Manual v Automatic – Which is safer (an impossible question?)

On Google, if you put in a search along the lines of ‘which is safer, manual or automatic transmissions’ there are, at the time of writing 240 million results.

That is a lot and, providing full disclosure we have not read them all. We have gearboxes to repair.

However, it is a good question and the number of answers shows it is one many ponder, perhaps in considering which car to buy next, or advising their kids as to which one is better to learn on.

What commonalities can we draw from the many results? Here are our thoughts.

Much of the Information is Old

While there may be more than 200 million results, only a small percentage will be from within the last year. The nature of google is also such that older results are often prioritised if lots of places are linking to them.

We saw huge numbers of results on the first few pages that were years old, many well over a decade. The cars being talked about are not even in production any more, and certainly any flaws they may mention have long since been improved. There will be specific issues that were perhaps prominent on some cars in the early 200s, but it hardly useful to read up on these now.

Most pages therefore can be ignored. They were made in good faith, but the information is no longer relevant.

Too Much Opinion

Many pages are also overly dogmatic. The author clearly has a preference and so this frames the article.

Manuals are safer simply because the author believes them to be so – the ‘I’ve driven a manual all my life and never had an accident’ argument.

Anecdotal thoughts are rarely of much use when millions of cars are on the road and there is much more useful data available rather than one opinionated blogger’s thoughts.

Factors That Do Matter

Of more use are some of the other factors we have seen on sites such as the RAC and other respected motoring sites.

Driving control

One argument is that automatics are safer because you do not need to take your hand off the wheel in order to change gear. However, most would argue this is a flawed argument as the change should be occurring when it is safe to do so and a momentary movement of the hand is not a safety concern.

Staying focussed

Conversely, does having to change gears keep the driver more alert, especially on quiet roads? There is a task to undertake that keeps the brain engaged. Staying in the moment would seem to be beneficial when driving.

Less stress with automatics

There is some limited research to suggest those driving automatics have slightly lower stress levels than those in charge of manuals.

This seems a benefit, though it could also be argued that if it is low levels of stress more in one with simply remaining vigilant and alert then the stress is beneficial. Frame it another way and automatic drivers are more relaxed, and perhaps less tuned in.

However, it is perhaps unlikely much can be read into this data either way.

Enhanced control

Manuals offer enhanced control is a strong argument – you can manually downshift at any point.

The flip to this is that with an automatic if you need to downshift quickly it will be taken care of for you, whereas for a manual driver it has to be undertaken, perhaps while preparing for a corner if they arrived a little fast on an unfamiliar road.

What do you think?

Do you have a view? Is it really just down to the driver – there are good and bad drivers and this applies to manuals and automatics, or do you firmly believe one is safer than the other.

Let us know your thoughts.


At North West Transmissions we repair gearboxes or source replacements with guaranteed refurbished units.

A family-run business, we have a truly superb reputation, this is shown by our 4.9 out of 5 average rating from dozens of reviews on Google.

All reconditioned gearboxes come with guarantees for 12 months or 12,000 miles while reconditioned automatic units come with a re-manufactured torque converter that has a lifetime guarantee.

Our technicians are all highly skilled with vast experience in reconditioning and repairing all units – importantly their efficiency helps cut down the price of repairs and so too the cost.

Gearbox problems are all-too-common. If you find yourself in need of a repair or reconditioned unit, that often being the more economical option in the long term, please contact us.

Call us on 0151 933 0257 or use our Contact Form.