Fuel efficiency with a manual transmission

I’ve always driven manual transmission cars, I even took my road test in one! Anyway, this past week-end I had to take a rental car on an out of town trip and apparently all rental cars are automatics these days. I guess it makes sense, since not everyone can drive a manual.

754006_gearbox.jpgHowever, being used to driving a manual transmission, it was really frustrating have to drive an automatic. This is because I could hear/feel the engine not being as fuel efficient as it would be if I could make it change gears when I thought it should. I guess over the years I’ve gotten quite used to driving more fuel efficiently, and it just felt so wasteful not to be able to do that anymore with an automatic. Especially with gas prices the way they are now.

Anyway, for the frugal car shopper, these are reasons why manual is the way to go if you are serious about saving as much money as possible:

  • The actual car will be cheaper (automatic transmissions are usually more expensive).
  • Automatic transmissions are heavier than manual transmissions, so a heavier car uses more energy.
  • Driving a manual transmission can increase fuel economy by 5 to 15% versus a similar car with an automatic transmission.

There’s a pretty comprehensive list on Wikipedia on the advantages of manual transmissions. Of course a manual transmission car has to be driven in a fuel efficient manner in order to save fuel, I’m sure it’s possible to drive one in a way that would be less fuel efficient than an automatic. So the onus is really on the driver to learn and practice fuel efficient driving.

What kind of cars do you guys drive? Manual or automatic?


6 Responses to “Fuel efficiency with a manual transmission”

  1. 1 Esme December 5, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    I drive an automatic. I wish I knew how to drive standard but driving automatic is all I know. But my car is a very fuel efficient compact car, so I feel a little better. I’d really like a hybrid one day though.

  2. 2 FourPillars December 5, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Manual – it makes me feel like I’m actually driving.


  3. 3 Danielle January 29, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Manual. 91 Honda Accord. Its my first car and at first I couldn’t wait for it to die so I could buy an automatic. Now I’ve come to love it and all the money I’ve saved. My next car will be a BMW Z3, and I was going to get an automatic, but seeing the advantages of mileage, and the Z3 being a sports car, I’m definately getting a manual so I have more control…

  4. 4 Chuck March 13, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I know this article was written a few years ago, but most automatics are now more fuel efficient than manual transmission. If you look at just about any car that’s available in manual (not that many nowadays), you’ll almost always get better gas mileage in the automatic.

    But for the record, I love manual. You drive a manual and steer an automatic. 🙂

  5. 5 Ben November 29, 2011 at 4:36 am

    Automatics have improved quite a bit in recent years and under normal daily driving can be just as fuel efficient. However, it will never beat a manual transmission at the hands of an attentive driver, for the simple fact that the automatic transmission lives inside an information vaccume. The manual driver can see ahead and predict changes in hill grade, traffic light changes, when you will need to accelerate. Manuals consume less fuel at idle too, as automatics will still run the fluid coupling (hense why autos creep forward at a stop).

    You can also pair this with the fact that a manual costs less, is less complicated, requires less maintaince and engine braking can cut the frequency of brake changes by half.

  6. 6 Ben November 29, 2011 at 4:38 am

    The only thing that automatics are better for is more convienence in heavy traffic (heavy slow traffic is difficult driving for manual drivers and the constant stopping and going results in greatly increased clutch wear).

    Also it’s easier to drink a coffee while driving in the city with an auto.

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