When you are looking for a new car, especially if you are pondering whether you should choose a manual or an automatic car, there are several factors that you need to consider. Apart from choosing the right fuel type, seating capacity, the gearbox is another aspect that you should learn about. While automatic cars are popular in urban cities, manual cars are found in both urban and rural setups. Each has its advantages and offers a great ride and comfort. However, if you are looking to determine which is better, here is a comparison between manual vs automatic cars and factors to consider before making an informed choice.

Manual vs. Automatic vs. CVT Car: Which is Better? - Acko

Basics of Transmission (Gearbox):

A gearbox moves gears to different levels to send power to the wheels helping the car move forward or backwards. Transmission in cars is mainly of two types. The manual gearbox and automatic gearbox, the latter having different types of variations. The manual gearbox requires manual intervention to shift gears and the clutch pedal to send power to the wheels; however, with an automatic gearbox, mechanical parts help shift the gear and require very less manual intervention. You can read more about the difference between the types of car gearboxes, comparison between manual vs automatic cars further in this article.

Different Types of Car Transmissions

Predominantly, cars are sold in two types of transmissions, manual or automatic. However, the automatic gearbox has different versions such as CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission), and more recently a cost-effective version called the AMT (Automated Manual Transmission). There are several more, which are advanced and are expensive compared to the popular transmission being sold across the globe. Below are the most popular types of gearboxes in the automotive industry and how they fare when you compare manual vs automatic transmission:

What is Manual Transmission (MT)?

The manual transmission or manual gearbox is operated by the driver by shifting the gear lever and the clutch pedal along with the acceleration pedal to send power from the engine to the gearbox, which then sends power to the wheels. It is a hand-operated gear lever and is widely used in India.

What is Automatic Transmission (AT)?

The automatic gearbox uses mechanical parts to automatically change gears without the driver having to use either the gear lever or the clutch. It is increasingly being adopted in the Indian market for its ease of use.

What is Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)?

The CVT gearbox comes with just one gear that is variable in nature and uses pulley or belt to shift speeds. One of the popular types of automatic gearboxes sold in India.

Difference Between Manual and Automatic Car and CVT Car:

When it comes to deciding between a manual vs. automatic transmission, there are different elements that you need to consider before choosing the car. Below is a table with various factors and the comparison of automatic car vs manual car vs CVT car:

FactorsManual CarAutomatic CarCVT Car
PricingSlightly CheaperSlightly ExpensiveModerately Priced
Driving ComfortRequires a Lot of EffortEasier to DriveEasier to Drive
MileageHigherSlightly LowerSlightly Lower
Maintenance CostModerateMarginally HigherMarginally Higher
AccelerationSuperior PerformanceGreat in Stop and Go TrafficGreat in Stop and Go Traffic
Number of GearsFive to Six + 1 ReverseSix to EightOne (Multiple Gear Ratios)

How Does a Manual Car Transmission Work?

A manual gearbox lets the driver shift gear ratios to drive the vehicle. While the lower gear ratios provide the much-needed torque and lower acceleration, the higher gear ratios offer higher acceleration and lower torque. These ratios are otherwise known as “speeds”; hence, the term “6-speed gearbox” or “5-speed gearbox”. The transmission or gearbox enables the engine of the car to transfer power to the wheels at different speeds.

For a driver, there are two physical parts of the car that he/she should engage to propel the car from a starting point to the end. These parts include the clutch pedal and the gear shifter, which requires the driver’s input and cannot work on their own. When the driver inputs the clutch pedal, the friction clutch is activated, which decouples the engine from the gearbox. While the clutch pedal is engaged, the engine and gearbox continue to run, but they are independent of one another. This enables the driver to shift gears and draw the required power to send the power to the wheels.

