Friday, August 3, 2007

shifting gears

In the comments to the last post, Lee asked whether I'd gotten a new car. I did and, by following various people's advice (thanks, Julia) to negotiate strictly by email, I think I got a reasonably good deal and -- more importantly -- was able to avoid going into any more dealerships, except to actually pick up the car.

I was basically indifferent between a manual or automatic transmission, but ended up choosing the manual because it was slightly cheaper. My sister-in-law, who doesn't know how to use a stick shift, pointed out that I was limiting the number of people who can drive my car. Now, I don't really want or expect that there'll be scads of other people who'll be driving the car, but I was wondering if she was right.

Can you drive a manual transmission? If you can, do you have a preference betwen manual and automatic? If you can't, has it ever been a problem?

47 comments:

Furrow said...

Nope, can't drive a manual, and no, it's never been a problem. And why, oh why, would you ever want a lot of people driving your car? Sounds like a good thing to me. But I'm a meany.

niobe said...

I think what SIL was really saying was that she won't be able to borrow my car. Bwahahahah.

Monica said...

My first car was a manual and I loved it. My second car was a manual as well. Let me tell you, I used to smoke (which I no longer do), sometimes eat, and sometimes put on makeup, all while shifting. My latest car is an automatic and for the first few months I didn't know what to do with my right hand. Don't tell me you are supposed to have BOTH on the wheel either!!! They both have their advantages. Manual transmissions usually cost a couple of thousand dollars cheaper (because some people can't drive them) and are usually a little cheaper to fix (except when the clutch goes out.. but then automatics need transmission work often too). I like driving manuals 'cause I actually feel like I'm driving and is often fun. But then when you are stuck in traffic going from first, to neutral, back to first and maybe if you are lucky second, it sucks. Wow Niobe, I didn't know I could write a tome on manual vs. automatic. You just bring out the best in us!

Phantom Scribbler said...

I far prefer manual and have for 15 years, but in high school, before I learned how to drive manual, I once had a babysitting job that was made more difficult because I couldn't manage the family's car.

missedconceptions said...

My parents insisted that I learn to drive a manual to avoid the "what-if-you-are-at-home-with-someone -who-needs-to-be-driven-to-the-hospital -and-there-is-only-one-car-in-the-driveway-and-you -don't-know-how-to-drive-it-and-the -person-dies" scenario. (My answer then, as now, is "um, why wouldn't I just dial 9-1-1?")

We have an automatic now, and I like manuals better as I feel I have more control over the car. Also, I think they have somewhat better fuel economy, but that could just be a rumor.

Eva said...

I'm pretty sure that if I had the opportunity to work on it I could drive manual. But the main time someone tried to teach me it was in San Francisco in a fifteen-year-old car, so the lesson was pretty ineffective. My husband's cars are usually manual, but I'm glad he just got an automatic, since it means I can use it if mine is in the shop (and he can take the spare car without the car seat). Personally I think manual is kind of dumb since it means you can't hold hands or fiddle with the radio or eat or anything while you drive.

Still Born said...

Manual all the way.

Yankee T said...

We own one of each. Our Honda is a manual, and the station wagon is (predictably) an automatic. Sometimes I like the stick, and sometimes I'm not in the mood to mess with it. But we have insisted that our children learn both-so that if they are ever in a situation where they need to take someone's car in an emergency (like,say, they're sober and the owner is loaded), they can.
Have a good weekend.

slouching mom said...

I prefer manual. No question. But since the kids were born, we've chosen automatic, on the theory that a hand always needs to be free to, you know, deal with the little critters.

DD said...

If you are stop and go traffic person (metro area), a manual is not usually a good idea. Manuals are cheaper b/c an automatic transmission is more expensive but both cost about the same as far as repair and maintenance.

It won't garner as much in resale or trade. If an automatic depreciates 30% in a year, a manual will depreciate 35%.

I did learn to drive a stick and when I met my husband, he taught me the advantages and the driver is more in tune with a manual. He said if you're good, you should be able to shift without using the clutch, and that you should rarely need the brake if you know how to shift down, not just up.

If I had a sports car, it would definitely be a manual. If it's a daily vehicle, automatic all the way.

Magpie said...

Love love love my stick shift. Learned to drive a stick, and both of the cars I've had have been manuals. Yes, I keep my cars forever - the first for 17 years, the current one is going on 10.

I get bored driving an automatic. And besides, limiting the number of people who can drive the car can only be a good thing.

Julia said...

I first learned to drive an automatic. Then, when JD moved here and I met and got to be friends with his group of friends, everyone's cars were manual. So I had to learn to drive manual. Word to the wise-- if you have a choice between your significant other and your friend as to who will teach you to drive manual, always pick a friend, always. Anyway, so I learned, and I love it. We had automatic cars before, but now both of ours are manual. My mom complains of the same thing-- that we are limiting the number of people who can drive our cars. By which she means that when they are in town, she can't drive our cars (my dad learned in The Old Country, so he's ok). The person I am actually concerned about not being able to drive our cars is my sister. So I will have to teach her. Maybe this fall.

