How much money can I borrow through Affirm?
SHOW SEASON IS ALMOST HERE!
BUILD NOW, PAY LATER WITH YOUR TAX RETURN. LEARN MORE
Leave a Comment

Is Manual Really Better Than Automatic?

Author: Carly Augustynowicz

Close Modal Button Carly Augustynowicz

Carly Augustynowicz

Carly is a Copywriter that shares a huge passion for cars and autocross. She studied Marketing and International Business at the UW-Green Bay. During the summer months, she drives a modified purple '02 Toyota Celica GT built for autocross. During the winter, she drives a '03 Ford Focus SVT. Her passion with cars and autocross started when she got her license and bought her first Celica (go figure). Ever since then, learning about and modifying cars have become a huge part of her life. Aside from cars, she also loves to spend time with friends and family and make pottery.

March 22, 2021

 

I'm going to take a wild guess and say that a majority of the people who clicked on this blog are either one, genuinely interested in learning what transmission is actually better or two, are upset that we would ask a question like this because the answer is obvious, right? 

Either way, we're glad you're here. 

First, let me point out that I am, and will always be, a manual-loving enthusiast. BUT, with that being said, there are some applications and scenarios where an automatic transmission is better and even safer than a manual. 

 

Quick Links:

- What's Best For Daily Driving?

- What's Best For Drag Racing?

- What's Best For Autocross?

- Closing Thoughts

 

 

This debate has gone on since the automatic transmission was invented back in 1921. If you drive a manual, you probably have a strong opinion on this and the same goes with automatic owners. 

 

GTI

 

Each transmission has its own benefits and conveniences, but ultimately, it depends on what your car is used for that determines what transmission is generally better. Let's break it down.

*To note, we're going to be discussing a traditional automatic transmission, not DCT or Dual Clutch Transmissions for simplicity's sake

READ: BEST FIRST CARS TO MODIFY

 

2005 MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION

 

 

 

What's Best For Daily Driving?

This question doesn't have a solid answer and truly depends on your preferences as a driver and how much power your car can put down.

As a general rule of thumb, with a car making over 500 horsepower, I'd argue that an automatic transmission is better over a manual transmission. Here's why. 

 

 

With a 500+ horsepower car, you'll be able to use your power better with an automatic because you won't need to worry about your RPMs or shifting gears, your car does those things for you.

 

2020 SUBARU WRX PREMIUM

 

Anything under that 500 horsepower mark, I think manuals are better. Manual cars give drivers more control over their power and the ability to hold the revs longer since they have full control over the gears. More important than that even, driving manual is FUN. 

 

SHOP TODAY'S DEALS

 

It's about the driving experience, downshifting under a bridge (come on, everyone does it), and that feeling of control over your car. Those feelings are nonexistent in an automatic. 

 

2001 MAZDA MIATA LS

 

But then you have the situation of driving in the city vs. driving somewhere less populated like the country, for example. Driving in the city, especially when traffic is bad, is a pain in the a$$ with a manual car. If you know, you know.

 

READ: MIATA FITMENT GUIDE

 

You're constantly on the clutch and going from 1st to 2nd to 3rd gear, then back down to 1st and then 2nd and 3rd, and maybe even 4th gear this time, but then the light turns red and you're back to 1st gear and neutral...again. Ughhh. *Que the road rage*

 

2020 HONDA CIVIC SI

 

We've all been there. In this case, an automatic car has the advantage. It's annoying for the driver to be in control of shifting gears in the city and it's not great for the clutch, or MPG for that matter. 

 

2020 HONDA CIVIC SI

 

Despite all of this, it really comes down to preference, lifestyle, and what kind of driving experience you want. If you enjoy driving stick and value the more raw driving experience, driving a manual, even in the city, is well worth it.

 

READ: HONDA CIVIC FITMENT GUIDE

 

If you aren't concerned about how your car shifts or about having control over RPM, an automatic is probably better suited for your lifestyle. 

 

WRX

 

 

 

What's Best For Drag Racing?

