Pick Your Stick: Automatic or Manual?

Will automatic-transmission cars eventually be worth more than the manually shifted ones?

It’s a sort of bigger-picture question that needs to look at shifting demographics and project them into the future.

How many of us have a teenager or 20-something who can shift? How common is the joke that a manual is the new theft-prevention device? Let’s also account for how few manually shifted cars are rolling out of factories around the world, and just how far technology has come along. Even modern American automatics measure shifts in terms of milliseconds, which just isn’t possible when hands and feet need to coordinate.

Obviously, we’re starting with 4-speed cars having a premium over the slushbox counterparts. Where this intersects with value is easily seen in the ACC Pocket Price Guide. For many of the most popular muscle cars, we typically allow for up to a 20% increase in value based on it having a 4-speed.

I understand the love for rowing through gears on a wide-open highway, and I also get the fear of rolling the ’Vette back into the car behind me while on a hill waiting through commuting traffic at a four-way stop. For the average drag racer, an automatic will be consistently faster than a manual.

It’ll be a long time coming, and perhaps a cold day in hell, when an automatic ’Cuda is valued the same as a 4-speed one, but don’t be surprised if it happens… someday.

 

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  1. Until this generation dies out or the internal combustion engine ceases to exist, stick will always be king. Look at today’s restomods and pro touring builds, 90% are 5 & 6 speed manual.

  2. I test cars for a living, and in the era of connected-to-a-sensor controls, a manual at least gives you a way to make the car do what you want, when you want. Drive back-to-back in a performance car available with either, and you’ll instantly notice that being able to “force” the car to do what you want “feels” sportier and more engaging. I don’t care if it’s slower on a track; if you bought your performance car to drive–and enjoy–it, there’s a pleasure that comes from the involvement of rowing your own to eke out maximum performance that no flappy-paddle-clicking can match.