Why Are Automatic Cars More Expensive? 7 Reasons (We Checked)

One factor that’s considered when choosing a car is whether the transmission is automatic or manual. It might seem like a small distinction, but it greatly affects the price too.

In many countries, this might not matter because there might be too many automatic cars anyway. However, gearboxes aren’t made the same and so this might be why they are more expensive than manuals.

In this article, we present some reasons why they’re more expensive.

1. Complex Design System

The complicated design of an automatic car might be one of the biggest reasons why it is more expensive than a manual. There is a lot more time and money going into the complex design.

Most automatics are designed without a clutch or input shaft, so the gearbox is designed differently. This is all controlled by the car’s computer system.

The electronic control unit of the car is responsible for determining the RPMs of the car. It then calculates when the gears need to be changed up or down.

Gears in an automatic transmission have to determine what speed they are going at and when to downshift or upshift. This is a precise calculation and designing it takes time and money.

You’d also want to know if automatic or manual cars are faster.

2. Advanced Electronic Control Unit (ECU)

This is the computer unit responsible for controlling gear shift points. It calculates the speed and the RPMs the car is at and automatically changes the gears.

This system is more advanced than one you’d find in a manual transmission car and that’s because it has a lot more to control regarding the gearbox.

In a manual transmission car, the ECU is straightforward when controlling the electronic components of the car. And many of its functions control components that have nothing to do with the gearbox.

Consequently, the ECU of a luxury car will be a lot more expensive because of its advanced design.

In an automatic luxury car, the cost of replacing the ECU will also be much higher.

A faulty ECU will typically have the check engine light on so that the driver knows there’s something wrong. Other symptoms include poor engine performance and bad gas mileage.

3. Tiptronic Gear Lever

Modern luxury cars now come with a Tiptronic gearbox which is more expensive. This type of gearbox can seamlessly switch between manual and automatic modes.

This is a highly complex system to build and as such will be more expensive. It also has a lot of built-in safety systems to protect the engine and gearbox.

What it does well is it switches to automatic mode once the car reaches a certain high speed. With all the safety features, it means this type of gearbox is efficient at keeping your car safe.

To allow for more control, the switch between manual and automatic is efficient in a Tiptronic gearbox. However, this does not necessarily mean that a Tiptronic gearbox is better than an automatic.

This type of gearbox is not suitable for people who want to race their car or go drifting with it. However, they work great in everyday cars because of the advanced safety systems in place.

The Tiptronic gear lever itself is expensive and having to replace it would also be quite expensive.

4. Expensive To Repair

An automatic gearbox has a lot of complicated moving parts and so it is more expensive to repair. In addition, they require more frequent maintenance visits than manuals.

That’s why the most common problems with automatic transmissions are highly dreaded.

Replacing an automatic transmission can easily set you back around $2,000 to $4,000. This cost can even go up to $10,000 for luxury vehicles.

A good thing about automatic transmissions is that they are often very durable. This is because manual transmissions wear off on the clutch due to individual driving styles.

For context, automatic transmission fluid can typically cost around $100 to $200 for replacing it. Manual transmission, on the other, will cost around half of that to replace the transmission fluid.

Costs for replacing the automatic transmission depending on the type of car and how available the parts are. So in essence, costs will vary depending on several factors.

Most mechanics and dealerships will advise owners to get an extended warranty for their automatic cars. Costs can range from $1,700 all the way to $3,500 to buy an extended warranty.

You then have to choose between a Powertrain warranty, a rust and corrosion warranty, and an emission warranty. Of all these, the Powertrain warranty is often more important and the most expensive.

Thankfully, there are some popular cars without transmission problems.

5. Higher Ownership Costs

Over the lifetime of an automatic car, the overall cost of ownership will be much higher than that of a manual transmission.

Costs such as

  • Maintenance
  • Parts
  • Licensing, and
  • Repair

all play a big role in the higher price.

A manual transmission is often straightforward when it comes to maintenance and replacing parts, while an automatic one can be complicated to diagnose and find parts to fix the problem.

Another factor that adds to this is that automatics need the know-how and expertise to fix them. Because of the complicated system, there are only a few people who are trained professionals to handle repairs.

The upfront costs of buying an automatic are also higher than the manual counterpart.

Depending on what type of automatic car you drive, the warranty cost will also be higher. A dealership warranty is sold separately and does not cover wear and tear components.

You have to choose between Powertrain, emission, and rust and corrosion warranties. All these extras can add up quickly on an automatic car.

6. Complicated Fuel System

One of the most important components of a car is its fuel system. It delivers fuel to the engine from the tank.

In an automatic, the fuel system is a lot more complex than in a manual. The fuel system is built to last. This means a lot of thought and design goes into building it.

Parts such as the:

  • Fuel pressure regulator
  • Fuel pump
  • Fuel filter, and
  • Fuel injectors all work together to deliver the fuel

These parts are way more expensive in an automatic, but also last longer.

Having to replace the fuel system is a huge task in an automatic because of the complexity of its build. Of all the components that make up the system, the fuel filter will be replaced more than others.

The fuel filter in the automatic has to be replaced every 60,000 miles for optimum performance. Whereas a manual can go longer without needing a replacement fuel filter.

A fuel injection service might also be needed when taking costs into consideration. Such a service will be more expensive but that also depends on the type of car and availability of parts.

For an automatic car’s fuel system, a lot more maintenance and services have to go into keeping it efficient.


  • Throttle body service
  • Fuel additives, and
  • An engine de-carbon has to be considered

In addition to all this, the fuel system has to work flawlessly together with the Electronic control unit of the car. This is a complex system and is even more expensive in an automatic car.

7. Safer To Drive

You don’t need to constantly change gears in an automatic so your hands are on the steering wheel. This gives you more control and therefore is much safer to drive than a manual car.

A car that is safer to drive means you have less of a chance to get into a collision. This then means you spend less on repairs and maintenance.

A lot goes into making the automatic car safer to drive and therefore it runs up the price of the car. The main component of this is the way the gearbox is designed and implemented.

The gearbox has to work in conjunction with the electronic control unit to change gears automatically, and the ECU has to monitor the speed of the car and its throttle to figure out when to change gears.

This is a complex system, and it means the driver doesn’t have to concentrate on the gear changes. All that focus is directed at controlling the car and making it safer to drive.

With a manual car, you also have to control the clutch constantly and this can result in leg cramps. Fewer aches and pains in the leg muscles also give the driver more time on the road for longer trips.

Many people think manual cars are safer because they give the driver more control of the car. However, this can be tiresome in stop-and-go traffic, and statistically, automatics are much safer.

Lastly, find out if all automatic cars have Hill Assist.

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