Ask LH: Should My Daughter Learn To Drive In A Manual Or Automatic?

Dear Lifehacker, My daughter is about to get her L-Plates and our family have been talking about whether it is worthwhile for her to learn on a manual or not. Is it still a useful skill given how common automatics are — and especially with new technologies such as electric engines? Thanks, Peter

Learning to drive picture from Shutterstock

Dear Peter,

Unless you’re obscenely rich, forget about electric models for your daughter’s first car. If you have access to a manual car, she should learn to drive in that. While automatic transmissions are becoming more and more prevalent there are still plenty of manual cars on the market, both new and second-hand. Why limit her choice of automobile when it comes to buying?

By learning how to use a clutch pedal and manual shift stick, your daughter will be qualified to drive any car. Even if she chooses to buy an automatic, it’s still good to know how to drive a manual. For example, it means she will be able to drive a friend’s car when asked, regardless of the make.

It could also make her a better driver, as she will have more control over acceleration and braking. Plus, manual cars tend to be a bit cheaper at the lower end of the market compared to auto equivalents. They are also easier to maintain due to the simpler transmission and lack of automatic transmission fluid.

The only real downside to manual cars is the steeper learning curve, but as a safety-concerned parent, this actually works in your favour — it means she will be forced to slowly learn the basics in empty car parks instead of zooming down populated streets. (Wily parent tip: A manual car also make it nearly impossible to smoke while driving.)

We’re keen to hear what other readers think. Should new drivers still take the time to learn manual, or is it the new version of a horse and carriage? Share your opinions in the comments.


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