Is it still worth learning to drive manual transmission cars?

Are there reasons to still learn to drive using a manual rather than automatic?

An interesting question and one posed on the “Car Expert’ website recently. That said, while the site makes some good points we would suggest they also miss out on a factor or two.

The debate is sparked by some unavoidable trends. The number of tests on automastics is growing rapidly as a proportion and there are those who believe tests on automatics may account for more than half of all tests by 2030.

Woman driving a car. Free public domain CC0 photo.

At present, they are around 250,000 of just over 1.5 million tests in total (as of 2022), this 16%. That of course means the vast majority are still on manuals, though a decade earlier only 2% were on automatics so the trend is clear and only going one way.

The research also shows a fast change even within a few months, with the AA reporting that the number of lessons using automatics in its motoring group had gone from 14% to 19% inside just six months.

But, following the crowd is not a reason of itself and manuals still remain the vast majority. Regardless of trends, for someone learning now, is it worth learning on a manual?

An obvious point to consider is what car the learner will have access to post test. Many will become a named driver on their parents’ car or cars and, if this is a manual, then having an automatic licence isn’t going to be a whole lot of help.

But, assuming that the learner will be able to access an automatic post-test, does this make this form of licence the better option?

In some ways, we would have to say no. You are limiting yourself, increasingly this will be less limiting but there are still scenarios when being able to drive either must surely be beneficial. What if you join an employer who has work cars but only manual? What if on holiday, the local rental only has manuals remaining?

Against this must be set aside the realisation that, even if you have a licence to drive manuals, if you are only ever using automatics it may not feel comfortable suddenly being in charge of the gears – especially in a foreign country. But, having options available always seems a good thing.

The article seems to lean towards suggesting learning on an automatic is a good choice. It cites the cost of the test and also the ease of driving, with no gearstick to worry about. It mentions that you won;t be stalling or have to stress about hill starts.

But, cost can work two ways. We recently covered how insurance in manuals is often far cheaper – well, less expensive might be a better phrase – for those with manuals. This saving will more than compensate for the slight difference in test fees.

Also, some would argue that manuals might be more fun to drive, especially on the open road. Here, the nature of your driving plays a part. Someone who is only likely to do city centre driving might be a more obvious choice for automatics than someone out in the country.

However, perhaps the best advice we can give is to not be prescriptive. To each their own, we say.

For some the best option will be manual, for others automatic. Perhaps if in doubt, manual makes the most sense as it keeps options open.

But, as glib as it sounds, learner drivers should really do what is best for them.



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.