Numerous vehicles either come with manual transmissions or automatic transmissions. However, it would seem that there is some kind of transmission divergence between the Europeans and Americans.
Most Americans make use of automatic vehicles while a large part of Europeans opt for manual vehicles. We can only wonder why.
Stay on this page to find interesting reasons 80% of Europeans, as recorded by Edmunds, make use of manual transmission vehicles.
Table of Contents
1. Europe Has Superior Fuel Economy
One major reason Europeans prefer manual cars to automatic is that manual vehicles are more fuel efficient.
This wouldn’t have been a problem if the price of gasoline in Europe was cheaper, but unfortunately, it is more pricey compared to the United States.
A liter of fuel can cost anywhere between €1.20 – €1.80 depending on the area, while in the States, the price per full gallon, which is usually around 3.8 liters, has an average of just €2.26.
This price would make any European very selective of their vehicle.
A stick-shift transmission achieves better gas mileage because the engine does not have to work as hard as an automatic version to change the gears. Also, automatic cars are usually bulkier to drive, especially on slopes and narrow roads which most European roads are full of.
However, in recent times, constructive efforts are employed to make automatic vehicles as fuel efficient as manual cars, and we indeed think that automakers are doing a very good job at that prospect.
For example, the 2022 Subaru Crosstrek equipped with the base 2.0-liter engine and the six-speed manual transmission achieves a 25mpg combined, while its brother, the model equipped with the CVT transmission with the same 2.0-liter engine, gets 30mpg combined.
That’s roughly a 20% improvement. Meanwhile, you may want to know why manual cars are more expensive.
2. Automatic Cars Are Expensive
Usually, Europeans make use of public transport for their commute and the use of cars is mostly employed for special needs, maybe for leaving town or going on holidays.
Also, in Europe, there are stricter environmental rules and regulations than in other parts of the world. Stricter rules in the sense that car owners have to pay heavy taxes and duties to own a personal car.
Moreover, the cost of general replacement and maintenance plus servicing of an automatic vehicle is pricier than that of a manual vehicle.
All these rules and expenses would already discourage an average European from getting a vehicle and, if at all, anyone decides to buy a vehicle, the need for automatic transmission may be baseless.
Not to add to the fact that automatic cars cost at least a thousand euros more than a stick shift vehicle.
Compared with the rules in the United States, the country itself promotes the use of personal vehicles while excluding paying taxes and duties at their purchase.
Also, it would seem that American love the convenience that comes with driving an automatic vehicle. So the demand remains high and their prices inevitably lower.
You might want to check whether automatic or manual cars are faster here.
3. The European Topography
The topography in Europe is in constant change and very dynamic to say. Some countryside roads are hilly and narrow with bumpy terrain. Some of these roads also have tight corners and are very curvy.
With these kinds of landscapes, any car could drive on it, but a manual vehicle is a better option because it has a more remote control, responsiveness, and higher maneuverability.
With manual cars, you can determine the level of power you want delivered from the engine to your wheels. This helps you react better and have more stability when driving in dangerous topographies or under harsh weather.
4. License Regulation
Getting a license in Europe is quite interesting. The general regulation would shock you. Here it goes.
In Europe, if you go for a driving test only with an automatic vehicle, best believe you would only receive a license to drive automatic cars and that’s it.
On the contrary, if you did your driving test with a stick shift vehicle, you would be allowed to drive both a manual and an automatic vehicle.
This is indeed understandable because, while manual cars generally require more skill because of the clutch pedal, the gear of an automatic car changes by itself.
So if indeed you can drive successfully with a manual car, you would be able to get around an automatic one.
For rental services in Europe like Avis, Hertz, Europcar, and Sixt, manual transmission cars are the most predominant. So knowing how to drive just an automatic car might actually reduce your range of options.
Besides, renting an automatic car in Europe costs double the price of renting a manual vehicle. That said, check if European rental cars are automatic or manual.
5. Thrilling Driving Experience
Many Europeans would argue that driving an automatic vehicle is boring compared to driving a manual vehicle. They would also argue that the sudden acceleration of a manual car is far more impressive than that of an automatic one.
This is basically because a stick shift vehicle delivers more revs and has more traction control. This ultimately improves their driving experience and trill.
6. Cultural Practice
The use of manual cars has been inculcated into the lifestyle and culture of Europeans from time immemorial.
It is very unlikely that manual cars would go extinct in Europe because, according to current reports by Edmunds, about 80% of cars sold in Europe come with manual transmission compared to just 3% in the US.
This is not to outrightly cancel the use of automatic vehicles in Europe because they are indeed getting more popularity due to their driving convenience.
It is a fact that new-generation automatics are more responsive and efficient than their predecessors. But when it comes down to consumer demand in Europe, stick-shift vehicles would always take the lead.
Even popular automobile brands do not sell their automatic variant in Europe because they don’t have much demand.
7. Minimalist Lifestyle of Europeans
This is another point to buttress the minimalist lifestyle of Europeans. As emphasized earlier, the use of fancy cars is not desired by Europeans and they do not have much pressure to own a car as Americans because they have a cheaper and viable means of transportation.
To make it worse, owning a car comes with so many expenses. When Europeans weigh their options, they find out that cars, especially automatic vehicles, are not among their basic necessities.
Make sure to check out our post on 7 reasons why American cars aren’t popular in Europe.
8. Europeans Are Hardly Distracted
This is another interesting reason manual cars are still popular in Europe. It is safe to say these people are less distracted while driving than Americans.
We all know that it is a general rule not to text and drive or drink and drive, but many people still do, especially Americans.
This is not to say this situation doesn’t happen at all in Europe, but it is not as common. One major distraction that occurs while driving with Americans is the issue of eating and driving, but you’ll rarely see that with Europeans.
While one could argue that people formed these habits of texting, drinking, or eating while driving because they drive automatic vehicles, which gives them the luxury of using their other hands to eat just because the gear shifts by itself.
On the other hand, Europeans may not have that luxury because their two hands are constantly in use as they have to change the gears manually using the clutch. There is literally no room for multitasking.
The increased focus amongst multiple drivers creates and gives room for safer road conditions.
Mind you, this is not to say that automatic cars are not safe to drive. However, because the gears of the vehicle shift on their own, it may be easier for drivers to become distracted by things such as texting, eating, or drinking.