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Automatic vs. Manual Transmission: Which Gets the Best Gas Mileage?

Oct 27, 2019 2:00:00 PM / by Wes

Which is better for gas mileage: manual or automatic transmissions?

Ah, yes. The age-old question about whether a manual or automatic transmission is best on gas. It’s been around for as long as I’ve been driving and well before that, too. And with gas prices changing the way they do, the argument continues to get louder.

Automatic or manual transmission?

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Automatic drivers will swear by their wonderful gas-efficiency while the manual drivers will argue until they’re blue in the face that driving stick is the way to go. I like driving both, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. In the end, it’s going to be a personal preference. There are drivers out there that actually do care about what they drive and which transmissions will get them the most bang for their buck. Everyone will have their own opinions on the matter and undoubtedly will offer their advice.

I’m going to put the argument to rest once and for all in a completely unbiased manner.


Battle of the transmissions: does automatic or manual get better gas mileage?

As I said earlier, gas prices are on the rise. You thought prices were out of control before, it’s only going to increase. When you’re ready to buy a new car, gas efficiency should definitely be a factor in your decision. A manual or automatic transmission choice is entirely up to you, but if you’re in the market for a newer car, the answer for which transmission is better may surprise you.

Video Source: Learn Engineering YouTube

The argument for manual transmissions makes perfect sense, and it may have started because stick-shift cars indeed earned significantly better gas mileage compared to automatics. At one point in time. Automatic transmissions once employed the use of a torque converter that would couple the engine between the mechanical gears. As it turns out, the torque converter wasn’t 100% effective while the car was moving, which resulted in lost power and more fuel burning. Hence, without the need for a torque converter, manual transmissions were the de-facto choice in fuel efficiency.

Video Source: Learn Engineering YouTube

On the flip side, automatic transmissions have come a long way. Today, automatic transmissions come in five-speed options with others even having six or seven, resulting in fuel-efficient highway driving. In addition, some of the newer makes and models include an overdrive top gear that reduces an engine’s RPM at high speeds which saves gas.

Remember those torque converters? Nowadays, automatic transmissions have a lock-up torque converter that saves power on the highway utilizing computer controls that help limit fuel consumption. Technology sure is a beautiful thing, especially when it comes to cars.

So, which is better manual or automatic transmissions? The answer is...drum roll please...both. Today, cars with automatic transmissions will see close to the same fuel efficiency as manual transmissions. Sure, you may see a 1 to 2 miles-per-gallon difference with a manual, but really it’s not that apparent. In years past, it was a no-brainer that stick-shifts were much better on gas mileage. Personally, I like the fact that an automatic or manual transmission is practically the same. Competition is good, and it now boils down to how some people like shifting gears in traffic while others don’t.

Automatic or manual transmission?

The next time you’re in need of a new car and are worried about fuel-efficiency, take note of the size of the car instead of the transmission. In the end, you’ll be able to pick out the gas-guzzlers from the efficient cars pretty easily without popping the hood. If you want that stick shift, go for it! If you’d rather keep your right hand on the radio instead of a stick shift, more power to you. Whichever you pick, fuel efficiency will be reflected in how you drive, not the type of transmission.

Happy driving, y’all!

 


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Topics: Articles, The Pit Stop, Cars, Trucks

Wes

Written by Wes

As a veteran motorcycle rider and garage gearhead, I'm no spring chicken. I'm here to give tips for beginner motorcycle riders and car enthusiasts, and teach the ways of the road.

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