It hasn’t disappeared yet but the old manual transmission is on the endangered list. As of 2015, less than 4 percent of new cars were equipped with manual transmissions. Despite the small numbers, though, defenders of manuals are a hardy group. They still claim superiority in gas mileage and efficiency. The problem is that a lot of it isn’t supported by the facts. Speaking with Bosak in Merrillville, IN, a Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram Truck dealer, we got the low down on the most common myths concerning manual transmissions.
Vehicles with manual transmissions get superior MPG
This used to be true. The reason that manuals used to deliver better gas mileage is that they were more efficient. Here’s why: automatics have things called “torque converters” in them which transfers power from the engine to the transmission via a big, donut-shaped fluid coupling. The problem was that in the conversion that a lot of energy was lost as heat. This heat is essentially lost energy leading to poor MPG. Today, however, virtually all automatic transmissions have what is called “lock up torque converters.” Lock up torque converters eliminate the fluid coupling at cruising speeds so power isn’t lost like it used to be. Another issue is that automatics today also have many more gears than they used to have so. Back in the 1960s, automatics had some 2 to 4 gear ratios. Today they have up to 10. So, here’s the conclusion today: on many of today’s vehicles, the automatic transmission version actually gets better gas mileage than the manual version!
The best sports cars only come with manual transmissions so they must be better
The seventh-generation 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and 2015 Porsche 911 both offer a choice of a manual or automatic transmission, and the automatic versions are quite popular. So the fact that high-end sports cars come with both types of transmissions should be an indication that manual transmissions aren’t superior to automatics, just different.
A car with a manual transmission costs less
Does a car with a manual transmission cost less than the same car with an automatic transmission? Well, there is some truth to this one. Sometimes the manual transmission model is cheaper. However, not always. On many GM vehicles, the two options are the exactly the same price. Bottom line: It depends on the car and, frankly, the deal you get on it.
Manual cars are stolen less
File this under “urban legend.” The theory is that because fewer people know how to drive manuals these days, cars equipped with them are less likely to be stolen. It certainly makes for interesting discussion but the statistics don’t back it up. That being said, every once in a while you do hear stories of thieves who have abandoned a car theft when they discovered that a car had a manual transmission. It’s a humorous story so the media tends to publish these kinds of stories often when they occur.
Teenagers want to learn to drive manual transmissions
We aren’t sure where this one comes from because many young people say this isn’t true. This may be because there are so few manual transmission cars are being sold, there is some curiosity about “the old way of doing it”. Maybe but most tend to prefer automatics when exposed to both.
So there you go. the object of this article was not to talk anyone out of purchasing a vehicle with a manual transmission, just to debunk some of the myths that circulate around. If you are considering a new or used car and don’t know what type of transmission to look for, try them both out.