Why you should learn to drive an automatic


In previous decades when cars with automatic transmissions were heavy, clunky and uncommon, most people learned to drive on a manual car.

It made the most sense as they were the most widely available cars and being licensed manually meant you could drive both types of transmissions.

But in Australia at least, manual transmission vehicles are in danger of becoming extinct as city congestion increases and automatic cars improve their performance.

According to figures given to Wheels magazine by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) for the first three months of 2016 – manual cars made up just 8% of new car sales.

With an increasing number of automatic vehicles on Australia’s roads, here’s why our kids should be learning to drive an automatic.

The pros
Of course, the car you learn how to drive with is most likely the one you have greatest access to. The statistics show that this will probably be an automatic.

Learning how to drive a manual when you don’t have one will mean finding a manual, be it a loaner from a friend, or by paying for an instructor and a vehicle.

With most Australians living in cities, where congestion is an issue, there is a solid argument that an automatic makes sense for most of us.

The cons
There will always be an argument by some car enthusiasts to say that driving a manual is “really” driving and Europeans at least seem to agree: most vehicle sales there still favour manual transmissions – so if you’re planning on driving when travelling to Europe you should consider this.

Another major downside is that depending on which state or territory you live in, if you want to drive a manual and you’re only licensed for an automatic, you will need to re-sit your test.

And then there is a safety consideration: a study conducted in Sweden and Australia showed that in older drivers, automatic transmissions were a safer option because there was less to distract them from driving itself.

What the rules say
In NSW and Victoria, when you get your provisional licence for an automatic, you’re not able to drive a manual until the provisional period has ended. But in Queensland you will have to re-sit your test. You should check the regulations where you live.

If you need to drive a manual while you’re still on your provisional licence, you may need to re-sit your test and to practice, you will need a licensed driver to be your passenger.

The robots are taking over
As driverless cars become much closer to being a reality – there is also an argument to say a drivers’ licence will soon become redundant all together, so there’s little point in bothering with your licence at all. But we think that the robots haven’t quite taken over yet, so it’s probably still a safe bet to get your licence if you want it.

Paul Higgins is Director of HelloCars.