Pros and Cons of Manual Transmission

The manual transmission type of car requires extensive driver input and the driver must select the appropriate gear and is very popular in Europe and Asia. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of manual gearbox:

Pros:

  • Lower priced
  • Fuel efficient
  • The driver is in control
  • Superior acceleration (Used extensively by performance and racing car drivers)
  • Lower maintenance cost

Cons:

  • Driver must coordinate between various parts such as the clutch pedal, acceleration pedal and gear lever.
  • Requires extensive training.
  • Can be challenging driving in stop-and-go traffic.
  • Lower resale value when you compare an auto vs manual car.

How Does an Automatic Car Transmission Work?

The driver continues to play an active role in operating the car in an automatic car gearbox setup; however, it is extensively lower compared to a manual car transmission. This is because the number of mechanical parts to be used is less. Parts such as the clutch pedal and the gear lever are non-existent. The driver simply engages the shifter to the “D” mode which denotes the drive mode and the car will do all the hard work. The gearbox automatically changes gears using fluid pressure.

The main part of the automatic gearbox is the planetary gear set, which creates different gear ratios to send power to the wheels. The pressure to activate the clutch and the gear ratios is done by the automatic gearbox fluid. It lubricates and cools moving parts and enables the car to move forward or backwards. The change of gears happens automatically and the driver does not have to provide his/her input to move the vehicle except the accelerator pedal.

Pros and Cons of Automatic Transmission

The automatic car transmission requires very less driver input and depends on the automatic gearbox fluid and planetary gear set to propel the car. Automatic cars are very popular in countries such as the USA. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of automatic gearbox:

Pros:

  • Easier to use.
  • Superior in stop-and-go traffic.
  • Excellent for beginners.
  • Higher resale value.
  • Car is in control of the clutch and gear lever.
  • Smooth, judder-free and pleasant drive.

Cons:

  • Expensive compared to cars with manual transmission.
  • Higher maintenance cost.
  • Slightly lower in mileage although the gap is narrowing.

Different Types of Automatic Car Transmission

Automatic transmissions were considered expensive and owned by the affluent, and available only with luxury cars. However, that has changed in recent times. Car manufacturers have introduced innovative products, which offer automatic gearboxes in different types or avatars. The advancement of technology has made automatic gearbox affordable and one can buy automatic cars under Rs. 5 lakh. The automatic gearbox is especially helpful in countries such as India with its chaotic stop-and-go traffic. However, automatic transmissions are of many types and can be confusing sometimes. Learn about different types of automatic car gearboxes below:

  1. Automated Manual Transmission (AMT)

Known for its affordability and fuel efficiency, the AMT is the most affordable automatic transmission currently being sold in India. The AMT operates similarly to the manual gearbox. However, the clutch and gear change are automated either through hydraulic actuators or semi-electronic parts requiring lesser drive input to drive the car. 

While they are affordable and fuel-efficient when you compare an automatic vs AMT, the latter has its disadvantages as well. They can be a bit jerky sometimes and may affect the comfort aspect. It is still excellent for those who are learning to drive a car and do not want to use the shifter and clutch pedal to drive the car. Some of the well-known models are Maruti Suzuki Celerio, Renault Duster, Maruti Suzuki Alto, etc.

  1. Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)

The CVT employs pulleys or belts in place of steel gears, thereby offering a continuous gear shift with different gear ratios dependent on the engine speed. This allows continuous acceleration and maximum fuel efficiency. This type of gearbox is widely used scooters in India and offers a smooth driving experience. Some of the popular cars with a CVT gearbox in India are Honda City, Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Honda Jazz, etc.

  1. Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT)

The DCT offers enhanced performance and quicker shifts between gears compared to the above two types of transmissions. They are the most advanced form of transmissions and the main highlight is that it can shift gears at quick speeds, providing excellent performance. The system uses two clutches making the transmission highly responsive. Mostly found in luxury cars, DCT or DSG as they are popularly referred to, are equipped with cars such as Volkswagen Polo, Ford Figo, Skoda Rapid, etc. While the DCT offers maximum performance, they tend to consume more fuel compared to other types of transmissions.

