Are manual car drivers a dying breed? More learners shift to automatics

Are manual car drivers a dying breed? More learners shift to automatics
An increasing number of learner drivers are shifting away from manual gearboxes and taking their lessons in automatic cars, according to official data.

Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) figures show 70,429 tests were taken in automatics in 2011-12, jumping to 185,043 tests by 2018-19 – a 163% increase.

Manual cars currently remain the most popular transmission among learners, with the latest annual figures showing more than 1.6 million manual driving tests were taken in 2019/2020. The tide does appear to be turning though.

 As the ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 draws ever closer, the popularity of two pedals is sure to gather pace, as all-electric cars use an automatic transmission.

Driving a manual could become a dying art, as licence holders who pass with a manual car are qualified to drive automatics, while those who pass in automatic cars aren’t qualified to drive manuals.

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Stuart Masson, editor of car finance website, The Car Expert, said: “We are seeing a lot more people who are older than 17 or 18 wanting to learn to drive and they're less fussed about the mechanics of driving.

"They don't really care about driving they are just looking for the most efficient way to learn to drive and that is an automatic transmission".

The motoring expert says it’s ‘inevitable’ that more drivers will turn to automatics, with the manual gearbox already a ‘dying feature’ on many cars.

Driving schools are also noticing the change in trends. Ruediger Press, owner of YES! School of Motoring in Dorset, has seen a ‘significant increase’ in learners turning to automatics.

He said: “We could still fill many more diaries with automatics. Basically the problem we are facing is not the interest from the learner side, but to get enough instructors to change to automatic.”

The number of cars sold with automatic gearboxes rose by 70% in the 10 years between 2007 and 2017, when 40% of all new cars were fitted with the two-pedalled system.

Although many drivers use automatic vehicles for a simpler learning process, the pass rate for manual cars is 47%, while only 39% pass with an automatic.

What's your preference? Let us know in the comments if you prefer the ease of an automatic or the control of a manual.

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