Automatic vs. Manual Cars: Which one is more fuel efficient?

citroen-semi-auto-transmission.jpg When planning the purchase of a new car, one of the considerations is likely to be the choice between automatic and manual transmission. In the past, many people might have rejected automatics on the grounds of being less fuel efficient and more expensive to repair. Traditionally, automatics could use up to 10% more fuel than their manual equivalent.

With modern developments in automatic transmissions and variations such as the “automated manual” now being offered on many contemporary models, there is often little to choose between the two as far as fuel consumption is concerned. Electronic and hydraulic systems on automated manual transmissions take up clutch operation and gear change and achieve an end fuel consumption that can often be as economical as a purely manual version.

Given the small difference between the two on fuel efficiency, what other considerations can drive the choice between automatic and manual?

  • Overall cost – and this can include the cost of repairs and insurance.  Researching the cover on offer from
    Allianz Your Cover
    and getting a quote will provide an accurate idea of any differential in costs between the models that a buyer might be considering. Check the motoring organisations online sites and What Car for data on service and repair costs.
  • Main driving environment – if you do a lot of city driving, then an automatic can be a real boon, helping you to combat fatigue and stay relaxed.  Equally, many people prefer automatics for lengthy motorway driving, and the difference in fuel consumption is likely to be minimal, at about 1 or 2 mpg.
  • Average length of journeys – again, if you do a lot of long-distance driving, an automatic can help to keep tiredness at bay and keep your concentration levels up.
  • Personal preference – this is usually the clincher! A lot of people prefer the control that they feel a manual transmission can contribute to the driving experience. They may be less concerned with fuel efficiency. It is still worth exploring automatics, as the modern versions are so different from the stereotype of the past. The impression that many people will still carry is of a rather “soggy” and slow-change transmission – entirely different from contemporary automatics, and current models are likely to make many converts.
  • Stage of life – for a family vehicle, an automatic can be a good choice, especially if it’s likely to be driven by several different members of the family. Older people also often prefer to drive an automatic, partly because the physical effort required from constant gear shifts is that much greater and more tiring.

Finally, the choice between manual and automatic is unlikely to be influenced by differences in fuel efficiency, given the small differences that now exist between the types of transmission. Much more likely to drive the final choice is personal preference but not, if you have done your research.