky in traffic. Also feel as though it’ll break faster..

    I had an A5 before and I got a common DSG gearbox problem, cost me $2000 to fix (at mates rates and cost price) but could have cost me $7k from Audi. I had a CVT and it was so bland. I had a 7sp normal Auto in a twin turbo BMW and that was good in most times. Strong too, never faulted and capable of handling more power.

    • CVT? pukes

  • +1

    Any other COUNTRY and STATE, MANUAL


    Sydney has more cars than people, the average household has 2 cars.
    Sydney roads with a radius of 20km from the CBD is flooded with cars, we have traffic jams EVERY DAY.

    Traffic Jams used to be an occurence like Accidents when one happens, people get notificed and they get shocked.
    Traffic Jams in SYDNEY are EXPECTED, jump on the M2, M1, M5, Pacific Highway, Spit Road, Canterbury Road at ANYTIME between 7am - 9pm and you're in shit.


    Top that with Sydney having the highest ratio of idiotic and stupid drivers, makes a concoction of shit on the road.

  • +1

    Another angle…20 year old son learned to drive in a manual and has the choice of a driving either a manual or auto (the 2 family cars). He always prefers to take the manual and (personally) I consider him a safer driver in either car because of the discipline involved in driving a manual (e.g. selecting the correct gear on approach to a junction/roundabout etc) and he drives the auto in a similar way with good progressive braking and appropriate speeds to match road conditions. Most adults who have been in a car with him have remarked on how safe a driver he appears to be. He's now considering going for his motorcycle license too - the understanding of how a gearbox works will be a bonus here too.

  • Depends on the car.

    On my 4x4, manual would be a nightmare. On my VW, manual rocks.

  • +1

    Manual because its a security control for modern day car thief's

  • Extremely odd survey group here with "traditional manual" most favoured. Yeah, right.

  • Automatic is nice when you want a lazy drive. But nothing beats downshifting a manual when you're in a hurry and you're in a bad mood with a slow driver you need to overtake. Automatic cars never choose the gear ratio I'm after, which is why I switched back to a manual. I can get around quicker in my manual hatch with very modest engine than an automatic sedan.

    • Your hatch is no doubt a lighter car so will accelerate more quickly with the same power applied.

      • I went from a 3.5l v6 to a 1.6l. Lost about 40% of power (and a lot of torque), but only about 150kg of curb weight. i30's aren't light….

  • +1

    Where's the option for self-driving car?

    • 6️⃣ Other (see comments)

  • -1

    2010 prius with the CVT drive, nothing comes close to smoothness and ease of use. Also the most uninspiring and boring.

    • err Tesla….

      • Yeah of course Tesla, for the $$$.

  • +1

    I'd love to say manual, but to be honest I've got lazy. Simply working two pedals in city traffic combined with radar cruise control makes the auto my choice these days … sad as that is to say.

  • +1

    I like manual. And I like to bring engine speed up to gear box speed during downshift. It requires one foot working brake and accelerator at the same time. It's a skill that every motorcycle rider has, but pretty rare with car drivers. Same with trail braking. A lot of people think they can drive.

    • -1

      Trail braking and heel-toe shifting aren't exactly required for the driving that most people do day-to-day. That's like me saying that anyone who drives a synchro transmission can't drive because I can drive a Road Ranger / crash box.

      I'd be more inclined to say that someone can "drive" if they have good spatial awareness, anticipate upcoming driving conditions and don't cause accidents through inattention or poor decision making.

    • Are you one of those people who likes to downshift through every single gear when coming up to a set of traffic lights, presumably because you enjoy spending a whole Saturday afternoon replacing the clutch as opposed to 15 minutes replacing the brake pads?

      • downshifting is better for the clutch though, if you're rev matching anyway.

        • Better than using your brakes? Lol

          • @dcash: Well if you're gonna stay in the same gear the whole time until you hit neutral on the stop/low rev, ofc that's better on the clutch. But yeah engine braking with rev matching is the best for brakes, clutch and fuel economy combined.

            • @CVonC: How can using the clutch MORE possibly be "best" for the clutch? Simple answer, it's not. Yes, you may save a tiny amount of fuel by having the wheels spin the engine while you slow down, but I still maintain you might as well use the brakes for what they're designed for, because they're a darn sight cheaper and easier to replace than a clutch. Note that I am talking about those people who insist on downshifting through every gear to come to a complete stop. I'm not talking about downshifting a single gear because you're simply slowing down or climbing a hill etc.

              If you're arguing for double shuffling vs letting the synchromesh do it's thing, then obviously the former is better for both the clutch and gearbox.

              • @dcash: You won't wear out a clutch due to downshifting (unless you don't know how to drive). My 14 year old Forester for example still has the original clutch and pressure plate yet I've fully replaced the brakes (including the discs) several times since new.

