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Manual vs. Automatic Transmission: Which Gets Better Mileage and Why?


The manual vs. automatic debate is an eternal one. With gas mileage being so important today when picking a car, it’s important to understand which type of transmission is better for you and your wallet. Your friends and family are probably steadfast about their own opinions regarding which one is better, so let this blog serve as an unbiased guide to your transmission dilemma.

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The Case for Manual Transmission  

Cars with manual transmission used to get significantly better gas mileage compared with automatics. A major factor that halted the gas mileage of cars that use automatic transmissions was the use of a torque convertor that coupled the engine between the mechanical gears. Manual transmissions don’t have this convertor and use a clutch instead. The torque convertor was never 100% effective when the car was in motion, causing cars to lose more power and burn more fuel on the highway than cars with manual transmissions. So if you’re looking to buy a used car and want to save on gas mileage, one with a manual transmission would probably be more beneficial.

The Case for Automatic Transmission 

In the present-day automotive industry, car manufacturers have solved the problem of cars with automatic transmissions getting worse gas mileage than cars with manual transmissions. Today, automatic cars come with five speeds, and sometimes even six or seven, making highway driving much easier on your gas tank. New automatic vehicles usually have an overdrive top gear that can reduce the engines RPM at higher speeds as well, which also saves gas. Newer automatic transmission cars now have lock-up torque converters to solve to problem of saving power on the highway, and computer controls help optimize gas and fuel consumption.

Today, cars with automatic transmissions will get the close to, if not the same, gas mileage as manual transmissions.

Manual vs. Automatic Transmission

If you’re getting an older car, a manual transmission will probably save you more trips to the gas station than an automatic transmission. On the other hand, if you’re getting a newer car, it’s really up to you and what you prefer. Some drivers think manual is more fun and gives them more control, regardless of the fuel consumption. But cars with automatic transmissions usually get the same gas mileage as cars with manual transmission, sometimes even better. Doing your research on specific vehicles when car shopping will usually give you a more definitive answer.

That being said, if you’re a consistent city driver, a manual transmission might show an improvement of 1 or 2 mpg on any vehicle, because stop-and-go traffic uses more energy for automatics.

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6 thoughts on “Manual vs. Automatic Transmission: Which Gets Better Mileage and Why?

  1. Dilpreet Singh

    As a long term car user, I strongly prefer the manual transmission, because it save fuel, which is very important factor.

  2. Delores Lyon

    Thanks for sharing this! I had no idea that older manual cars have better gas mileage than automatic cars. My son wants to get a car with really good gas mileage, and I have a feeling it will be an old car too. I’ll be sure to let him know that older cars with manual transmissions are better for saving gas.

  3. Cummins Diesel Dude

    I agree with Dilpreet, I had a 05 Dodge 3500 5.9L Diesel 6 speed manual. Averaged 19 to 20 MPG. Bought a Dodge 2500 6.7L Diesel with Automatic. Averaging 15 to 17 MPG. I miss my Manual… 🙁

  4. Vinayak Maharshi

    I think, the images for Manual and Automatic transmissions are swapped in the above article. Please correct those captions, it may convey false information!

  5. Tom Dicaraus

    Thanks for sharing this. But for me, I prefer to Manual. My car right now is manual.

  6. Sukesha

    Automatic gear box less weight it gives better milage.
    Automatic gear box help for easy to drive and anyone can drive.

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