Manual vs. Automatic Transmission: What’s Best for Your Jeep?

November 11th, 2022 by

A white 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited is shown from the front.

Browsing through most new car lots, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a vehicle with a stick shift, but at a used Jeep dealer, you’ll have a better shot at taking your pick between manual and automatic transmission. Models like the Wrangler and Gladiator are still available with a manual transmission as of the 2022 model year, and the Compass was available with a stick shift up until the 2021 model year, so you don’t have to settle for an older vehicle to get that option.

While having extra choices is always nice when making a big purchase, it does mean you have to weigh the pros and cons of each option to make an informed decision. Automatic transmissions have become increasingly popular over the years, but there are plenty of solid reasons why manual transmission still has fans, especially among auto enthusiasts. Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of both transmission types so that you can make a well-informed decision about which Jeep is right for you.

The Difference Between Automatic and Manual Transmissions

Before deciding between a manual or automatic transmission, you need to know what they are. A vehicle’s transmission transmits power from the engine to the wheels. Different driving situations require different amounts of force, so a car will have a number of gears, and each one is ideal for a certain speed, incline, or other driving conditions. Transmissions with a greater number of gears will perform optimally in a wider range of situations.

With an automatic transmission, the car uses sensors to determine when to shift gears and will switch between them on its own. With a manual transmission, the driver has to shift between gears. If you want to tell at a glance whether a given vehicle is manual or automatic, simply look at the pedals. An automatic will have two: the gas and the brake, but a manual will need a third pedal called the clutch, which must be engaged to switch between gears. Some newer vehicles will even have an automatic transmission with a manual shifting mode. If you don’t want to bother with changing gears, you can drive it like a regular automatic and never know the difference. But if you’re looking for more control, you can change gears manually, usually using paddle shifters attached to the steering wheel.

A red 2021 Jeep Compass is shown from the side after leaving a used Jeep dealer.

The Benefits of an Automatic Transmission

One big benefit of an automatic transmission is that it’s easier to learn. If you know how to drive, you probably know how to drive an automatic vehicle. This is also a plus if you share a car with a partner or family member or if you like to take your friends on road trips or OHV trail adventures in your Jeep. It’s nice to be able to split the task of driving so that you don’t get burned out behind the wheel, and if your companion doesn’t know how to drive a stick, then the burden could end up falling entirely on you.

Because automatic vehicles are more popular, they tend to have higher resale value. Many drivers won’t even consider buying a manual car, while only a relatively small group of enthusiasts are so dedicated to manual transmissions that they won’t buy an automatic at all. Thanks to good old supply and demand, having a larger pool of potential buyers means that you can set a higher price. With a rugged vehicle like a Jeep, you probably won’t have to think about trading it in for a long while, but if you like to plan ahead, it’s not a bad idea to keep equity in mind while shopping.

The Drawbacks of an Automatic Transmission

An automatic transmission doesn’t give you as much control over the vehicle as a manual does. In normal day-to-day driving, this isn’t usually a big issue, but when taking your Jeep out for an exciting excursion in the great outdoors, having that extra level of engagement can make the experience more fun and exciting. If driving is just a way to get from point A to point B, you want it to be as easy and simple as possible. If driving is a hobby, it can be advantageous to have an extra aspect to work with, figure out, and eventually master.

Since automatic vehicles are more popular, they tend to be more expensive. As we already mentioned, this can be a benefit when it comes time to trade in your car, but it’s a drawback when you’re looking to buy. You can often find a great deal on a manual vehicle, and if you only know how to drive an automatic, you won’t be able to take advantage of it.

The Benefits of an Manual Transmission

Knowing how to drive a manual transmission car opens you up to more options, especially when it comes to used vehicles. One of the best ways to learn how to drive a manual, or keep your skills sharp if you already know, is to own a stick shift and drive it often. On paper, shifting gears is fairly easy, but getting a feel for the process takes time and practice, especially in more complicated situations on rough terrain. Some people might decide to own an automatic vehicle and then rent a manual Jeep when they hit the OHV trails, but if your shifting skills are rusty, you may not have the fun getaway you’re looking for.

As we’ve already mentioned, not everyone knows how to drive a manual vehicle. This can be frustrating if you’re looking for a designated driver, but it does have one interesting advantage: it can deter potential car thieves. If a thief doesn’t know how to drive your car, then they can’t drive off with it. While security isn’t an intentional feature of a stick shift, it may offer you some peace of mind while parking.

A grey 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is shown from the side.

The Drawbacks of an Manual Transmission

Engaging the clutch and manually changing gears is an extra task to focus on while driving. When you’re in a situation that’s already complicated enough, like crawling over rocks or navigating a muddy trail, then splitting your attention further can make driving more stressful. While some people enjoy the extra challenge and feel more fulfilled when pushing themselves, others simply look for fresh air and adventure and don’t want to add any unnecessary complications. On top of providing an extra task to think about throughout the driving process, a manual transmission can be particularly tricky when going up inclines and can also be a hassle if you get stuck in heavy traffic on the highway.

Which Is Best for You?

At the end of the day, each system has its pros and cons. Neither automatic nor manual is objectively “better;” each has strong suits and faults. So what it comes down to is driver preference. Whether you only know how to drive automatic and don’t want to take the time to learn stick, or you’re a die-hard fan of manual transmission and would never consider straying, you’ll be able to find plenty of great pre-owned Jeeps that will suit your needs.

Of course, if you keep an open mind and are willing to try out either one, you’ll have an even wider range of options to choose from. Then you can afford to be more discerning about other factors, like vehicle history or trim level. Whatever your priorities are when shopping for a Jeep, we here at Ryan Chrysler Jeep Dodge are ready to help ensure you end up behind the wheel of a model that exceeds your expectations and leaves you satisfied for years to come. Contact us today and allow us to show you our extensive selection of used Jeep models.

Posted in Used Jeep Dealer