What are the disadvantages of automatic transmission?

Automatics are the preferred transmission option for the vast majority of newer customers as they offer a smoother and less engaging thus more enjoyable driving experience. It’s a fact that most people just use their cars as means of transport, and as such, automatics are just better.

Besides smoothness, automatics are usually quicker and all-around easier to drive. 0-60mph times are in favor of automatics cars and so are the majority of lap times. Furthermore, automatics retain value better and they can take advantage of numerous state-of-the-art safety and assistance systems.

But automatics ain’t perfect, and there are still notable drawbacks associated with automatic gearboxes, and especially older automatics gearboxes. Fuel efficiency is almost always superior with manuals, and the lack of driver engagement can also be noted as a con, not a pro.

Besides these, reliability and value retention can also shift in favor of manuals, and so can the levels of athletic capabilities and general complexity. Besides all of this, automatics are more expensive to buy and are sometimes way too robotized and downright boring.

Older automatic gearboxes

Older automatic gearboxes are a drawback by definition. They are way too slow, clunky, unreliable, and fuel inefficient. Any way you look at it, older automatics are subpar when compared to a manual. They were originally introduced as a more sophisticated option, but they were not yet ready for mass production.

And the value of such cars is greatly reflected on the second-hand market as manuals make up a vast majority of such cars, and all the nicer examples are usually equipped with a manual. Older automatics were short-sighted and were not able to adapt to certain driving scenarios.

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Fuel efficiency

Before digging deeper, it’s worth mentioning that we live in an era in which the fuel efficiency of automatics and manuals are as close as they ever were thanks to huge levels of adapting an automatic transmission posseses, and especially the increased number of gears in general.

Some contemporary cars offer as much as 10 gears and this is mostly to lower the fuel consumption to a minimum. But they are still not as efficient as manuals, and especially so with city driving. The differences are not large, but large enough to make a big difference long-term.

Driver engagement                              

This aspect is rather subjective, but what is not subjective is the fact that automatics don’t require nearly the same level of engagement while driving. People who aren’t all that enthusiastic about driving prefer this setup, but the ones that are, see this as a con.

If you own a sports car such as the Porsche 911 GT3 for example, a manual GT3 is considerably more fun to drive, especially so if you work on your heel and toe capabilities. Manuals cars tend to respond positively when you engage perfect shifts, and experiences such as these are the reason why we love cars so much.


Automatics are way more complex compared to manuals, and you can’t deny the fact that increased levels of complexity usually end up in costlier repair costs and more frequent problems. Even though modern automatics are way more reliable, they still are not on the same level as manuals are.

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Predicting a manual gearbox is easy as you are the one controlling it and the vast majority of problems associated with manuals are due to poor driver engagement. That being said, if you take care of your manual box and know how to use it, you are most definitely using the more reliable transmission option.


Sporty driving

It’s hard to deny that modern-day dual-clutch gearboxes are anything short of amazing. They shift in milliseconds and sometimes you don’t even feel the gears being shifted. If you pair that with AWD which a lot of cars do today, you are looking at an incredibly fast automobile.

But even though the car in question is fast, is it exciting though? Where is the reward in cars that are too fast to drive anyway? If you pair that with considerably more weight a dual-clutch gearbox and an AWD system adds, you are looking at a classic example of the effect of diminishing returns.

FAQ Section

Which gearbox option lasts the longest?

The more reliable one, which is a good old manual gearbox. This is mostly due to the levels of complexity and the way wear and tear works. Repairing an automatic is almost always that bit more expensive and sometimes it just does not make any sense to do it.

A manual on the other hand can also fail, but that’s less likely to happen, and even if it does happen it should cost less compared to an automatic. And manuals had way more time in the automotive scene to properly develop and reach superior levels of sophistication.

Why are manuals faster than automatics?

Manuals are faster because you can push them further. Automatics are mostly designed to shift at designated RPM ranges to save the gearbox, and a lot of power is lost through shifting as automatics usually take more time to shift, if the transmission in question is not a contemporary DCT or torque converter box of course.

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In addition to that, more control enables you to do different things, and lower overall weight enables the car to go faster by definition. Moreover, sometimes it just kinda feels like you are going way faster while shifting a manual because the overall sense of speed is increased due to the driver’s involvement.


Are manuals at the brink of extinction?

In 2020, in every 350 cars sold, less than 50 of them were manuals, and as time progresses automatics are becoming better and better. But the extinction of a manual box is most likely never going to happen as loads of car enthusiasts and car brands want to save the manual, Porsche, Aston Martin, and BMW for example.

Besides this, cars are becoming more and more robotized, and a manual sometimes feels like a refreshment. Some customers are starting to criticize the levels of complexity and soullessness of modern cars, and if that continues to progress, we might see the resurgence of the manual box.

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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