If your car is built for drag racing, you already know that an automatic is generally better. First, the power most drag cars are making is at or well over 500 horsepower so it's easier to put down all your power and get the best time possible with an automatic.

BUT don't yell at me yet. I've seen plenty of manual cars on the strip that absolutely kill it and get great times. 

 

2016 FORD MUSTANG GT

 

READ: MUSTANG FITMENT GUIDE

 

Talking about time slips, every tenth of a second counts when you're trying to set some records or beat your buddies. Unless you're 100% confident in your shifting abilities, you'll probably lose some time when you shift; it's inevitable.

Plus, we've all heard of the heart-wrenching money shift scenario and NO ONE wants to be in that situation.

 

Corvette

 

If you don't know what the money shift is, this is when someone accidentally shifts into a lower gear when they're booking it down the drag strip. For example, if you're looking for 4th gear but land in 2nd, you're engine is going to make some scary noises.

 

2008 BMW 135I BASE

 

In a lot of cases, your engine and transmission are toast and will cost you your entire savings to replace it, hence the "money shift" name. My soul hurts even thinking about it...

 

READ: THE ULTIMATE PARTNERSHIP WITH MAP

 

Drag Strip

 

Like I mentioned before, this doesn't mean that manual cars can't perform well on the drag strip, because I've seen plenty of stick cars that make great passes.

 

 

The general consensus is that automatics are easier and more efficient on the drag strip because you basically can't miss or skip a gear when shifting. At the same time, you'll also miss out on using your car's full power and torque output with an automatic.

 

SHOP POPULAR COMPETITION TIRES

 

BMW

 

 

What's Best For Autocross?

On the other side of the spectrum, you have the autocross community where having an automatic car can possibly limit your performance. So manuals definitely win this category.  

 

Toyota Celica GT

 

The biggest advantage of having a manual car for autocross as opposed to an automatic is the control over your RPMs and therefore keeping your car in the powerband to book it out of those corners as fast as possible.

 

SHOP BEST PERFORMANCE TIRES FROM MICHELINE

 

2020 SUBARU BRZ LIMITED

 

For most autocross tracks/courses, you're going to stay in 2nd gear and maybe, maybe see 3rd gear depending on the track.

 

 

Having this control over your car's gearbox gives you the advantage of your car's powerband in the lower rev range through the corners and into the straights. 

 

SHOP POPULAR COMPETITION TIRES

 

2013 SCION FR-S BASE

 

If you need more power, you can downshift. If you're starting right off the line, you can rev it all the way to redline and make the decision about when to shift. 

 

SHOP LIGHTWEIGHT ARTISA ARTFORMED WHEELS

 

2004 SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI

 

Bottom line, a manual car will serve you better for autocross in most cases compared to an automatic. But again, I've seen plenty of automatics on the autocross track who make some great runs. 

 

SHOP LIGHTWEIGHT WHEELS

 

1997 MAZDA MIATA BASE

 

 

Closing Thoughts

Like I said before, I will always love the driving manual and feel passionate about the experience of driving manual.

At the same time, I think we can all agree that there are certain scenarios where there's a clear line between manuals and automatics in terms of safety, convenience, and functionality. 

 

Drag Strip Scene

 

Drag strip dedicated cars are more than likely going to be racing automatic, but autocross cars are going to be better off with a manual or at least a transmission with paddle shifters. It's a matter of control and the type of racing for these situations. 

 

2004 SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI

 

For all the daily drivers out there, it depends on what matters to you. Do you want control over what gear your car shifts in? Do you like convenience over experience?

 

SHOP POPULAR COILOVERS

 

1990 MAZDA MX-5 MIATA BASE

 

What do you think? Are manuals better far out or do you prefer an automatic? Let us know in the comments what you think! 

 

Comments (0)

Be the first to leave us your thoughts!

*Subject to approval within a 24-48 hours time frame.


MANUAL
AUTOMATIC
AUTOCROSS
DRAG RACING
DAILY DRIVING
Outdated browser detected Unfortunately we do not support Internet Explorer. We recommend that you use Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.