Manual Travesty: Stop Saying How Much You Like Changing Gears Yourself, It’s Dumb!

There are two types of people in this world. Actually, there are several types, but for the sake of the point I’m trying to make, let’s stick with two. First, there are those who like automatic gearboxes, followed by those that have never really gotten accustomed to one and will often argue in favor of a manual transmission.
Passenger car with manual transmission 9 photos
Photo: BMW
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I can’t tell you how much I hate those arguments. Any rational human being should. By the way, let’s acknowledge that as human beings, we’re creatures of habit and we don’t really like change. Now, I understand that if manual transmissions are all you’ve ever known, an automatic will seem somewhat cumbersome to you, even though it makes your job behind the wheel considerably easier.

So right off the bat, the argument in favor of a manual gearbox over an auto is an irrational one. But don’t worry, I’m going to go through every type of argument there is and explain why there’s literally no reason for you to want to change gears yourself.

I’ll start with some of the weaker arguments, then move my way up to the most obnoxious/sneaky ones.

Argument #1 – It’s cheaper to buy a car with a manual gearbox

Oh, 100%. But it’s also cheaper to buy a Ford Fiesta as opposed to that Tesla Model 3 you might be driving, so... what’s your point exactly? It’s cheaper to take the bus too. It’s one thing to argue for a manual transmission strictly from a financial standpoint, as long as nobody turns this into a general argument.

Argument #2 – Manual transmissions offer better fuel economy

Can you believe that some people still think this is true? I get it, it used to be true, but that was some time ago, before the 2010s. In the last decade, automatic transmissions have become more efficient than manual ones across the board, meaning in both premium cars as well as budget-friendly ones.

Argument #3 – I feel like I’m more in control with a manual

Right... just as an airline pilot would be more in control of his jumbo jet if he had to inch his way to an exact cruising altitude using nothing but the yoke? No. He’ll simply turn a dial to the correct altitude and speed and the plane’s electronics will take care of the rest. Again, for most people, it’s not a matter of control, it’s a matter of habit.

Passenger car with manual transmission
Photo: Porsche
Modern day automatic gearboxes are so intuitive, you don’t need to plan things in advance when you’re driving. They’ll kick down a gear or two if you need a sudden burst of acceleration, and you can choose Comfort or Sport modes based on personal preference. Also, if you opt for a double-clutch gearbox, that gear changes themselves will be super smooth, as opposed to a little jerky from time to time.

Argument #4 – You can’t be a driving enthusiast and not like manual gearboxes

Sure you can! How many tiers of motorsport do you know where they still change gears using a foot-operated clutch? If you want to go fast, you need to be efficient, and a computer can be a lot more efficient than any human can when it comes to engaging and changing gears.

Yes, you’ll be the one doing the shifting via steering wheel-mounted paddles, but that’s just because it’s a competition and we’re also trying to gauge which driver is the most talented from all standpoints. But the clutch? You shouldn’t need to worry about that, besides, it’s also bad for your back. Fun fact, driving stick shift will eventually add strain to your lumbar area and lower back. Father time is undefeated, folks.

Argument #5 – It's (unfortunately) cool to say you prefer manual gearboxes

I know people who will argue that while they appreciate an automatic, certain cars are simply more engaging to drive with a manual gearbox. Fellas, come on. Look in the mirror and tell me you’re not just riding the same bandwagon as every other car enthusiast out there.

What’s better with a manual gearbox? A sports car, right? Something like a Porsche 718 Cayman or a BMW M2 perhaps? Look, if you really cared about being “one with the car” and all that crap (yes, it’s crap, unless you literally make a living by racing cars, then it’s crap), you’d want to be as efficient and as fast as possible behind the wheel. A manual transmission goes against that.

Passenger car with manual transmission
Photo: Cadillac

Bring on the hate

Carmakers who popularized manual transmissions didn’t do so by choice. They were cheaper and easier to build. By saying a manual gearbox is better than an automatic, all you’re doing is glorifying an industry that prior to the late 2000s/early 2010s, was purely unable to build a superior product.

I mean, what’s next? You want to go back to starting your car using a hand crank like in the early days of the automobile? It’s the exact same argument, because technically you’d feel more in control of the starting process, so to speak. But let's take things even further and consider the horse-drawn carriage. Imagine how in control you’d feel in one of those babies, Mr. Driving Enthusiast! As for the rest of us, the only enthusiastic things we do behind the wheel nowadays is to “enthusiastically” avoid potholes and inattentive drivers.

Anyway, pretty soon we won’t even have traditional gearboxes anymore, automatic or otherwise. Tesla thinks we shouldn’t even be bothered to engage Reverse – not to mention that EVs literally have no use for gears (they only need one).

Don’t get me wrong though. I don’t hate manual transmissions. I’ve just come to terms with the fact that they’re absolutely, 100% useless nowadays, regardless of what type of car you’re driving or the type of experience you’re looking to have behind the wheel. They are a product that has already served its purpose, just like the carburetor or the leaf spring (for the most part), and now it’s finally time for all of us to move on.
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About the author: Sergiu Tudose
Sergiu Tudose profile photo

Sergiu got to experience both American and European car "scenes" at an early age (his father drove a Ford Fiesta XR2 supermini in the 80s). After spending over 15 years at local and international auto publications, he's starting to appreciate comfort behind the wheel more than raw power and acceleration.
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