  1. Torque Convertors

The torque converter is one of the oldest automatic gearboxes to power motor vehicles. Since they are old, the mechanicals are complex and difficult to maintain. This type of gearbox utilises planetary design gears with a turbine and a rotary part, which helps push the turbine with the help of a fluid. However, this results in a huge loss of transmission and therefore resulted in lower fuel efficiency. This type of automatic gearbox is not being used widely as before and is giving way to new and advanced types of automatic transmission.

  1. Tiptronic Transmission

Widely utilized in sports and performance-oriented cars, the Tiptronic automatic gearbox is also referred to as “manumatic”. This gearbox is similar to the manual gearbox but comes with a torque converter to replace the clutch pedal. Drivers can either shift to manual or automatic with the Tiptronic transmission. Porsche pioneered the use of Tiptronic gearbox in their sports cars.

CVT and AMT Difference

The AMT and CVT type of car transmission are the two most popular car transmissions in India. While the CVT has been in use since long in the country, the AMT type of gearbox was introduced in 2014 and found a niche for itself in the affordable and competitive automatic car segment. So, what is the difference and which is better? Read on to learn about the difference between AMT and CVT automatic gearboxes.

FactorsCVTAMT
PricingExpensiveAffordable
Driving & HandlingEasyEasy
ComfortSmoothSlightly judders at high RPMs
Maintenance CostSlightly expensiveCost-effective
AccelerationSmoothSlightly smooth
DriveabilityEasy in stop-and-go trafficEasy in stop-and-go traffic
MileageEfficientEfficient
Number of GearsSingleFive to six

Facts About AMT Cars:

Cars fitted with the AMT automatic gearbox are comparatively cheaper and easier to maintain. The repair or cost of the parts being replaced is relatively cheaper compared to other types of automatic gearboxes such as the CVT, DCT or the Torque Converter. Below are a few facts about AMT cars:

  1. AMT Cars Are Easier to Drive

Unlike the manual transmission cars, AMT cars come with the ‘creep’ function, which propels the car at about 5 to 6 km/h without the driver’s input. This makes it easier to drive, especially in stop and go traffic conditions such as in India. There is no need to use the clutch pedal or shifting of several gears to drive the car as the AMT gearbox takes care of most of the work.

  1. AMT Cars Are Easier to Maintain

The gearbox in AMT cars is essentially a manual gearbox with a hydraulic actuator performing the job of the clutch and shifting gears. Hence, there are no complex parts utilised in building the AMT. Therefore, the maintenance cost is cheaper than maintaining other types of gearboxes such as CVT, DCT or torque convertor.

  1. AMT Cars are Fuel Efficient

Against popular belief that automatic cars return lower mileage, the AMT gearbox is highly fuel-efficient similar to the manual gearbox-driven cars. Since the AMT is a manual transmission with additional mechanical parts to assist it, AMT cars are fuel-efficient compared to other automatic versions.

  1. AMT Does Not Hamper the Performance

The idea of AMT was first used in Formula 1 cars to compete in racetracks. The electronic and the automatic gear shift are more precise compared to human input and offers excellent performance while driving an AMT car. Also, you can shift to a manual gearbox to let the driver change the gear without the use of the clutch.

  1. AMT Cars are Affordable

With less mechanical parts compared to CVT or DCT, the AMT is a lot cheaper to build and the benefit is passed on to the buyer. Hence, AMT cars are cheaper compared to other types of automatic cars.

Also, Read: 15 Things You Should Never Do to Your Automatic and Manual Car

Automatic (AMT) Cars in India:

Indian car manufacturers have realised the benefits of the AMT gearbox and have launched cars with AMT. Below is the list of best AMT and automatic cars in India:

  • Maruti Suzuki Alto
  • Maruti Suzuki Wagon R
  • Renault Kwid
  • Renault Duster
  • Maruti Suzuki Baleno
  • Maruti Suzuki Swift
  • Tata Tiago
  • Maruti Suzuki S-Presso
  • Tata Nexon
  • Hyundai Venue
  • Maruti Suzuki Brezza
  • Maruti Suzuki Dzire
  • Hyundai Santro
  • Hyundai Creta
  • Kia Seltos
  • Kia Sonet
  • Mahindra Thar

Which is Better Automatic or Manual Car?

