Should I learn to drive in a manual or an automatic car?

Learning to drive can be stressful, and often people want to get it over and done with as soon as possible. Manual car drivers are always talking about the benefits of driving a conventional manual car, but we’re not biased, so here we look at automatics too, so you can decide what’s right for you.

Learning to drive can be stressful, and often people want to get it over and done with as soon as possible. Manual car drivers are always talking about the benefits of driving a conventional manual car, but we’re not biased, so here we look at automatics too, so you can decide what’s right for you.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
4
minute read
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Posted 14 OCTOBER 2021

So, what’s the difference between a manual and an automatic?

In a manual car, you’re responsible for choosing the right gear – get it wrong and you could stall, making every other driver behind you roll their eyes and curse. An automatic car, as the name suggests, does it all for you so you never have to worry about whether you’re in the ‘right gear’ – just make sure you’re not in reverse when you don’t want to be.

Which is easier to learn in?

An automatic is usually easier to learn in – all you need to do is put your car in ‘D’ for ‘drive’ and off you go. Manual cars will usually have up to five gears and you’ll need to make sure you’re in the right gear for the speed and road conditions you are driving in.

Manual drivers will tell you the ‘skill’ of driving a car depends on your ability to select the right gear and perfecting your clutch control. But if you’re not bothered about that, then learning in an automatic could be for you.

Because there’s less to master in an automatic car, some learners may find it quicker to pass their test. And the quicker you pass your test, the less money you’ll spend on driving lessons. But lessons in an automatic car may be more expensive than learning to drive in a manual.

Which type of car is better?

Whether your car is manual or automatic, each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. What you see as a benefit will largely depend on the type of driving you do.

Why you might prefer an automatic 

If you drive somewhere with lots of traffic, constantly changing gear can be tiring. It can also be distracting while you’re looking out for pedestrians, negotiating roundabouts, paying attention to traffic lights and, of course, making a note of the speed limits. 

Some of the newer automatic cars are also incredibly efficient and can change a gear quicker than you could.

Why you might prefer a manual

Manual cars will generally be quicker off the mark and you’ll have more control over the car in conditions like snow and ice. 

Manuals are also generally less expensive to buy as they don’t use as much complicated tech compared to an automatic car. The expense of automatic cars can also be mirrored in the cost of repairs and servicing though, for the same reasons.

The decider?

The one big point to make is that if you pass your test in a manual, you can also drive an automatic. But if you pass your test in an automatic, you’ll only be able to drive an automatic. If you decide you want to drive a manual later on, you’ll have to re-sit your driving test in a manual car.

Plus, sometimes getting hold of an automatic can be a faff if you need a courtesy car or hire car. Automatics aren’t always readily available, so you might need to defer your service for a bit until they can find one for you.

Insurance for learner drivers

What you decide to learn to drive in will be down to what’s best for you, but before you get in your car, manual or automatic, you’re going to need suitable insurance

Start a quote by telling us a bit about you, your car and your driving history. We’ll do all the leg work for you, all you need to do is find the policy that exactly matches your needs.

Frequently asked questions

Does automatic car insurance cost more than manual?

Repairs for an automatic car may be a bit pricier because they can be more complex, so this might mean you pay slightly more for your car insurance than you would if you had a manual car. But apart from that, there’s not a great deal of difference. What can affect your car insurance are things like:

  • Engine size
  • Your car’s value
  • Your car’s age
  • Any modifications you’ve made
  • What security features you have, like an alarm or immobiliser
  • Where you live
  • How old you are

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

Most driving instructors tend to have manual vehicles, so you might need to search a bit harder for one with an automatic. 

The Driving Instructors Association provides a handy search tool called Find a driving instructor to help you find a suitable driving instructor in your area. Simply put in your location and then choose ‘automatic’ vehicle in the preferences box. 

What is a DSG gearbox?

A DSG gearbox kind of gives you the best of both worlds – the ease of an automatic with the option of changing to manual mode if you want to override the automatic gear changes. 

DSG stands for direct shift gearbox. DSG gearboxes are often fitted on sportier models. Because of the complex technology involved, they tend to be more expensive to buy and insure than conventional automatic or manual versions. 

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