Do automatic cars hold their value?


In a world where buying used is more and more popular, choosing the best for your money is a top priority. Value retention and relative lack of depreciation are essential benefits of buying a used automobile.

Between automatics and manuals, automatics are generally the ones that retain more value throughout the years, but there are a few notable exceptions. Classic cars, sports cars, and some supercars are sometimes considerably more valuable with a manual transmission.

Furthermore, lots of manual cars these days are usually the lower-trim option in the lineup of a specific model. Cars such as these often offer the smallest and weakest engines and are bare-bones when it comes to additional equipment.

Lastly, older cars are often held back by lackluster automatic transmissions that are unrefined and sometimes extremely unreliable. Automatics such as these have plummeted in value and are way cheaper compared to a model with a manual box.

Classic cars and sports cars

These two types of cars are almost always emotional purchases and the rules that apply to cars bought with reason primarily, don’t make much sense here. That being said, these types of cars are not bought for daily driving purposes and the sense of occasion is notably greater with a manual box.

People who buy these cars want the opposite of what a car is today. Timeless designs, the smell of petrol, communication between the driver and the car, stiff braking pedal, and a well-oiled manual transmission that feels like a mechanical bliss.

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It’s worth mentioning that lots of these cars were not even offered with automatics, and if they were, those automatics are way too clunky and soulless. As far as sports cars are considered, people value lightweight cars as they usually offer a more nimble and athletic driving experience.

Classic and sports cars represent somewhat of a time capsule, and a clunky automatic transmission just isn’t fit for purpose. And the value disparity between manual and automatic transmission-equipped cars in this segment is even double in some instances.

Supercars

Supercars also represent a notable exception to automatic cars being more value friendly for similar reasons. But besides the reasons listed in the previous paragraph, supercars are all about exclusivity, and more often than not a manual is way rarer than an automatic.

As far as modern supercars are considered, there aren’t too many manuals left. But for the ones that are still being produced, they sometimes do require a notable premium over an automatic-only because the production numbers are in favor of automatics.

But these differences are even greater when the cars in question offer subpar automatic transmissions. A great example of such a car is the Lamborghini Murcielago LP-670 SV. There are less than 200 units made, and only 5 or 6 of them are equipped with a manual box.

And those 5-6 SV models are way more expensive compared to SV models with the somewhat unsophisticated E-gear automatic gearbox. Some cars like the Mercedes McLaren SLR suffer greatly because of a clunky gearbox, and the value of these cars would be considerably greater if there ever was a manual option.

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Modern cars

Modern cars are a bit different, and even if there were some differences in favor of a manual box, they are not widespread as they once were. But in general, automatics do retain value better because modern-day automatic gearboxes are refined and objectively better than a manual.

It’s also worth mentioning that some models such as the VW Golf for example still offer a manual or an automatic version. And more often than not, the automatic is a better-equipped car in general because you can’t choose certain higher trim models with a manual at all.

And there are loads of bare-bones VW Golf models that offer manuals with the least powerful engine options and only front-wheel drive. Moreover, manual cars are not able to fully utilize a bunch of modern-day technology such as automated cruise control or collision assistance systems because they don’t work with manuals.

That being said, if you want to take advantage of automated cruise control, advanced parking assists, collision prediction systems, auto-braking, and such, you need to opt for an automatic, otherwise, you have to skip these systems as they don’t work as good, or not at all with a manual box.

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FAQ Section

What is the difference between modern automatics and older automatics?

Older and newer automatic gearboxes differ quite substantially. Primarily, newer automatic gearboxes introduced lots of newer and more efficient technologies such as a dual-clutch gearbox which can shift gears faster than a driver ever could with a manual, and this is why lots of modern-day supercars/sports cars offer a DCT.

Besides better overall technology, newer automatic transmissions are notably more reliable long-term, and they are easier to maintain or fix. In addition to that, modern-day automatic gearboxes are way smoother and more fuel-efficient than they once were.

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Why should I go for a manual?

There are lots of people out there that still prefer a manual over an automatic, and even though an automatic might seem like an obvious upgrade people would still rather opt for a manual. And it makes sense as it does increase the levels of driver involvement and a manual can still be more fuel-efficient.

Manuals make more sense with sports cars, and especially lightweight sports cars such as the Porsche GT3, Mazda Miata, Porsche Cayman, 911R. These cars are made for maximum driver involvement and they are engineered to reward you with positive feedback after you engage those perfect shifts.

What’s the value difference between a manual and an automatic?

There are some notable differences, but those differences are not all that big if you focus only on the transmission option. But as mentioned previously, automatic cars are equipped with way more technology in general.

Cars such as the Murcielago 670SV offer the highest levels of value disparity between a manual and an automatic, but there are a limited number of examples that shift the tide towards manuals. Most of the modern-day car second-hand market favors automatic, but not by much.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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