Jenny F. Scientist said...

I and everyone in my family can drive manual. And my husband and his family. And my three best girlfriends and their husbands. I prefer manual!

Lori said...

I find it interesting how many stick shift lovers there are out there! I don't know that I would have guessed that, given that it seems like most cars are automatic now.

But, yes, I can drive a stick shift. I think it's okay- don't really care. I had a stick shift here in the big, hilly city I now live, and didn't love it because of the traffic and terrain. An automatic has been one less thing to think about.

I think I just don't care about cars enough...

Aurelia said...

I can drive a manual, I just don't want to.

We own an automatic and always will, both for resale issues and due to knee and hip problems that my husband and I have. I might make my kids learn simply because they should, but unless you are driving a sports car, I'm not sure you really need it.

Unless of course, you need it to prevent your sister from driving it. Hehe

Caro said...

I prefer the control with a manual and both in the UK (where I learnt to drive) and Denmark (where I live now) they are far more common. In fact you might have trouble renting an automatic.

Caro said...

It's weird having to work the gears with my right hand though since I did it with my left (in the UK) for years.

Isis said...

I like the manual for driving in bad weather (like snow): don't know if that's an issue for you, or maybe automatic people have tricks of their own for slowing down without brakes.

In an automatic car my left foot gets bored and kind of flops around when I am slowing down, feeling like it should be doing something.

Rosepetal said...

Manual. In Europe manuals are more common, although my FIL drives an automatic.

meg said...

I love my manual. I have never had an automatic and have barely ever driven one. A stick feels safer to me (though I have no reason to think it is--maybe it's just a comfort thing?)

We only have one car (don't need more in the city) and I can't imagine it being as much fun to drive if it was an automatic. It's a saab and it totally rocks.

And I also love that the relatives can't drive it--but even if they knew how to drive stick, I wouldn't let them touch it! I'm careful with it and I've been driving stick for 20 years.

Katie W said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie W said...

I've never even driven an automatic! Here in the UK I think they're a lot rarer, so the vast majority, like 90% or more of cars are manual.
Automatics use more fuel, which isn't too bad with fuel prices in the US, but in the UK we pay nearly £1 a litre ($2), so having a more efficent car is very important.

Previous post deleted due to some shocking spelling, and me getting mixed up!

cinnamon gurl said...

I could probably drive a manual in an emergency or with gentle coaching, but I'm not very comfortable... it has been a problem once or twice, but not majorly.

Felicia said...

Manual all the way. All of our cars are that way. Actually it has been funny to use a the valey and end up parking my own car, since I am a girl and all. =) Or the best was when the SMG had to be towed and the tow truch driver couldn't get the car started. An SMG is just a smarter version of an manual transmittion. It was hard but I got my SUV in a manual and wouldn't have it any other way.

Mad Mommy said...

I understand how to operate a manual, but that mental understanding does not result in the physical ability to make all those things happen in synch. I fault the several youths who at various times volunteered to teach me to drive a manual because they hoped it would be an opportunity to get in my pants; accordingly, little was taught - or learned. My lack of ability serves me well when we go to Europe and rent a car, because my husband has to do all the driving; at home, our one car (we live practically downtown in our city with public transit access galore) is automatic, and my husband doesn't really like to drive, so I do almost all of the driving.

Mad Mommy said...

Oh, and bon voyage! Have something creamy/custardy for me! And all the wine you can drink! And the unpasteurized cheese! Mmmmm, I may have to cook tonight...

S. said...

Manual. Our recent car troubles landed us with an automatic and I feel like half of my body has gone numb while I'm driving. I can't wait to get rid of the damn thing. Not that I can deal with any more car tsuris for the next million years.

MB said...

Jim & I love cars. We love to drive fast and happen to have had severall nice, fast cars. IMO, a manual is a must is a sports car. A manual is much, much more fun to drive. BUT, day to day? I prefer the automatic.

The Oneliner (Christina) said...

i can only drive a manual. seriously, automatics freak me out. when i drive them i feel like i am forgetting to do something very important. and the fake shifter in the new cars...puh-lease. the fun with the manual is in the clutch people. the clutch.

i think it's funny that she's worried about who can and cannot drive the car. I mean, do you all switch cars a lot? If not, should you really pay more for a car that someone *may* need to drive once? Wouldn't it just be cheaper to rent them a car should that become necessary?

i love that so many people who responded drive manuals. i had heard that less than 3% of americans drive manuals, but that seems too low.

what kind of car? we won't tell we promise.

delphi said...

My first car was a stick. I hated it in stop-and-go traffic (too much clutch action), but otherwise it was a-okay. My husband doesn't really drive stick, but he still managed to move my car when necessary. Don't think it is a problem, really.

Look at me not studying... :)

My Reality said...

