I'm a beginner driver – should I buy a manual or automatic?

May 10, 2020 | Same topic: Best Advice for Car Buyers
Do you want to row? Or let a computer do it for you?

If you’ve been keeping up with contemporary car culture for the past few years, then you’ll know about the great debate which is manuals vs automatics. 

For some of you, however, who have just learned how to drive, choosing between a manual car and an automatic car might be too out of your depth. As such, let us help you make your choice.

A picture of a manual and an automatic transmission side by side

Let's find out which is better for a beginner

Did you learn to drive on an automatic or a manual?

Choosing between a manual car and an automatic car is not as simple as a “yes or no” question. There are many factors you have to consider, and one of those is the type of car you learned to drive on.  

Now, the common belief among car enthusiasts is that if you learned to drive stick first, then transitioning to an automatic vehicle is as easy as pie. Heck, we can even venture out to say that you can drive anything you want nowadays if you know how to use a manual transmission.

On the other hand, if you learned driving using an automatic, you’ll have to learn how to use the clutch, monitor the car’s rpms for proper shifting timing, hand-foot-eye coordination, and familiarization with a manual stick-shift’s pattern.

This might sound a lot to a beginner, but as with anything else in life, practice will aid you in reaching perfection. 

A picture of a very complicated shift pattern from a truck

If you've gotten used to driving stick first, you can even learn to handle this monstrosity

Note that while practicing, you’ll make mistakes and these will sometimes come in the form of gnarly, grinding, scratchy noises from your transmission. So yes, one will become apprehensive in using a car, especially a new car for driving practice.

However, if you’re a person who’s still planning to learn how to drive, then we highly suggest learning on a manual transmission first.

Transitioning to an automatic is definitely easier than the vice versa, and of course, manual courses in most driving schools are cheaper. Manual cars are definitely cheaper than their automatic counterparts too.

Remember that an automatic car and a manual car will have their own sets of pros and cons, so take note.

Automatic car pros and cons for a beginner driver

Automatic cars, hands down, are easier to operate than manual cars. You don’t have to worry about a clutch, and you don’t have to row a stick shift through gears.

As a result of this, cars with an automatic transmission – whether it’s a CVT, a DCT, or a traditional torque converter – are very easy to learn driving on. There’s fewer chances for mistakes and fewer things that you might draw your eyes away from.

This also means that automatic cars are much more relaxing to drive in heavy traffic. And yes, we all know that traffic isn’t exactly “light” here in the Philippines.

A picture of the congested roads of Metro Manila

For some people, using a manual car with this kind of congestion is too much

When it comes to disadvantages, however, an automatic car is more of a hassle to fix. It has more moving parts, and an automatic will even cost more in terms of maintenance.

Also, if something goes wrong with an AT car, chances are costs for fixing them are much higher than that of a manual car.

Also, trying to push start an automatic is not possible, so if your automatic car ran out of battery charge, or if something’s wrong with its starter, you’ll need to get it towed or you’ll need another battery to jump start it.

A picture of a car jump start cable

You can't just push an AT or CVT car. Instead you'll need these

And lastly, automatic cars, most often than not, are much more expensive to buy than those with manual transmissions. For example, the most affordable Toyota Vios is the 1.3 Base MT, which costs only Php 662,000.

In comparison, the Vios 1.3 E CVT, the cheapest two-pedal Vios, costs Php 881,000. Sure, the Vios E has more features, but it’s a given that manual variants here in the Philippines are cheaper.

>>> Related: Which Toyota Vios should you buy? [Philkotse Buyers’ Guide]

Manual car pros and cons for a beginner driver

For a beginner, learning a manual car is like receiving a “skeleton key.” This is because once you know how to drive stick, you’ll be able to drive any kind of vehicle with any kind of transmission with the least amount of adjustment on your part.

Another very large advantage of manual cars is that you’ll have more control over the car. On certain manual cars, you’ll get to play with how you change your gears with techniques like left foot braking, heel-toe shifting, and clutch kicking.

This thus means that many manual cars are easier to drift, which is, of course, oodles of fun. Note though that these techniques are not for beginners, but if you’re planning to learn these in the future, learning how to drive stick is the way to go.

A picture of a Skyline drifting

If you want to go sideways, using a manual car is easier

To this end, driving a manual car is almost like a spiritual experience for many car enthusiasts. It’s a direct contrast to automatic cars because instead of having a computer handling the shifting.

As such, we can say that in driving a manual car, the car and the driver are more connected. The car becomes the extension of your body, and you become the extension of the car.

Next, manual cars are much easier to fix and modify. They’re much mechanically simpler and they have fewer moving parts.

>>> Related: Suspension modifications for city driving & heavy duty in the Philippines

Ayrton Senna Footwork Heel & Toe BIGFOOT video with Proper Sync'd Sound (RARE)

Manual cars are not for everyone. It might be that you are not a car person or a driving enthusiast. As such, you view cars as a means to an end; an appliance that lets you go to work, and return home every day. Or it might be that you’re a differently-abled person who does not have full control of his/her limbs.

In connection to that, through gears through very heavy traffic can also be tiring and even annoying for some people.  

It’s all up to you

So as a beginner, which is better? Well, that depends on you in the end. Do you have the patience as well as the eye-foot-hand coordination to control a manual car? Do you enjoy driving?

Do you mind the repetitiveness of changing gears in heavy traffic? Are you dreaming of doing some racing in the future? Do you enjoy listening to Eurobeat? If you answered yes to these, we recommend getting a manual car. Otherwise, get an automatic car.

For more articles like these, keep reading here on Philkotse.com.


Cesar G.B. Miguel

Cesar learned how to drive a car years before he got his license. Today, he's still looking for that perfect '90s Japanese coupe to drive into the sunset while listening to Crazy Little Love by Nuage. Also has a thing for badass off-road vehicles and weird engine swaps.