Top 5 Reasons to Choose a Stick Shift

Chances are you don’t drive a stick. Why on earth not?

5 reasons to drive a stick

Today we start our series on our preferred modes of transportation. Come back each day to find out why our writers think their method is the best (and weigh in on the topic yourself).

As a lifelong driver of manual-transmission cars, it’s with a heavy heart (and well-toned left calf) that I report the sales of stick shifts are, er, not great these days.

According to, sticks made up less than 7 percent of U.S. new-car sales as of May 2012. Compare that to, say, 1987, when they accounted for a much meatier 29 percent of that pie, and you have a drop-off so steep it’s led Time magazine to forecast the ride’s extinction.

Now, despite my own clutch-crazy bias, I admit these figures do beg the question: Does this disappearance of the automobile’s 3-pedaled progeny make sense?

In a word, pshaw! In even more words, here are the top 5 reasons why this humble stick driver thinks you should make the move to a manual.

1. Stick shifts improve fuel economy

I can’t even begin to tell you how much gas I’ve saved with stick shifts over automatics. No, really, I can’t — since I’ve only ever had a stick, I have no idea what I’ve saved. Smarter people, though, like those at Consumer Reports, tell me it’s probably a lot. According to them, stick shifts can increase fuel efficiency by 5 mpg.

What’s more, sticks accelerate faster than automatics. And since vehicles are most efficient in higher gears, timely acceleration and upshifting is crucial to getting your best gas mileage.

2. Stick shifts save you more money (‘cause that never gets old)

When it comes to car repairs, sticks have a major leg up in a key area: the transmission. Replacing the transmission on an automatic tends to run in the neighborhood of $3,000. But on a manual? Just $1,200 to $1,500.

According to Edmunds, sticks are also often cheaper to buy than automatics. The cost of a 2012 Honda Civic, for instance, shrinks by $800 when you opt for the stick version.

3. Stick shifts promote safe, non-pixilated driving

Do you want to know a huge reason I’m not tempted to use a mobile device behind the wheel? It’s because, when driving a stick, there’s simply not a limb or appendage to spare! Caught up in the interactive motoring that stick shifts demand, it becomes far less tempting (or even possible) to tweet, text, like, pin, or tag.

While educating motorists on the dangers of distracted driving is the best prevention method, getting more people behind the wheel of a manual would be, I believe, sneakily effective in its own right.

4. Stick shifts give you a sense of accomplishment

The main question I hear from people about manuals is usually “Is it hard to drive a stick?”  Well, in the immortal words of the great Jimmy Dugan: “It’s the hard that makes it great.”

OK, in all seriousness, learning to drive stick is far easier than it’s often made out to be. But it does take a bit of determination. And, really, isn’t that a good thing? When the ability to drive doesn’t come so easily, aren’t we less likely to take that activity for granted later?

So let me dispel any false hope: when you start learning stick, you’re going to stall (repeatedly). You’re going to get flustered with the shift knob (repeatedly). You’re going to stop-and-start your way around the cul-de-sac more than the ice cream man. And then … it will all click, and you’ll be grateful for every second of it. (Or you’ll mentally collapse and never pick up a set of car keys again, but still.)

5. Stick shifts are way more fun

While saving money, cutting down fuel use, and promoting undistracted driving are all stellar benefits, I have to come clean: they’re also secondary. The chief reason I prefer manuals is, well, they’re just a blast to drive!

Faster acceleration and gentler braking? Check. More control and a sense of oneness with the road? Check. A cure for restless-leg syndrome? I have to confirm with our doctors but … check. A way to get excited about driving every day? Check and mate!     

Still need more convincing? Learn what my stick shift and I accomplished together.

Check back tomorrow to see why my colleague thinks you should drive an automatic … as if.

Related links

Top 5 Reasons to Drive a Hybrid
Top 5 Reasons to Ride a Motorcycle

213 Responses to “Top 5 Reasons to Choose a Stick Shift”

  1. Avatar for Alex Glenn
    Frank Naish
    September 22, 2015 #

    I can,t count the times I have had to jump start a car in second gear sometimes even pushing it myself , you can,t jump start a automatic . I especially hate all the electronics that eliminate driver imput and having to take it to the Dealership because it can,t be fixed without a Computer ! After a while you will go to WALMART and buy a TRAVEL CARD for some destination and put it in the Dash like a ATM and the car will take you there without any help from you ! There will always be people who only think of transportation as a means to get them somewhere . VEHICLES used to be fun too , but Motorcycles still have clutches and require Driving them with almost NO AUTOMATICS ! My KENWORTH had a " 9 " speed in it and I took that out and put a 18 speed in it and my Fuel mileage went up 28 % per month and my Fuel bill was $3600. Plus a MONTH !!!!!

  2. Avatar for Alex Glenn
    October 21, 2015 #

    Good article, and your writing style is very entertaining.

  3. Avatar for Alex Glenn
    February 20, 2016 #

    Thank you!
    I'm a native of France, moved to Northern California 14 years ago and couldn't believe how lousy motorists are behind the wheel! They are driven by their car and that is not a good thing.
    Over the years I have also become a bicycle advocate and am car free and have to deal with motorists/traffic on a daily basis.
    I have shared time and time again of the safety aspect of shifting vs automatic.
    I wish all automatic vehicles were banned, traffic safety would be greatly improved for all!

  4. Avatar for Alex Glenn
    May 18, 2016 #

    I love my manual. The only times I have had an automatic was for lack of manual purchasing options. As for now my 95 Saturn will suffice. I try convincing everyone that will listen to get one. Claiming "what if you're being chased by a crazed killer and the only car with the keys in it is a manual, how will you escape." Never works but I get laughs. That's gotta count for something.

  5. Avatar for Alex Glenn
    Deb X Mann
    May 18, 2016 #

    Love my 96' 5speed Honda civic. All he said is true. When it dies I hope to find another 5 speed.

  6. Avatar for Alex Glenn
    June 26, 2016 #

    I think the reason why most go with automatic is because there is alot of learning to do with manual transmissions. Like getting the timing right and not overpowering and using the clutch when shifting gears.

    My first car and current is my 2012 smart fortwo pure. Its has a semi-auto transmission with automatic or manual capability. As someone who wants many choices a semi-auto is a good starter choice where you can have the best of both worlds. On my car the auto sometimes likes to stick to one gear and not shift so I have to switch to manual to prevent overpowering the engine and you use the gas pedal as the clutch. Also going down hills, I can switch to manual and use the engine as a break to preserve the breaks.

    Also everything said is true from gas mileage to them being more fun

    So if you really want to learn how to use a manual but that clutch pedal puts you off. Get a car with semi-auto transmissions as a way to introduce you to manual transmissions.

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