              • @dcash: Yeah I was just saying if you were to actually downshift then rev-matching is better for the clutch than simply releasing the clutch into gear. That's why I said if you're rev-matching in the first comment.

  • 90% of my driving is City driving, which Sydney is famous for having some of the worst traffic jams.

    Auto it is for me.

  • +3

    Get Auto. Many come with ability to change gears tiptronic etc if you wish (but rarely bother or get opportunity to in traffic anyway these days).

    • Many sports cars are faster with modern sports autos these days;
    • Many modern autos have less mechanical issues as opposed to more like they used to;*
    • Most modern autos no longer come with a real world fuel economy penalty and depending on your driving may be more efficient in particular 'modes';
    • Anyone can drive it if needed;
    • Not much price difference for most car categories worth owning anymore and recover in resale potentially anyway;
    • More freedom to focus on the road / hands on the wheel when driving (or flexibility for other things such as eating your sausage roll, drinking your coffee or whatever);
    • Less bother in stop start traffic on the daily drive with clutch etc;
    • Auto works better with all other modern electronics such as adaptive cruise, auto braking etc;
    • Will be a smoother transition for you to go to semi autonomous and fully autonomous cars over next 5 to 10 to 20 years.

    *A company fleet manager I know for a civil construction firm has even stopped buying manual 1t utes as to avoid regular burnt out clutch issues etc, all people can drive them, and the autos handle towing loads fine these days etc.

    Don't get me wrong I'd prefer a classic v8 1970s collector car in manual for the fun of it (if I could justify the cost of owning one), but it will be the 2020's soon, we'll soon be fully automated for everything! So its automatic for a sensible (or even half fun) daily drive!

  • Diesel, manual.
    Patrol, auto.

  • +1

    Have only ever driven manuals long term ~20 years, heaps of fun unless stuck in peak hour traffic. Don’t drive enough in peak hour to switch, but will probably get an auto next.

  • +2

    Anyone else haven't even thought about feeling like manual is a "chore"? I never felt like that
    Now it's just second nature for me - After driving for +5 years I never even think about it, it just happens naturally.
    Even when stuck in traffic - if you accept it as a fact and that its the way it's supposed to be, there is nothing to be angry about.

  • Had driven manual since my first car in 2002 and no intention to change. The only concern is, my partner drives auto but she can't take over the driver seat if I felt too tired or sick during trips with just the two of us. This means you have to use her car if you two go out together, and you will take her to her workplace or arrange transport for her when her car is unavailable.

    • You need to teach your partner to drive a manual ‘just in case’. Driving a manual isn’t really hard and for that occasion when you are on a long trip you might want a driver switch.

  • I've always owned auto's and just bought a Polo GTI in manual. If I was driving to the CBD every day, no chance I would have bought a manual. However my commute only has light traffic so it's worth the sacrifice for weekend drives.

  • Manual is way way more fun.

    Auto for daily commuting and being stuck in peak hour traffic.

  • As a kid the driving instructor recommended manual to my sister since if in the future her boyfriend went to party and he couldn't drive his manual car back cos drunk she would be able drive them home.

  • I just have a question,
    is a manual car is more durable and easier to fix than an auto one?
    If so, I will drive manual and it's cheaper.

    • Manual gearboxes last longer. This is due to being simpler than an auto gearbox.

  • Whichever is easier to drive on relatively flat and urban roads (automatic). Despite being an engineer a car falls under things I use to get from point A to B.

  • AUto………..pilot.

    Driving is so 20th century.

  • +1

    In a few years cars will be driving themselves so who cares

  • -1

    Been using auto for 5 years now, craving a manual car

  • +1

    I prefer manual but in stop-start traffic it's annoying as hell. Hill starts in stop-start traffic are another level. Everyone should know how to drive a manual regardless of what car they have

  • I've only ever owned manuals (nearly 20 years) and can't see myself even considering an auto, as long as manuals are still being made.

  • +1

    Lol, I can't understand why would people vote 15 to CVT and 250 for Traditional Automatic. They probably are fed up with early 'so called CVT' cars and haven't driven a proper late CVT car. It's either CVT (for those who hate gear changing hassle or even the feeling of it) or traditional manual (for those who enjoy a fun and more involved driving experience).

    • +1

      Which cars have a CVT that actually operate as a CVT and don't simulate fake ratios?

      • CVT should be about 'continuous automatic transmission' which as I interpret should aim to provide the driver with smoothest driving experience without the feeling of gear changing. Be it fake or real ratios, if you can feel the way gears are changing then what's the purpose of CVT in the first place. I currently drive two cars, Suzuki Swift sports 7 speed CVT and Prius 1 speed CVT. Now, if I want to drive and enjoy true seemless CVT then I would always pick the Prius. You absolutely can't feel anything at all. It's one gear and CVT at its best. Car goes 0 to 100 with no jiggering or highs or lows of engine roaring, smooth as it can get. That's why for many people it's an absolutely boring car and I can understand that. But that's how CVT should be by definition. For those who want to deal with gears then manual is the way to go. Suzuki Swift sports even with 7 CVT ratios is nowhere smooth as the Prius. Completely two different cars aimed for completely two different markets but if I am to choose a car purely for CVT smoothness that would be Prius hands down.

