Before taking your vehicle into service or planning to look for a new vehicle the first thing you may have considered is what is the worst-case scenario. One of these worst-case scenarios for any vehicle is your transmission dying and needing service. The cost of repair for any dead transmission is equal to most of the value of your car and you might be better off buying a new one. Others that pre-plan, debate whether to get an automatic transmission or a manual often trying to determine the longevity and estimating devaluation and overall lifespan of their transmission. Which costs less in the long run? Which last longer? What has a better fuel economy? Which is more expensive to repair? All these questions often pondered especially if you want your ride to last as long and cost-effective as possible.

Demand of Stick-shift

Currently choosing a car based off its transmissions is against its odds if you wish to get a manual. According to IHS Markit, in 2012 the current percent of stick-shifts represented in the market and vehicle sales were a low 6.8% in the U.S. More recently those numbers have dropped a little over half that percent to an estimated 3.5% in 2018. Meaning that manuals are harder to find in the market compared to every other car make/model and that the demand for manuals is slipping as well.

Safe Driving

Before we get any further what comes first is safety. Safety is number one is most car owners eyes because there would be no reason to drive a car where safety is a concern. Automatics allows you do not have to worry about shifting considering the transmission takes care of all the work for you. Whereas, manuals require more attention to driving between engaging the clutch, requiring one of your hands to shift, and pushing on the gas to allow shifting and acceleration into the next gear. To some, that may seem like second nature but that still takes part of your attention off the road.

Human Error

Everyone is prone to making mistakes which can make shifting detrimental to your car. You could easily grind gears or chip gear teeth each time you shift too early or too late, accelerating and decelerating. Even with perfect hand to foot coordination, you’re never going to be in 100% sync. Over time these mishaps, or an occasional to frequent stall, can toll your car with wear and tear and slowly kill your transmission.

As previously mentioned in safety driving, automatic transmissions take care of transiting gears with computer controls and other modern automation leaving you less prone to mishaps. Ever stall out in high traffic? Not likely in an automatic.

Preference and Resale

While sales of manuals are at an all-time low, there are still some clutching on to manual transmissions. To many enthusiasts, shifting is second nature, and you feel more in tune with your vehicle. In essence, it’s the nostalgia that keeps the passion of stick-shifts alive. Unfortunately, new generations don’t share the same passion as die-hard stick shifters and choose to drive an automatic.

But let’s move on to sale and resale value.

For this example, we are using a general four door used 2018 Honda Civic using Kelly Blue Book.

The typical listing price for an Automatic Used 2018 Honda Civic EX‑T Sedan 4D is  $20,924. The typical resale value from a private party is $19,168.

The typical listing price for an Manual Used 2018 Honda Civic EX‑T Sedan 4D is  $19,925. The typical resale value from a private party is $18,169.

Both Automatic and Manual share a buy and resale value difference of roughly $1,756 and automatics are about $1,000 more in price compared to their manual counterparts. Manuals are cheaper but that doesn’t necessarily mean a lower front end price doesn’t always mean you’re coming out ahead.  

Fuel economy

To be consistent the same car is referenced for the information below.

Automatic: City 32/Hwy 42/Comb 36 MPG

Manual: City 31/Hwy 42/Comb 35 MPG

As we can see, automatics are slightly more fuel efficient in the city and are only slightly better in a combination of city and highway. As it stands fuel efficiency is pretty much the same for both automatic and transmissions so there is no real reason to choose one over another in this aspect. Automatics being more popular than manuals has sparked advancement and research, making automatics more fuel efficient including newer eight-speed transmissions.

Overall both manual and automatic transmission are on par with one another between resale value and MPG, everything else boils down to personal preference. With all the information provided, there will always be more questions that need to be answered depending on the type of vehicle you drive.