When it comes to choosing whether to buy an automatic car or a manual car, there are several aspects that you need to look into. While it is a matter of personal taste and opinion, there is certainly a division between manual cars and automatic cars. To know which is better for you, consider the following factors before opting for the right type of car:

Purpose of Buying a Car

You may buy a car to drive in stop-and-go traffic conditions or you may want to buy it because you want more control of the car while driving in different conditions. An automatic car is certainly easier to drive in a stop and go traffic since it does not require too much driver input. A manual car can be cumbersome in chaotic traffic and requires a lot of driver input. However, if you want to decide which gear the car should be driven, the manual car is a better option. Also, for the best performance of the car for racing purposes, several race drivers prefer manual cars over automatics since they decide the speed to drive the car.

Beginner in Driving

It is easier to learn to drive an automatic car compared to manual cars. This is because the manual car requires several driver inputs to drive the car. For a beginner whose priority is to drive a car and not worry whether it is an auto or manual gearbox, automatic cars are a good start since they offer the ease of driving especially in congested urban or city roads.

Cost of the Car

If you are looking for an affordable car and do not have the budget or spend more on a car, manual cars are relatively cheaper compared to automatic cars. However, AMT cars have changed the market by offering affordable automatic cars. Currently, AMT cars are restricted to entry-level vehicles and are not employed in high-end or expensive cars.

Factors to Consider While Choosing Manual vs. Automatic Cars

When it comes to deciding between an automatic car or a manual car there should be no confusion. There are important factors that you need to consider before you can make the choice. Below are the essential aspects that will help you decide between the two:

Knowledge About the Basics of Transmission

The first important factor is understanding the basics of the gearbox, especially the automatic. While the manual gearbox or transmission has been in use for a longer period, cars with automatic gearboxes can be driven without much effort or driver input. Hence, choose the right type of gearbox that suits your needs.

Consider Power

Purists or automobile enthusiasts will vouch for manual gearbox since they prefer to control the car rather than an automatic transmission. That being said, chaotic stop and go traffic can be difficult while using a manual gearbox. However, the automatic car provides a lot of comfort during such situations. It all comes down to your requirement and how you want to drive the car. Ensure you consider the power output before choosing the right vehicle.

Identify Your Needs

The last two factors touched upon how you need to identify your needs. You may want a car to drive short distances on congested city roads or you may want to drive long distances and need that extra bit of power and control. Sometimes, you may want to buy a powerful car with an automatic gearbox as well. It all depends on your requirements. Ensure you understand your requirements before making the choice.

Fuel Efficiency

Against popular belief that automatic cars return lower mileage, new engineering capabilities have led to low cost and fuel-efficient automatic gearboxes, such as the AMT. The AMT is a win-win innovation for the carmaker as well as the customer. An automatic car that offers fuel efficiency, which is almost the same as the manual counterpart is certainly an excellent choice.

Ease of Learning

Driving a car with a manual gear shift along with the clutch, brake and the accelerator pedal can be difficult sometimes, especially for someone who does not know how to drive a car. With an automatic car, the absence of a gear shift lever and the clutch pedal, learning to drive a car becomes a lot easier compared to a manual car. With just the accelerator and brake to drive the car, it makes learning a lot easier.

Bottomline

The question of choosing an automatic car or a manual car is always going to be subjective. One may want full control and use the gear lever to decide the performance or the speed of the car, while others may want an automatic car and let the car do most of the job especially while driving in stop and go traffic. If you are living in a metro, urban city and drive amid heavy traffic, an automatic car is a great choice. However, if you are an auto enthusiast and want full control of your car while driving in urban conditions or otherwise, then you should choose the manual car.