I can drive manual and even enjoy it sometimes. But in stop and go rush hour traffic, I much prefer an automatic. Both of our cars are automatic now, but if we ever had the luxury of a 3rd car, just for fun, it would be standard all the way!

akeeyu said...

I can drive both. I grew up in the time before widely available cell phones and loved road trips, so I was never fond of the idea of being stranded if the driver of another car became disabled.

Manual is fun, but given that I know all the fun tricks, my assumption has always been that I would just burn out a clutch by screwing around.

Automatic costs more, but also has higher resale value, which I learned after 'selling' my totalled car to my insurance company.

I wouldn't call accessibility to others a high selling point for me. Hell, if I could have my ignition blocked by fingerprint access, I probably would, but I'm bitchy like that.

Ruby said...

I can't and it has been a problem a few times.

Nearlydawn said...

I learned to drive on a manual and my first car was a manual. This came about NOT by chance!

My mother was about 19 when she was out with 4 friends. Someone other than her was to be the Designated Driver. However, when it came time to go home they realized the roads were covered in ice since the temp had dropped during the evening. Also, the DD was drunk and the car was a manual shift. My mother, who was PG and so didn't drink, had to LEARN to drive a manual in a sleet storm on icy roads at night with 4 of her best friends in the car.

So, my parents bought me a manual transmission car, about 20 years later. I didn't drive my first automatic until I was 21. :)

Christine said...

i have no idea how to drive a stick. but it has never been a real problem.

LeRoy Dissing said...

We own automatics but use to drive only cars with manual transmissions. In fact, both of my daughter's cars that we got her have manual transmissions - at her request. They are cheaper, usually involve less maintenance, and are better on gas, especially in country/highway driving. The theory is if you can drive a car with a manual transmission, you can just about drive anything with a clutch - trucks, tractors and motorcycles. I am assuming Niobe that your shifter is on the floor. I rarely see manual tranmission shifters on the column or on the "tree" as we use to call it. Of course there were three speed manual transmissions but most were four speeds although today they do have five speeds and maybe some more! Some are pretty tricky shifting into reverse, like the VWs and Hyundias where you have to push the shifter down and then into reverse...and sometimes reverse isn't where you think it is - and that can be a challenge for some folks.

I acutally prefer a manual transmission but I am not even sure the cars we have came with them. Use to be they were the standard equipment and you had to request an automatic...now its the other way around and perhaps many do not even have a manual transmission option.

So tell us what you prefer and why please. My daughter also likes the manual for the very reason you cite - not many can borrow her car cuz they can't drive one with a manual transmission!

girlh said...

i was in the back seat when my father taught my sister to drive a manual. it was horrible. i was 14 and i decided then and there that i did not need to put myself through that. ever.

24 years later, i'm still automatic all the way. only once in my life did i wish i could drive a manual transmission. those little mini-mook cars on st. barts are so cute. but i ended up being just as happy being a passenger.

Renae said...

I love my manual but I also live in a rural area. It is a pain when we drive to a big city and are in stop and go traffic (as someone noted above). The good thing for me is that Hubs is usually driving then. There is a new car, I think a Nissan, that you can switch over or something - Hubs had it as a rental car on a recent trip. He thinks that should be our next car.

Oh, and before we dated, etc, I LOVED it when I would meet a guy who couldn't drive a stick!

stickybun07 said...

I can definitely drive a manual, and actually prefer to. In our family, it's like a badge of honor. when my now 90 year old grandmother had to give up her manual at 85 because of a hip replacement, she was PISSED. So, when I had to break down and buy an automatic in Dec because they didn't have any manuals, I felt defeated. I gave in more than half a century earlier than Nana. for shame. :-)

Bon said...

can't drive stick. wish i could. tried to learn, but we were living in Korea then and traffic in general scared the shit out of me, so i panicked and ran home, or something like that.

LeRoy Dissing said...

For those who learned to drive a standard, I bet it was difficult if your husband taught you and you did the "bunny hop" as you popped the clutch...and then killed the engine while he is laughing at you - been there, done that! Not fun!!!

kate said...

your SIL is right about that.

I always prefer a manual transmission, because there are some things i like to control. And, most car thieves can't drive a manual transmission, heh heh heh.

Alice said...

I prefer manual. I've heard that a manual transmission lasts longer and has fewer issues. I can't say for certain if that is true--but I have been driving the same cars since 1995 and it drives beautifully.

Rebecca said...

I'm British and automatics are rare here. I've never driven one, but my mother has. Manual all the way!

AJW5403 said...

I can drive stick but choose an automatic when car shopping. The traffic is so bad here in Florida there is no way I would drive a stick.

Amelie said...

I've never driven an automatic...

Trish said...

Yes, I can drive a manual. I prefer the automatic just cause I'm lazy.

I have been annoyed when other people (the hubby included) haven't been able to drive a time or two. We were discussing going to Ireland on vacation and renting a car and he was talking about how it would be a manual and he couldn't drive. Pooh on him.