Is an Automatic Gearbox a Good Option For a New Driver?
Every experienced motorist or automotive fanatic would simply laugh at the idea of a new driver choosing an automatic gearbox over a manual car. These stereotypes and prejudices however are a thing of the past and we want to break down the benefits and drawbacks of the fact that an automatic car can be a good option for a new driver.
Choose your driving license carefully
Before we dive deeper into the topic, we want to emphasize the fact that for new drivers who chose to do their driving test in an automatic car, the only option after passing the test is to drive automatic cars. For those new drivers who passed the driving test in a manual car, the choice is broader. They can decide between driving manual cars or automatic cars if they desire. So our first tip for new drivers is to think about these things before deciding what type of a driving license they want to pursue.
Manual or Automatic Gearbox For New Drivers
There are plenty of articles out there depicting the differences between manual and automatic gearboxes, but none of them points out the differences that are relevant for new drivers. We will first focus on the manual gearbox and finish with the benefits and drawbacks of the automatic gearbox.
Cost-wise, a manual gearbox represents the simpler, more cost-effective alternative to the automatic gearbox. However, it is not as simple to handle and drive for a new driver. A conventional manual gearbox, which usually has five to six gears, is still considered the standard and is available at no extra charge when buying a new car.
Manual gearbox benefits:
- Cheaper to buy and maintain – Manual gearboxes are far less complicated and consist of fewer mechanical and electrical parts compared to their automatic brothers. As a result, cars with manual gearboxes are cheaper to buy and less complicated to maintain.
- More control and driver involvement – Certain experienced drivers love manual gearboxes because they give you complete control over the shifting process. This can also be a good thing
for a new driver. A manual gearbox demands complete driver involvement which means that a new driver will gain the feeling for a car faster and their attention will less likely stray off the road.
- More fuel-efficient – While some dual-clutch DSG automatic gearboxes achieve the same fuel efficiency as a manual gearbox, a manual still remains the most fuel-efficient type of gearbox when driven right. Using less fuel and learning how to shift efficiently is something most new drivers look forward to.
- Being able to drive anything on the road – If you pass your driving test in a manual car, you are allowed to drive both manual and automatic cars. This is a valuable and practical skill to possess.
- Less attractive to thieves – Nobody likes getting their first car stolen. Having a manual gearbox significantly reduces the attractiveness level of your car in the eye of a car thief.
- Unpleasant to drive in heavy traffic – Driving a manual car in heavy traffic can be tiresome. The constant shifting between the first and second gear can be annoying if most of your driving involves heavy traffic.
- Harder to learn – Learning how to drive a manual car can be difficult. Getting the feeling for the clutch and shifting at the right time can take hours. Some new drivers are scared of this process so they choose automatics.
- Future relevancy – Electric and hybrid cars are the future of the automotive world and they are exclusively equipped with automatic gearboxes. And although many manual cars remain on the roads, the future is not looking bright for the manual gearbox. This makes us wonder, is knowing how to drive a manual car a relevant skill for a new driver?
- Easier to use
- Comfortable to use in heavy traffic
- Great in hilly areas
- Allows new drivers to concentrate on the road
- Higher purchase and maintenance costs – Buying a new or a used car with an automatic gearbox will cost you more than buying a manual car. There is no doubt, comfort comes at a cost. The same goes for maintenance and repairs, an automatic is not as cost-efficient.
- Less fuel-efficient (depends on the type of the automatic gearbox). – This used to be the main drawback when it comes to automatic gearboxes. And while it is still true with some types of automatic (Tiptronic hydraulic automatic gearboxes), there are also automatics that tend to consume less fuel than a manual car. This is usually done with dual-clutch DSG gearboxes that apply a smart and fuel-efficient shifting pattern.
- Stereotypes and prejudices – “Automatics are not for real drivers”, “Automatics are made for beginners”… In some minds, an automatic vehicle is boring, expensive, and gas-guzzling. All of the above could not be further from the truth in this day and age.
Manual gearbox drawbacks:
Although there are different types of automatic gearboxes on the market, they all do the same job; shift gears automatically. Some of them still allow the driver to take control and shift gears manually but not to the degree of a manual gearbox. The question remains, is an automatic gearbox a viable choice for a new driver. Here are the pros and cons.
Automatic gearbox benefits:
Once you realize that the only thing you have to do in an automatic car is to let go of your left foot and shift into drive, you have learned the basics. Learning the basics in a manual car takes much more time.
New drivers often find it challenging to navigate chaotic heavy city traffic and manually shift at the same time. An automatic transmission allows a new driver to relax and focus on the traffic.
Driving in hilly areas often times means you will need to start from a dead-stop while on a steep incline. Doing this in an automatic is much easier than in a manual car. Especially for new drivers.
New drivers, especially those who find it hard to get used to a manual gearbox are much better off and safer with an automatic gearbox. An automatic gives you the freedom to concentrate on the road, the ongoing traffic and eases the mind of a new driver. In our opinion, this is the biggest benefit of an automatic gearbox when it comes to beginner drivers.
Automatic gearbox drawbacks:
So if you are still wondering which gearbox is better for a new driver here are two answers. Short answer: it depends. Long answer: With a manual transmission, it is
the driver who has to carry out all the gear changes himself. This also explains why many vehicle owners in this country recognize this as the only “real” way of driving and changing gears. There is a certain amount of feeling, timing and experience involved in every gear change, which of course also allows a much more individual driving style. In the case of an automatic transmission, this work is done by technology. This makes driving easier and more convenient, especially for beginner drivers.
A beginner driver should also consider their budget and needs. Anyone who travels a lot in city traffic and has to cope with a lot of gear changes will often be much more comfortable with an automatic car. On long journeys or during sporty driving, however, this aspect is of secondary importance, especially later in beginner drivers driving career.