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Manual vs. Automatic vs. CVT Car: Which is Better?

Updated On Oct 15, 2023

Automatic vs Manual vs CVT Car

In the last few decades, the Indian car industry has seen substantial change. The designs and technologies have changed significantly, and so have the purchasers' desires. A prominent shift has occurred in the selection of gearboxes in automobiles. The rise of automatic and CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) options has presented automobile owners with a major point of confusion.

In order to assist you in choosing whether you need a manual vs automatic car, let’s go over all the important factors you should understand. 

Transmission (Gearbox) Fundamentals

The gearbox in an automobile is primarily in charge of delivering power from the engine to the wheels. It accomplishes this by shifting gears, which alters the vehicle's torque and speed. The gearbox offers a broad range of output speeds while allowing an engine to run within a specific RPM (revolutions per minute) range. This is one of the most important things to understand when evaluating an automatic car vs manual car

Manual vs. Automatic vs. CVT Car: Which is Better?

Different Car Gearbox Types

Over time, advancements in technology and engineering have led to the development of multiple gearbox systems, each possessing unique features and advantages. In India nowadays, the three most common types of transmission are Manual Transmission (MT), Automatic Transmission (AT), and Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

What is a Manual gearbox (MT)?

The first kind of gearbox is the manual one, also known as a stick shift. Here, the clutch pedal and shift lever are used by the driver to manually select and shift gears.

  • How it operates: By depressing the clutch pedal, the driver releases the engine from the gearbox. He then selects the desired gear with the shift lever and lifts the clutch pedal to re-engage the engine.
  • MT provides a more interactive driving environment. When compared to automatics, they often have higher fuel efficiency and are less expensive to purchase and maintain.
  • It can be very exhausting and demands more work and skill from the driver, particularly in stop-and-go traffic. For novice drivers, the learning curve can also be rather high.

What is Automatic Transmission (AT)?

An automatic gearbox lets the car shift gears on its own, without the driver having to do so, depending on the speed and engine load.

How it works:

  • Based on a number of variables, including throttle input, vehicle speed, and engine load, the AT uses a combination of hydraulics and electronics to determine which gear to engage.
  • It provides a hassle-free and cosy driving experience, particularly in clogged urban traffic. In terms of fuel efficiency, modern ATs are comparable to manuals.
  • In the past, manuals were more fuel-efficient than ATs. Additionally, they typically cost more to purchase and maintain.

What is Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)?

An automated gearbox without traditional gears is called a CVT. Rather, it provides an endless range of gear ratios by use of belts or chains that are wound between pulleys of varying diameters.

How it works:

  • How it operates: The CVT continuously modifies the gear ratios by adjusting the diameter of the input and output pulleys. This guarantees that, regardless of the vehicle's speed, the engine will always run at its most economical RPM.
  • CVTs provide seamless acceleration and don't require obvious gear changes. Under some circumstances, they may also be more fuel-efficient than conventional ATs.
  • The drone of the CVT is not to everyone's taste. Additionally, CVTs were not thought to be as reliable as conventional gearboxes in the past, however, this issue has mostly been resolved in more recent designs.

What Separates a CVT Car from an Automatic and Manual Car?

Even though we've covered the basics of each gearbox type, it's important to highlight the differences between them, paying particular attention to how each operates and its pros and cons.

How Do You Operate a Manual Car Gearbox?

A stick shift, or manual gearbox, requires the driver to communicate directly with the vehicle. It is made up of a driveshaft, gearbox, shift linkage, and clutch.

Working Mechanism: The driver disengages the engine from the gearbox by depressing the clutch pedal in order to shift gears. This eliminates the need for grinding when shifting the gears. The driver engages the engine again while the gearbox is in the chosen gear by releasing the clutch after choosing the appropriate gear on the gear lever.

Pros and Cons of a Manual Gearbox


  • Control: Gives the driver more command over the car, enabling precise gear changes as needed.
  • Offers superior fuel efficiency in general, particularly when driven appropriately.
  • Cost: Usually less expensive to purchase and maintain, having fewer moving parts that could break.
  • Longevity: Manual gearboxes can often endure longer between major repairs when driven properly.


  • Learning Curve: For novice drivers, in particular, the learning curve is more severe.
  • Convenience: With numerous gear changes and clutch usage, it can be heavy and exhausting in dense traffic.
  • Stalling: It's possible for the car to stall, particularly for rookie drivers.
  • Use Errors: Improper use might result in more wear and tear, particularly on the clutch.

