Manual cars are widely preferred for the control and engagement they offer; they have been in the automotive industry for over a century.
Despite this, cars with automatic transmissions in recent years seem to have dominated the industry, yet manual cars are priced higher than their counterparts.
Whether you’re a manual transmission enthusiast or simply curious about the automotive industry, this article will explore the reasons why manual cars are pricey.
Table of Contents
1. The Decline of Manual Cars and Its Impact on Availability
When there is less availability of a product, but the demand for it remains the same or increases, the price of that product tends to go up.
In the case of manual cars, since there are fewer of them available, people who want to purchase them have to compete for a limited supply, which drives up the price of the cars.
The availability of manual cars has decreased over the years due to the increasing popularity of other transmissions like Automatic Transmission, Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), and Semi-Automatic Transmission.
As a result, the production and supply of manual cars have decreased and have led to an increase in demand, which, in turn, has made them more expensive.
In 2020, less than 5% of all cars sold were equipped with manual transmissions. This means that there are fewer options available for those who would prefer manual cars.
Additionally, some manufacturers have stopped making manual transmissions altogether, and this makes them even harder to find and more expensive.
2. The High Cost of Production for Manual Cars
Manual transmissions are generally cheaper to maintain than other transmissions because they have a simpler layout.
However, the production cost of manual transmissions is significantly higher than other transmissions for some reasons.
The integration of manual transmissions into cars requires recalibration of the car’s multitude of systems, which is a costly and sophisticated process.
The cost of
- Vehicle parts and development
- Homologation and certification
are amortized over the volume of a low take-rate option like a manual transmission.
Despite the high production cost, manual transmissions tend to be cheaper upfront than other transmissions in regions where production costs are low, like in China. This is because the parts are more readily available there.
3. The Increased Skill Required to Operate Manual Transmission Cars
The skill level required to operate a manual transmission car is higher than that required for an Automatic, CVT, and Semi-Automatic Transmission car.
It also means that fewer people can drive manual transmission cars, which can sometimes make them less desirable in the automobile industry.
While manual transmission cars require more skill to operate, they can be more expensive to maintain if they are not driven sympathetically.
For example, if someone needs to learn how to drive a manual transmission car, they may need to take driving lessons or practice more, which adds to the overall cost.
Additionally, the clutch, which is a consumable part of every vehicle, may need to be replaced more frequently if the car is not driven properly.
However, if the car is driven sympathetically, the clutch should last many thousands of miles.
4. The Use of Manual Transmissions in the Production of Sports Cars
Manual transmission sports cars are generally more expensive than their counterparts due to a combination of factors.
Firstly, the demand for manual transmission cars is low, which means the cost of producing them is higher.
Secondly, manual transmission cars are often more engaging for the driver by giving them full control over gears. This feature is particularly desirable in sports cars, which are designed to provide an exciting driving experience.
Additionally, sports car enthusiasts can find the best savings by choosing a “stick shift”. The cost of a manual transmission sports car can also be influenced by factors such as
- The brand
- Model, and
- Features of the car
For instance, a high-end sports car with a manual transmission may be more expensive than a lower-end sports car with an Automatic or Semi-Automatic transmission.
Some of the most expensive manual transmission sports cars include the
- Porsche 911
- Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman
- Jaguar F-Type
- Audi A5 Coupe, and
- Various sports cars from BMW and Aston Martin
With this in mind, you can guess which is faster; a manual or an automatic car.
5. Cars with Manual Transmissions Have Better Fuel Efficiency
While it is true that cars with manual transmissions generally have better fuel efficiency and offer better gas mileage than other transmission cars, this efficiency comes at a cost – a higher price tag.
Cars with manual transmissions are generally more fuel-efficient than their counterparts.
This is because manual transmissions have fewer complex parts, which can
- Reduce the weight of the car
- Improve fuel efficiency, and
- Often lead to significant cost savings by achieving 3-4 miles per gallon
Another advantage is that drivers can shift gears manually, which allows control over the engine’s power output and thus better fuel economy.
The driver can also select the optimal gear for the driving situation, such as shifting to a higher gear on the highway for better fuel economy, or downshifting to a lower gear when driving uphill or in stop-and-go traffic.
Fuel efficiency is also one of the reasons why European cars have manual gears.
6. Manual Transmission Cars Offer Superior Control on the Road
Manual transmission cars offer better control on the road due to the ability of drivers to shift gears manually and have easy access to speed gears.
This feature helps drivers not to rely on their car to make basic driving decisions, such as switching up a gear to ascend a hill.
This intimate sense of full control brings peace of mind, as it means the torque converter is less likely to waste energy.
Manual transmission cars also have advantages in certain driving situations.
For example, when roads are slick, it’s often safer to drop a gear than to press the brake pedal, and certainly safer than braking hard.
It’s easier and more natural to downshift when approaching curves and hills, which makes manual transmission cars better suited for country roads that have hills and curves.
In addition, manual transmissions do not have an oil pump that generates heat and does not rely on fluid pressure for proper shifting, which means there is not a dramatic increase in heat generated in performance situations.
A manual transmission in an autocross/track day scenario gives the driver much more control of the vehicle for the course.
Perhaps because of their sophisticated design, manual cars have certain problems.
Manual transmissions used to be cheaper, but this is no longer the case, as other transmissions are now more widely available.
However, with manual transmissions gradually going extinct in the automobile industry, they are still popular in certain regions of Europe and Asia where over 80% of vehicles sold are manual.
Hence, another reason manual cars are expensive could be because European cars are expensive.
You can also explore some cars with the most gears.