French Cars Specialists

Manual or automatic: which is most cost efficient?

When buying a new car, there will likely be many features on your wishlist but few factors play such a deciding role as whether the vehicle has an automatic or manual transmission. A lot of people firmly favour one type over the other, and each does have its own charms and advantages. However, in this month’s article, we’ll be sticking to one aspect of the manual vs automatic debate: cost.

Upfront cost

The largest and most self-evident cost to compare manual and automatic cars with is their initial price tag. As a general rule, an automatic version of a vehicle will cost more than the manual. The size of this price difference between each version/type of transmission will depend upon the individual make and model of vehicle. There are indeed a few models which have very little or no difference in pricing.

Fuel usage

Historically, the difference in fuel efficiency between an automatic and manual was substantial, with automatics guzzling a lot more fuel than manuals. This is due to the fact an automatic gearbox is more complex and needs more power to work. With technological advancements and improvements in the design of automatic gearboxes, the gap in fuel efficiency has been closing though.

With the majority of models of vehicle, the manual version will still squeeze a few more miles per gallon and save you fuel money in the long-run. However, if you are after an automatic and fuel usage is a big factor in your decision, there are a few models where the automatic offers the same fuel economy and mpg as the manual.

Cost of repairs

General running costs are not the only financial aspect to account for – you should also consider how much repairs will set you back, should they become necessary. With the added complexities of an automatic transmission comes a heftier bill, compared to a manual, should it require repairing or replacing. However, you should also consider that repairs related to bad driving habits – such as riding the clutch – which may arise with a manual, won’t be a risk with automatics.

Cost of insurance

The average premium for an automatic car is somewhat higher than for a manual. Research from Admiral Insurance found that the average premium for automatics was around 5% more expensive. However, they also found that when it comes to licence type – whether you are qualified to drive a manual or just an automatic – automatic licence holders’ average premiums were a huge 44% higher! This was due to automatic licence holders claiming around 20% more than full licence holders, i.e. they were more likely to be in an accident.

So, although on average you may not pay out a lot more for having an automatic version of a car, it is definitely worth learning to drive a manual first as an automatic licence alone can lead to much higher insurance costs.


In summary, the financial difference between manual and automatic transmission cars is narrowing all the time and your preference between the two should largely be based upon the style of driving you enjoy most. Depending on the make and model you choose, there could be very little difference in costs between transmission versions. However, for the most cost effective cars, it seems that manual vehicles still just have the edge.


French Car Specialists offer customers high quality, reliable repairs, servicing and MOTs. Our team of specialists are experts in French-manufactured cars but have the training and skill to carry out a wide variety of first class work on any make or model of vehicle. Get in touch with our friendly team today with any enquiries – based in Finchley, we are ideally placed to serve customers across North London.

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