        • Interesting, I didn't know the Prius worked as an actual CVT. Are other Toyotas the same or do they have the fake ratios?

          • @apsilon: The main reason why Prius excells in CVT territory is the fact that's it's only 1 gear CVT so it basically won't change any gears (fake or real), quite simple mechanical concept but need to be precise (in which Toyota has been very successful, they've been making hybrid cars for more than 20 years now). So any Toyota hybrid with 1 speed CVT would behave the same I suppose (I've driven Prius C, Prius V and regular Prius many thousand KMs they all behave the same in terms of CVT).

  • …about the shift in the automotive industry…

    I see what you did there.

  • I once got my hand caught in a box of cheezels while driving manual and struggled changing gears with the box on my hand. I'm auto these days.

    • Use the of cheezels box to shift or steer; improvise, adapt, overcome.

  • I call BS on this poll result. I don't think many people read the question. There is no way that proportion of people pick their 90% daily driver (think small SUVs, large SUVs, mid size sedans, hatchbacks, commercial vehicles) to be manual if the (equal cost) option was available. That's basically the reason why most models of those cars only come in auto now. When a manual option is available for the same price as auto, the take-up is less than 5% in Australia. When the manual is the base model the auto option costs extra, you'll see some more manuals sold suggesting that it's a factor more driven by cost than ideology.

    The question wasn't "What would you pick in a world where your 90% daily driver was a small sports car and you were also completely inconsiderate towards your family"

    • Not everyone. I'd gladly pay considerably MORE for a manual, if I had to.

    • I would've agreed with you but I went new car shopping yesterday. Just browsing ATM to work out a shortlist but of course you can't do that without sales people swooping on you like magpies. Anyway, talking to a few of them and without being prompted two brought up the fact a lot of their models are only available in auto/CVT but they get a lot of buyers asking for manuals so they like to set that expectation early. One even said they believe the figures are skewed because if someone wants a manual but can't get one they of course have to buy an auto but believes they'd sell almost 50/50 auto vs manual if they had them.

  • If you like changing gears that much you should become a truck driver.

  • As much as manual is fun, try to drive it to work and back at least half an hour each way. All this traffic lights, traffic and everything else. After a while, it becomes very tiring, especially after you are tired from work. I liked manuals, not any more. Automatic is much easier in Sydney traffic. I drive vans 8 hours a day for living. They are all automatic too. The trucks we also have, are automatic. Imagine driving manual 9 hours a day Mon-Fri on Sydney roads?

  • +3

    Get a manual, car won't get stolen cos kids can't drive it these days. Srs.

    My car was broken into but they didn't take my car cos it's manual. My neighbors had their auto car stolen instead.

  • Manual only in this household (until the car I want no longer comes in manual), I have a 1+ hour commute to work, but even then I prefer a manual.

    I'm rarely stuck in bumper to bumper where you don't get out of first gear, but even in the traffic I am in, I find the manual to be more interesting. Less likely to get bored when I am stuck in traffic, simply because there is more to do.

    I have a manual BMW 135i (which the Mrs drives) with a lovely manual transmission and clutch, and a manual Corolla which is a lease car. I could have chosen a CVT for the Corolla which would have probably been cheaper to run according to the spreadsheet, due to fuel economy, but it's a small price to pay, even if the manual trans does lack a bit of feel.

  • lol.. manual - cheaper, less likely to be stolen! Also, I learned how to drive in Manila (Philippines)… a 5K drive normally takes 1.5 hours.. so running 30 minutes at heavy traffic in australia (what? 40kph average?) is peanuts.

  • depend where you live…Syd/Mel no…Adelaide yes!

  • Other: no preference.

  • Mix of manuals & auto’,one vehicle is a 6spd manual(reason being,did not want their auto offering which is ,CVT) Second vehicle 6spd auto,again did not really want the manual box because of issues with them.There is a class action in the US over this particular box.The auto,is pretty bullet proof however.Was brought up on manuals,V8s,4cyl etc…Plus getting lazy as i get older as well.

  • Really depends on the technology of the gearbox. Eg… I had an automatic 2005 VZ V6 Commodore ute with 3 normal gears + 1 overdrive gear, it was horrendous and really lacked power at certain points/speeds. I've now got a manual SSV Redline ute with 6 gears and it's pretty annoying to drive tbh despite the plent of power available.

    I'd swap my ute immediately for a model with say a 10 speed automatic gearbox.

  • ELECTRIC is the way 😷

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