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Swapping your manual car for an automatic

Cars with automatic gearboxes are an increasingly popular choice among UK drivers. Between 2007 and 2018, sales of automatics rose by 70%[1], and improvements in technology have meant they’re a lot more accessible than they used to be, especially when it comes to price. 

If you’re thinking of buying a new car, and you’ve been faithful to manuals until now, you’re probably wondering whether it’s worth switching to automatic – and whether the transition would be easy. Fortunately, we’re here to answer your questions. 

Is an automatic car better than a manual?

Whether an automatic car is a better choice than a manual car largely comes down to personal preference. But it’s certainly true that without that clutch pedal, automatics are far easier to drive. If you’re used to the stop-start of city traffic, you’re likely to find this a welcome convenience. 

What’s more, automatic cars transition between their gears seamlessly, offering a smoother ride and near-enough eliminating the unwanted revs and jitters you receive when you find yourself in the wrong gear. 

On the other hand, automatic cars are usually more expensive to buy, so it’s worth considering whether the extra money is worth the benefit for you. And if you really enjoy driving, you might not want to give up the sense of control that manual gear changes give you. 

If you do decide to switch to an automatic car after many years of driving a manual one, it’s going to take some time to adjust, and it’s important to remember it won’t be a walk in the park at first. 

Tips for getting used to an automatic car

Getting to grips with an automatic car takes some time and plenty of patience. Though automatic gearboxes are designed to make our lives easier, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t feel this way at first; It’ll take some practice to adapt the way you’ve been used to driving. To get started, you could: 

  • Practice with your gearstick. While you won’t need to be changing gears as often, you’re still going to be using the gearstick on every drive. Most automatics have four ‘modes’ that you’ll need to get used to: 

    • D – Drive. For when you want to move forwards. In this mode, the car will shift up gears on your behalf, whenever it needs to.
    • N – Neutral. For whenever you’re stationary for more than a few seconds.
    • P – Park. This is the same as neutral but the gears are locked. It’s the mode you should start and turn your engine in each time.
    • R – Reverse. For reversing. 

Some cars will have additional functions on the gearstick, so read up on what these are if you have them. Once you’re familiar with the automatic gears, it’s time to take your car out for some practice sessions that have you moving through the various modes.

  • Focus on footwork. With an automatic car, the clutch pedal you’re used to will no longer be there. This can be the toughest part of transferring to an automatic, and one common mistake that manual drivers make is to accidently use the brake with their left foot while keeping their right foot on the accelerator. You never want to be pressing these two pedals at the same time, so to get yourself into the mindset of only using right foot, try resting your left slightly further back than your right.
  • Test your automatic in different scenarios. The difference between manual and automatic cars manifests itself in different ways, depending on where you are and how you’re driving. These include: 
    • Traffic jams. This is where automatics really come into their stride, as there’s no need to be using your feet to move between neutral and first all the time.
    • Parking. Automatic cars will naturally ‘creep’ whenever left in ‘drive’, ‘reverse’ and any other forward or backward gear, meaning they will very slowly move in that particular direction. You can control this with the brake when you’re stopped in traffic, but it will mean you’ll need to get used to a slightly different set-up when parking.
    • Overtaking and inclines. With an automatic, it may not be so easy to get that little ‘boost’ from a gear shift, to overtake or take off on a steep hill. Some automatics may have a manual option on the gearstick that provides this, while newer models are more intuitive and may be able to figure this out for themselves – it’ll just take a little getting used to. 

Whether or not you decide to take a step into the world of automatic cars, Rias are here to help. We provide comprehensive cover for all kinds of cars, so get your quote today and see what we could do for you.