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Manual vs Automatic Cars: How to choose?

· Cost Saving Tips

In Malaysia, drivers can choose to get their licence with a manual or automatic car driving test. The main difference between manual and automatic cars is the absence of a clutch pedal in automatic cars. Also, the gearbox in automatic cars is simpler with only four modes in general:

  • Park - P 
  • Reverse - R 
  • Neutral - N 
  • Drive - D 

Today, it seems like the world doesn't need manual cars anymore because:

1. Entry-level car has become automatic

In Malaysia, even the cheapest Perodua Axia 2020 comes in automatic gear. Although manual cars are cheaper, there are very limited options in the market due to low demand. Hence, it becomes super difficult when you are looking for a brand new manual car. As a result, car manufacturers are slowly switching to fully manufacturing automatic cars.

2. High performance cars and heavy duty vehicles have switched to automatic gear

Today, sports cars like Ferrari don’t use the standard manual transmission anymore. Smaller performance cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Renault Megane RS, and the BMW M2 have also started to slowly implement the dual-clutch automatics into the gears.

On the other hand, heavy duty commercial vehicles like vans, trucks and lorries are also available in automatic transmissions now. Some people may think that automatic gears are not suitable for commercial applications, but they seem to be doing just fine. For example, big trucks can also use planetary gear automatic with the Allison 4500 R.

3. More and more autonomous driving cars in the market

We can see more and more autonomous cars in the market now. Autonomous driving is applicable in both electric and ICE cars. However, car controls have to be electronic to achieve autonomous driving. That’s why parking brakes, gear shifters, throttle pedals and more have become electronic

A manual shifter is purely mechanical, it is not electronic. That’s why it needs to be phased out and replaced with electronic versions. If autonomous driving is to be realised, the car will have to be fully electronically controlled.

Pros and Cons of Manual and Automatic Cars

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Based on the summary in the table above, manual and automatic cars both have their advantages and disadvantages.

A. Manual Cars

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First of all, the price of a manual car is cheaper than an automatic car. This is mainly because of the low demand of manual cars in the market. Next, drivers have full control over the manual gear. For some drivers, they just prefer the feeling of changing the gears on their own.


If you own a manual car, you will know that it is actually harder to drive as it requires more precise control over the gear. For example, drivers need to be extremely careful when they are driving on a hill to avoid stalling or rolling back. Also, the selections for manual cars are very limited in the market due to low demand. It is not easy to find the perfect car that fits all your needs.

B. Automatic Cars

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When you start to drive an automatic car, you will find that it is much easier to control as you don’t have to press the clutch or find the right gear. Also, it is easier to drive in slow-moving or stop-start traffic as the transition between gears is smoother, resulting in a more pleasant, judder-free ride. Besides, it is also safer to drive an automatic car because you are less likely to accidentally grind the gears and the transmission itself is less likely to fail or break down.


The only cons of owning an automatic car is the price. Normally, automatic cars are priced more expensive than manual cars due to high demand in the market. Other than that, it also requires a higher maintenance cost because there are more moving parts in the transmission.

Generally, automatic cars are more suitable for urban drivers who always travel in the city with heavy traffic. However, there is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing a gear for your car. If “saving the manuals” is your life's mission, go ahead and buy one for yourself.