Nissan Juke, Exterior, Front

Automatic Cars

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Automatic cars at Evans Halshaw

Automatic cars have long been an aspiration for drivers who spend copious amounts of time in traffic. You'll often find the majority of electric, hybrid and high-end, luxury cars feature an automatic transmission as standard, with no option for a manual transmission.

But, other than the fact your clutch pedal disappears, what is an automatic car? And, more importantly, what are the benefits of an automatic car?

What is an Automatic Car?

Nissan Juke Interior

An automatic car is simply a car with an automatic transmission. In contrast to a manual car, automatic cars only have two pedals; the brake and the accelerator.

Instead of a manual gearstick, typically with five or six gears and a reverse, automatic cars have a gearstick that doesn't require a clutch to be operated, which allows you to switch between 'P' (park), 'D' (drive), 'N' (neutral) and 'R' (reverse). Some cars do have additional settings including '1' (first gear), '2' (second gear), 'L' (stay in low gear) and 'S' (sport, for increased acceleration).

Automatic cars still have gears, it's just that the car has the ability to change gears itself with no driver input. The on-board computer recognises when the gears need shifting up or down and automatically takes care of this.

Benefits of an Automatic Car

Ford Puma, Exterior, Rear

The main benefits of an automatic car, compared to a manual, are:

  • Easier to drive in traffic
  • Smooth, quick gear shifts
  • Simpler to drive
  • Less chance of stalling
  • Modern automatic cars are more efficient, resulting in lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
  • Some can be faster too, cars with a dual-clutch transmission can change gears quicker than is humanly possible in a manual
  • You can learn to drive and complete your driving test in an automatic car, however, if you have an automatic licence you won't be able to drive a manual car

Difference between a fully automatic and a semi-automatic

Semi Automatic Gearstick

Semi-automatic cars provide drivers with the best of both worlds. There isn't a clutch present, however, the driver can manually change gear, usually using paddles behind the steering wheel to shift up and down the gears.

The biggest difference between a semi-automatic and an automatic car is the additional letter that can be found on the gearbox; 'M' (manual). M should be selected when the driver wants more control of the gears.

Dual-Clutch Transmission is a type of semi-automatic transmission and is often called different names depending on the brand. It is the preferred transmission of drivers who want the ease of an automatic but the thrill of a manual.


Frequently asked questions about automatic cars.
Are automatic cars different to drive to a manual car?

Yes, is the short answer. Automatic cars are easier to drive than a manual car as you don't need to worry about changing gear using the clutch and gearstick. You only have your brake and accelerator pedal to worry about.

Are there different types of automatic transmissions?

Are there different types of automatic transmissions?

Yes, the different types are:

  • Torque converter automatic - uses a hydraulic fluid coupling or a torque converter to change gears, instead of a clutch
  • Dual-clutch transmission (DCT) - combines a manual and an automatic transmission. Without a torque converter, it uses two different shafts each with their own clutches for gear changing; one for odd numbered gears and the other for even numbered gears
  • Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) - using belts rather than traditional steel gears
  • Tiptronic Transmission - tends to be used in performance vehicles, functioning in a similar way to a manual gearbox but it uses a torque converter instead of a clutch pedal
Are automatic cars more expensive?

Automatic cars often cost more to purchase as the components used to make an automatic transmission are more complex and therefore more expensive than those used to make a manual transmission. However, automatic cars may save you money when it comes to running costs as many modern automatics are more fuel efficient than their manual counterpart. 

Are automatic cars safe to drive in the snow?

Driving in the snow can be a challenge no matter what car you are in. It's important that you take precautions before tackling the snow in your vehicle, check out our winter driving tips for some advice. When it comes to driving an automatic car in wintry conditions, you may find it actually has a winter driving mode which will help reduce wheel spin and keep the car in a low gear. Alternatively, if you have the option to drive your automatic in manual mode, you will be able to manually keep the car in a low gear to deal with the snow and ice.

Will it be more expensive to insure an automatic car?

Sometimes automatic cars may be more expensive to insure than a manual car, this can be due to two main reasons.

  1. If you only have a licence to drive an automatic vehicle, not a manual vehicle, this can result in an increased premium as you may be considered a less skilled driver by insurance companies
  2. Automatic transmissions are more complex and therefore more expensive, meaning if your vehicle is in an accident, the repairs may be more costly
Are automatic cars safer to drive than a manual?

In addition to being simpler to drive, automatic cars can also be safer to drive than a manual car. This is because you can keep both hands on the steering wheel as you don't need to change gears and you can concentrate more on the road, rather than thinking about what gear you should be in.

Drivers are also far less likely to stall an automatic car so there is less chance of someone running into the back of you. Furthermore, not having to worry about the clutch in congested areas can be a huge relief not only to your concentration but also to your leg. Driving a manual vehicle in heavy traffic can cause leg cramps and tiredness.

Find Your Perfect Automatic Car

Automatic cars are becoming increasingly popular and more common on the British roads, and with good reason. Whether you're interested in a new automatic car or a used automatic car, Evans Halshaw has plenty of choice for all budgets and tastes.

So have a browse of our best offers on new automatic cars or look through our collection of used automatic cars on our website or contact your local Evans Halshaw dealership for assistance in your search.