How Do Automatic Vehicle Transmissions Operate?

By automatically choosing the right gear based on a number of characteristics, automatic gearboxes make driving easier. Their main method of controlling the connection between the engine and the gearbox is by means of a torque converter, as opposed to a clutch.

Working Mechanism: Based on throttle input, vehicle speed, and engine load, a mix of hydraulic systems, sensors, and microprocessors selects the best gear. Power is transferred from the engine to the gearbox fluid by the torque converter, and subsequently to the gearbox, which shifts gears as required.

Pros and Cons Automatic gears:


  • Great for urban areas: Because it requires less driver interventions, it is easy to use in urban areas with high traffic.
  • Learning: Less difficult for novice drivers to pick up and use.
  • Reduced chance of stopping in urgent situations increases safety.
  • Performance: In certain cars, modern automatic transmissions can shift gears more quickly than a human can.


  • Cost: In general, both the initial purchase and any necessary repairs are more costly than with manuals.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Although the difference has narrowed in more recent models, they were historically less fuel-efficient.
  • Repairs: Compared to manual transmissions, repairs for damaged gearboxes might be more difficult and expensive.
  • Heavier: Usually weighs more than a similar manual gearbox, which may have an impact on fuel efficiency and performance.

Different Types of Automatic Car Transmission 

Although many people confuse the term "automatic" with a single type of transmission, there are actually several different varieties, each having a special working mechanism and advantages.

  • Torque: Power is transferred from the engine to the gearbox via a fluid coupling in a traditional automatic gearbox (also known as a torque converter). It is frequently found in various cars and is renowned for its smooth shifts.
  • Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT): As previously mentioned, a CVT ensures the best possible engine performance by offering an endless range of gear ratios through the use of belts or chains between two pulleys.
  • AMT: A system in which the manual gearbox is automated is called an automated manual gearbox (AMT). It automates gear shifting and clutch functioning with sensors and actuators.
  • DCT: Essentially two manual gearboxes housed in one housing, one clutch is responsible for even-numbered ratios while the other is in charge of odd-numbered gears in a dual-clutch gearbox (DCT). Faster gear changes are possible than with conventional automatics.

AMT vs. CVT DIfference





Belts or pulleys are used.

An automated manual gearbox.

Drive Feel

Silky, with no noticeable gear changes.

Features noticeable gear changes, much like manual transmissions.


In urban settings, this automatic tends to be more fuel-efficient than other models.

Because it is based on manual gearbox mechanics, it is typically more efficient.

AMT Vehicle Facts

  • Cost-effective: Compared to other automatic variations, AMTs are usually less expensive.
  • Fuel Efficiency: They come from a manual gearbox background, hence their fuel efficiency can rival that of manuals.
  • Maintenance: Less expensive than DCTs and conventional automatics, in terms of maintenance.
  • Simplicity: They offer an automatic transmission’s convenience without overly complicated systems.
  • AMT Options: AMTs are becoming increasingly common in India, particularly among low-cost cars. For Indian consumers, automakers such as Maruti Suzuki, Tata, and Renault have launched a range of AMT-equipped cars at reasonable prices.

Which is Better: a Manual or an Automatic Car?

Since the answer to this age-old question largely depends on personal preferences and needs, there is no conclusive response. To aid in making the choice, consider the following scenarios:

Reason Why You're Buying a Car:

  • City Commute: Because automatics or AMTs are more convenient in stop-and-go traffic, they might be preferred.
  • Highway Driving: On lengthy stretches, a manual gearbox can provide more control and frequently better fuel economy.

Are you an Inexperienced driver?:

Automatic transmissions (AMTs in particular) eliminate the need for repeated clutch and gear shift operations, making them ideal for novice drivers.

What the Car Costs

In general, manual cars are less expensive to buy and maintain.

Factors to Consider when Choosing a Manual Car vs Automatic

1. Understanding the Fundamentals of Transmission:

It is essential to comprehend the subtle differences between various gearbox types. It takes more than just choosing one; for a car to run well and last a long time, you also need to know how to operate and maintain it.

  • Manuals require knowledge of clutch operation, the best RPM ranges to shift gears into, and the correct way to brake the engine.
  • Understanding the various modes (such as Drive, Park, and Sport) and when the gearbox may need cooling or maintenance are prerequisites for using an automatic.

2. Consider the Power

It is impossible to overlook the clear correlation between engine power and driving pleasure.