Furthermore, you need to consider the budget too. Manual cars are relatively cheaper than automatic cars, and they are easier to drive and offer several other benefits. Therefore, ensure that you determine what really is your driving requirement and test drive both the automatic and manual car to decide which is best suited to your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some of the frequently asked questions about cars with manual and automatic transmission:

Are automatic cars less fuel efficient compared to a manual car?

Manual cars are known to be fuel efficient compared to automatic cars, but that gap is narrowing fast. AMT gearbox is an example of being on par with manual cars. Several car manufacturers in India have employed the AMT gearbox to their products since they are affordable and offer the benefits of the automatic gearbox. This way you do not have to spend more for an automatic car and not compromise on the mileage. Advanced automatic gearboxes such as the DCT, CVT, etc. do offer average fuel efficiency, but they are expensive compared to the manual gearbox.

Do I require a different driving licence to drive an automatic car?

In India, you do not need a separate driving licence to drive automatic cars. The regular driving licence that you used to drive a manual car is required to drive an automatic car.

Why does automatic cars not sell as many as the manual car in India?

While there is a popular belief that manual cars offer better mileage and are affordable compared to automatic cars, newer innovations such as the AMT have reduced the gap between manual and automatic cars. Furthermore, car manufacturers are developing newer technology and engineering capabilities to offer automatic cars which are fuel-efficient and are affordable in nature. Since automatic cars used to be expensive compared to manual cars, customers in India preferred the affordable and frugal manual cars, which is now changing with better automatic cars in India.

How does an automatic car perform in road conditions such as India and is it good to buy automatic cars in India?

Certainly, and especially if you are living in chaotic urban cities where the traffic is always moving at a snail’s pace and you may have to stop and go several times. Apart from traffic, road conditions may require you to shift gears and use the clutch pedal several times, making the journey difficult and challenging. Automatic cars are easier to drive and very helpful in a country like India. However, some may prefer manual cars to have more control over the vehicle.

Are manual cars faster than automatic cars?

Manual cars are known to be faster than automatic cars. However, this is changing due to advancements made by car manufacturers. They have made advancements and innovations which have made automatic cars as fast as manual cars and sometimes even faster. Not only are they fast, but they are also fuel-efficient and offer a plush ride. In fact, expensive sports cars employ automatic gearbox simply because of their performance.

What is the life expectancy of an automatic car and does manual cars last longer?

The manual transmission has been in use for many years and because of this reason, car manufacturers have continuously innovated the mechanicals to make it more fuel-efficient and frugal. Hence, the manual gearbox has a better life compared to automatics. That being said, automatic transmissions are evolving and replacing the traditional manual gearbox with better mileage and life.

I want to buy a gearless car. Is it better than a car with gear?

There is no definite answer to this query since it depends on your needs. Do you want to drive a car in an urban environment which has heavy traffic or do you want to have full control over the car? The gearless car is superior in driving comfort in heavy traffic, while the gear car can be difficult and challenging. However, if you want to decide the amount of power that goes to the wheels through your input of the gear shift and clutch pedal, then you may consider buying the gear car.

Is car insurance expensive for automatic cars?

Car insurance depends on the value of the car and other factors. Automatic cars are costlier compared to manual counterparts. Hence, the insurance cost is higher for automatic cars. However, cars which employ the AMT gearbox are affordable and the insurance cost is competitive in the market.

Are automatic cars good for hills?

Yes, automatic cars are good to drive in hilly regions that have a lot of inclines. New automatic cars are equipped with features such ‘creep’ function, hill-hold assist, which prevents the car from rolling backwards. In fact, using a manual car in steep inclines can be challenging since it requires a lot of driver input. However, with the automatics, the car does most of the job when it comes to steep inclines.

What you should never do in an automatic car?

Some of the important things you should never do in an automatic car are:
>Do not shift to neutral while coming down a hill.
>Never shift to reverse while driving.
>Do not launch the car aggressively since it can damage the parts of the gearbox and the engine.
>Do not engage the gear shift to neutral in a signal since it does not save any fuel or does it change the performance of the car.