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 Edmunds.com, 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.

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

  1. Ladia
    February 6, 2015 #

    Porshes, Lamborghinis, Ferraris etc use dual clutch transmissions (with paddle shift). There is no torque converter at all. The DC transmission are in a sense two transmissions in parallel. One has only odd and the other only even gears. In example if you are accelerating in 2nd gear the odd gear transmission pre-selects 3 gear, When deceleration in second gear the 1st will be pre-selected etc.Then when shift paddle is pressed the even clutch is released and the odd clutch is engaged. The process takes only about 5 milliseconds. The DC transmission can be operated in auto or semi auto mode also and can shift under full load. DC transmission was invented about 75 years ago.

    Speaking about modern automatics: They are hard to beat on fuel consumption.
    1.) The torque converter has lock. No slippage occurs 99% of time.
    2.) They keep the engine at optimum rpm where the engine uses the least amount of fuel.

  2. Chas Roscow
    February 20, 2015 #

    ….it's Porsche; friendo.

  3. Bill
    February 20, 2015 #

    Why I disagree with the above reasons.
    Reason 1. Modern automatics come very close to the gas mileage of sticks.
    Reason 2. You’re forgetting about the clutch, the clutch will need replaced at about 100,000 miles depending on how you drive and if you’re driving for fun (reason 5) it may be more often. The overall dollar figure may be less for a stick but your time without a car may be more.
    Reason 3. People are still going to try to use handheld cell phones even with a stick shift making driving with a stick dangerous.
    Reason 4. Learning to drive a stick may be a sense of accomplishment but once you learn it doesn’t matter what you drive you can still drive a stick if you want to.
    Reason 5. If you’re driving to have fun maybe, but most driving is to go from point A to point B. When I drive I want to keep my stress level down. I want to be warm and dry, I don’t want to constantly be working the gears especially in stop and go traffic, I don’t want to listen to a loud exhaust, I want to hear my stereo without having it blasting. When I get where I’m going I want to be relaxed not stressed out.
    Other reasons. Starting on hills is much easier with an automatic, yes I can do it with a stick but I don’t have to. You don’t have the gear shift sticking up in the middle of the floor allowing another person to ride comfortably with you and allowing your sweetie to sit closer to you.

  4. john
    February 25, 2015 #

    I've been driving 55+ years.
    Almost without exception, every car I've owned has been a "stick" — starting with a Chevy hardtop, an MGA, down through the decades to a few Toyota Celicas and a recent Saturn ION. They were fun and engaging, simpler to maintain, offered better control in challenging traction conditions. etc. You feel like you are a part of the car — and you are.

    My most recent car is a Prius which has a continuously variable transmission and get 50+ mpg. It is a wonderful car except for the dealer distribution system. [I bought a Toyota certified used car and later learned it'd been in an accident — I'm sure the Toyota dealer knew. But nothing matters, once they have the money. Don't trust certification or carfax. Find a good independent mechanic and have him check it out.

    But, back to transmissions. No question that sticks are more engaging. But CVTs are less distracting. When your brain is thinking of gear selection or RPM's, or gas mileage, it has fewer resources to noting changes in traffic flow, etc. I believe that for this reason, CVTs are safer. You are more relaxed and more attentive to what matters most — the road ahead.

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