  • Direct power delivery is typically provided by manual transmissions, which is advantageous when passing or travelling on highways. The unadulterated link between the engine and wheels gives aficionados a rush of excitement.
  • Because of the torque converter or electronic controls, automatics can occasionally lag a little bit, however, improvements like DCTs have reduced this difference.

3. Determine What You Need:

Your decision is heavily influenced by your daily schedule, the state of the roads, and how long you want to use the car.

  • City Commute: Automatic transmissions can be a godsend if you spend most of your time in congested locations. Traffic that is stop-and-go gets less annoying.
  • Adventure or Off-Roading: For certain off-roading experiences or in difficult terrain, manual gearboxes may provide superior control.
  • Long distance: Both can function well for long-distance cruising, however, manuals might get somewhat higher mileage.

4. Fuel Efficiency

With fuel prices on the rise, fuel economy is a major concern.

  • Fuel efficiency is one area where manuals have historically excelled. A manual car can have very high fuel efficiency when driven by a professional driver.
  • The older kinds of automatics may use more petrol. Still, the difference is minimal because current automatics—such as CVTs and some DCTs—are engineered to maximize fuel efficiency.

5. Ease of Learning

Another important consideration is the learning curve for novice drivers.

  • Driving manuals can be frightening to novice drivers. It can take some time to get used to coordinating clutch operation and gear changes. 
  • With automatics, learning is easier and more direct. New drivers can concentrate more on the road and less on driving mechanics because there are fewer pedals and no need for gear shifts.

When understanding the difference between automatic and manual cars,  these things are essential. An educated choice based on individual requirements and understanding always stands the test of time, despite the fact that peer opinions and societal trends may influence many. Keep in mind that there is no one option that is right for every solution - what works for one individual may not work for another. The ideal option fits one's driving style, financial situation, and way of life.


  1. What distinguishes manual transmissions from automatic transmissions?

The manner in which the gears are shifted is the primary distinction. With a clutch and shift lever, the driver physically chooses and shifts gears in a manual transmission. Automatic transmissions, on the other hand, manage gear changes based on the vehicle's speed, engine load, and other variables without the driver having to directly intervene.

  1. What is the average cost difference between manual and automated cars?

Yes, in terms of the initial purchase price, manual cars are usually less expensive than their automatic counterparts. They typically require less upkeep as well.

  1. What kind of gearbox uses less fuel?

Manual gearboxes are used to use less fuel than automatic ones. The difference has been closed, though, by developments in CVT and automatic technologies; in some situations, contemporary automatics may even be more fuel-efficient than manuals.

  1. Is it true that drivers have better control while using a manual gearbox?

It is true that manual gearboxes give the driver complete control over shifting into and out of gears and delivering power to the vehicle. When rapid acceleration or engine braking is required, this can be extremely helpful.

  1. What makes CVTs 'gearless'?

The conventional fixed gear ratios are not present in CVTs. Rather, they employ a continually adjustable system of pulleys or belts that provide a nearly unlimited range of gear ratios. This guarantees that, at any given speed, the engine runs at its most efficient RPM.

  1. What is the operation of Automated Manual Transmissions (AMT)?

In essence, automatic manual transmissions are what AMTs are. They combine the mechanical simplicity of a manual gearbox with an automated driving experience by using actuators and sensors to control the clutch and shift gears.

  1. What kind of gearbox is ideal for driving in densely populated cities?

In general, automatic transmissions—including CVTs and AMTs—are more practical for driving in urban areas. They reduce the tiresome nature of stop-and-go traffic by doing away with the necessity for continuous clutch use and gear change.

  1. Do manual and automated transmissions demand different levels of maintenance?

In the past, it was believed that automatic gearboxes needed more upkeep and were more costly to fix. Modern automatics are very dependable, though. Nevertheless, they can be more expensive and complicated to fix when necessary than manuals.

  1. Is it simpler to learn how to operate an automated car than a manual one?

Generally speaking, yes. Automatics are frequently simpler for novice drivers to operate since they eliminate the need to focus on clutch control and gear shifting, freeing them up to concentrate more on other driving-related tasks.

  1. Can I use a manual gearbox to accelerate faster?

As a skilful driver has direct control over gear shifts, manual transmissions can provide faster acceleration. Nonetheless, contemporary automatics—particularly those equipped with sport or performance modes—can equal or even surpass manual transmissions in terms of acceleration.


This article is issued in the general public interest and meant for general information purposes only. Readers are advised not to rely on the contents of the article as conclusive in nature and should research further or consult an expert in this regard.

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