Automatic driving lessons

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Automatic for the people: Learning to drive in an automatic car

Before getting stuck into driving lessons, it’s worth thinking about whether you’d prefer to learn in a manual or an automatic car. Not everyone’s a fan of using a manual transmission. Many people actually find driving in an automatic a lot easier.

Also, if you have a disability which prevents you from changing gears easily, then using an automatic is definitely the way forward.

Should I have automatic driving lessons?

If you’re learning to drive in an urban area with a lot of congestion, you might find it more convenient to use an automatic. The stop-start nature of driving in areas with loads of traffic means you’d otherwise be constantly having to change gear. This can be a pain at the best of times, let alone if you’re just getting used to driving a car.

And as learning to drive in an automatic is in some ways easier, you might also end up taking fewer lessons and getting your licence quicker.

However, you’ll only be qualified to drive an automatic if you pass your test in one. Whereas, if you pass your test in a manual car, your licence will allow you to drive both. Automatic-only licence holders may find their options are limited when looking to buy or rent a car.

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

Essentially, if you drive a car with an automatic transmission, it’ll change gears for you. If you drive a manual, you’ll have to do it yourself.

Manual cars tend to have three pedals – the clutch, brake and accelerator. The clutch is operated with the left foot. It’s pressed when the driver wants to change gear, which is done with the gearstick. Not all manuals have a clutch pedal – some might have a trigger or button on the gearstick, for instance. But having a clutch pedal is typical.

An automatic, on the other hand, dispenses with the clutch. Instead of a pedal, there’s a footrest where the clutch would otherwise live.

Although there are some variations, the four main operations of the stick are park (P), drive (D), neutral (N) and reverse (R). These are fairly self-explanatory, with the possible exception of neutral, which you use while stopped at lights or in traffic.

Another difference is that you need to use the accelerator to propel a manual car, but an automatic will creep if it’s in drive or reverse. Although it won’t go fast until you press on the accelerator, it will go. This is well worth bearing in mind if you’re used to driving a manual and are planning on making a switch.

Pros and cons of automatic driving

Whether motorists prefer driving in an automatic or manual often boils down to personal preference. For instance, some people find driving in an automatic easier. Others prefer the degree of control that you get with a manual gearbox.

There are distinct pros and cons to learning in an automatic:

Advantages of an automatic

  • As there’s no clutch, it’s almost impossible to stall an automatic. This can be a distinct advantage for learner drivers, as stalling in traffic can be stressful, and leave the driver flustered.
  • Likewise, learning to drive in an automatic means you won’t be able to accidentally shift into the wrong gear, or grind the gears.
  • Automatics are better for hill starts. Again, not having a clutch means you don’t have to catch the bite when going uphill from a stationary position. If you’re in drive (D), the car won’t roll backwards.
  • There are times when learning in an automatic will be necessary, such as where the learner has a disability which prevents them from being able to use a manual transmission.


Disadvantages of an automatic

  • When you get your licence, you’ll only be permitted to drive automatic cars. While that may not sound like a big deal if you only intend to drive automatics, you might find it limiting if you have to buy, borrow or hire a car, for instance.
  • Automatics tend to be more expensive on average - to buy, to repair and to insure. They also usually consume slightly more fuel than manual cars.