Many experienced drivers believe that you’re not a real driver unless you drive a stick. Indeed, mastering the gears is way harder than simply alternating between two pedals. As such, drivers view learning manual transmission as a rite of passage.
But manual cars are disappearing in the market. In 2020, only 41 out of 327 new car models had a manual transmission. That’s only 14% of all new automobiles sold. In comparison, 37% of new cars sold in the U.S. in 2011 were stick shifts.
The demand for manual cars has significantly dropped, according to carmakers. They added that there might come a day when very few cars even come with a manual transmission. The worsening traffic in U.S. cities has driven more people to switch to automatic. Some loyal stick shift drivers weren’t spared either.
But now that a pandemic is limiting our travel opportunities, roads are getting much clearer. Does it mean manuals should hit the roads again?
What Makes Manual Transmission Superior
Manual cars taught drivers how to pay full attention to the road. This undivided attention is called the “manual mindset.” It’s keeping your eyes on the road while, at the same time, being prepared to switch gears when necessary. This focus carries over when you drive an automatic transmission. So, overall, stick shifts create better drivers.
Knowing how to drive a stick also allows you to own vintage and classic cars. Even new, high-end models would benefit from a stick shift driver. In fact, high-end and luxury vehicles often come with a manual model. Their manufacturers know that drivers love to really “experience the road” with such a car.
Moreover, driving a stick enables you to drive just about anything. While there’s nothing wrong with learning automatic the first time, stick drivers are undoubtedly more “ready to go.” They’re more reliable in times of emergency when only a manual vehicle is available. If you could only drive an automatic in such a scenario, you’d have no choice but wait for help before being able to do anything.
There’s a running joke that you can leave a manual vehicle parked in a public place unlocked. That’s because a thief probably can’t drive a stick. It’s both an advantage and disadvantage because even if you can keep your manual car safe anywhere, it’s a sad reality that the number of people who can’t drive a manual keeps increasing.
Maintaining a Manual Transmission
Thankfully, even though manual cars are disappearing, high-quality transmission repair services still work on them. The service isn’t going away anytime soon. As long as there are drivers who prefer the stick, the demand for manual transmissions and its services will stay, though it would likely dwindle more in the coming years. Hence, if you plan on keeping your manual car for ten more years, take note of these maintenance tips:
- Avoid resting your hand on the shifter. Many drivers do this assuming it won’t cause problems. But the weight of your hand applies pressure to the shifter fork and the rotating gear beneath it.
- Avoid resting your foot on the clutch pedal. Only place your foot there when you’re ready to shift gears.
- Avoid hanging while mixing the clutch and the throttle. Instead, engage the handbrake to maintain your stationary position. Using the clutch may speed up wear.
- Don’t keep the shifter in first gear while sitting in traffic. This also prevents premature wear.
- Avoid slamming into the gears and popping the clutch. Doing otherwise will not just cause wear but also create a jerky, uncomfortable ride.
The Worsening Traffic Situation
You can maintain your manual vehicle diligently, but if you can’t enjoy it on the road, is it really worth it? The road congestion is worsening in at least ten U.S. cities. Drivers in Boston are the most unfortunate. They spend 149 hours in traffic, making Boston the country’s number one most congested city in 2019. Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, and Los Angeles also reach the hundreds in hours spent in traffic. Atlanta will make you wait for the shortest, but 87 hours in traffic is no walk in the park either.
Driving a stick on congested roads can feel like a nightmare. To some drivers, it’s no big deal. But if you’re seeking comfort and convenience, you’re better off with an automatic transmission. The transmission you choose doesn’t affect your worth as a driver anyway. Not knowing how to drive a stick may put you at a disadvantage at times, but automatic cars are dominating the market now, so you still win in the end.
Manual cars may still be worth it in 2022, but automatic vehicles are becoming the standard now. It’s a trend we can’t resist nor control.