General Question

Spargett's avatar

How much better is the gas milage for a manual transmission?

Asked by Spargett (5377points) October 18th, 2007 from iPhone

Is it really are signifiant as people tend to rave about?

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8 Answers

kevbo's avatar

5–15% according to Wikipedia, although driver style definitely factors in. Wikihow also highlights power advantages of manual transmission in that you’ll be able to utilize the full range of rpm (whereas an automatic will shift at 5–6k rpm) and can execute a downshift (to pass, for example) more precisely vs. an automatic which generally has a lag.

A Consumer Reports article from 2004 cites an average 10% savings in the small car class when comparing auto v. manual in 6 models. Only one showed worse fuel economy with the manual (the Aveo). They calculated annual gas savings (based on $2 per gallon and 15k miles per year) at $75–125 with the manual models themselves costing about $1,000 less. This article also noted a significant acceleration advantage with the manual transmission.

My uncle claims that automatics are better for 4WD, but I can’t vouch for that and haven’t found anything online supporting that claim.

Manuals are a pain in the a55 in stop and go traffic, especially in hilly areas, but that hasn’t stopped me from owning one. The biggest drawback as a driver with a stick shift is jumping behind the wheel of a car with automatic and then pressing down on the clutch brake at 40 mph.

A cursory look on the web seems to put Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) somewhere in between automatic and manual in terms of fuel efficiency.

hearkat's avatar

I will just support what Kevbo said with personal experience. I had three 5-speed hatchbacks and the control when driving was the main purpose; for me the cheaper sticker price and better fuel economy (28–30 MPG) were icing on the cake. My guess about the 4-wheel-drive being better with a manual trans is also related to the control you have in the variable terrain; I really enjoyed driving in the snow with my front-wheel-drive stick-shifts. Unfortunately, I live in one of the most densely populated states, so open road driving is infrequent.

My current vehicle is a “crossover” (between a wagon and SUV) with a CVT which is better on fuel than automatic, but it also has 4WD which burns more than front-wheel-drive, so my gas mileage now averages between 22–24 MPG. (FWIW, the 5-speed, Front-wheel-drive of the same model is estimated 28–30 MPG.) Driving it has taken quite a bit of an adjustment, but I have learned how it responds and can control it fairly well, although I do miss the torque of my old cars. But since most of my driving is on the highway or city stop & go, this is certainly easier. It is also the vehicle my son will be learning to drive in, and he didn’t want to have to deal with the clutch as well as trying to focus on the road.

Once my son has his license and is ready for the responsibility, he will get that car, and I will buy new and now I am torn between getting stick vs. automatic…

hossman's avatar

Newer automatic transmissions are greatly reducing both the fuel economy and performance advantages of manual transmission. What they can’t change is that manual is more fun in open driving, the twisties, and passing, but a huge pain in bumper to bumper traffic.

gooch's avatar

automatics are improving every year. Closing the small gap in fuel consumption. Remember manuals burn less fuel when shifted at the optimum time. How often are you optimum? If you are not at your best always you could burn more fuel.

tonystubblebine's avatar

I agree with the people who say the advantage of a manual is control. It lets you buy less car which is usually both a cost and fuel savings. I’ve always driven underpowered cars with manual transmissions that let me downshift to accelerate into traffic. When I end up in automatic rental cars I’m always shocked at how poorly they accelerate.

hearkat's avatar

@gooch: ”...manuals burn less fuel when shifted at the optimum time.” Automatics shift at different times depending on the pressure on the throttle, so the same is very true for automatics and the CVT, too. If you are aggressive and accelerate rapidly, you burn more fuel; if you drive over 55MPH, you burn more fuel; if you just hit the brakes rather than easing off the gas further back, you burn more fuel (and more brakes); if your tires have low pressure, you burn more fuel. Driving “optimally” in any car will result in better fuel economy.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

stickshifts are just more fun to drive. I love mine and I never want to go back to an automatic. Sure, its an 18 yr old five speed six cylinder four wheel drive toyota, but I love that truck so much you might see me hugging it someday.

hearkat's avatar

As a follow up… I bought a Mini Cooper S, manual 6-speed turbo and my gas mileage averages 31MPG and it’s sooooo much fun to drive!

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