Are manual transmissions generally more reliable than automatics?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 2000

Dear Tom and Ray:

My wife and I are in the market for a new Toyota. My wife insists on getting a
manual transmission over an automatic. She believes that automatics are more
prone to breakage. What's the deal? Are automatic transmissions more or less
reliable? Would we be fools to get an automatic? Please clear up the mystery for
us. My wife will listen to you. -- Hal

RAY: It's purely a matter of preference these days, Hal. There's no real economic
advantage either way. It just depends on whether you like shifting or whether
you'd rather have your right hand free to change the radio stations.

TOM: In terms of costs, it's really a wash. An automatic costs more to buy --
often an extra $800 or $1,000. But it doesn't break any more often than a manual
transmission and will usually last the life of the car if driven responsibly. And
with today's five-speed automatics, lock-up torque converters and overdrive, they
get just about the same gas mileage as cars with manual transmissions.

RAY: Manual transmissions cost less when you buy the car, but they require clutch
replacements from time to time at the cost of many hundreds of dollars. How
often? It depends on the driver. I have customers who get 125,000 miles out of a

TOM: And I have a teen-age son who gets about 125 miles out of a clutch.

RAY: So, in terms of overall costs and reliability, it's a wash, Hal. So it's
simply a question of whether you want your wife wants to be shifty or shiftless.

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