Many people wonder, when purchasing a vehicle, if it is easier and cheaper to maintain a manual transmission instead of an automatic. The truth is that yes, manual transmissions can be cheaper to repair and maintain than their automatic counterparts because automatic transmissions have more parts that are more complex. There are also other functions that can fail, such as slipping, neutral drop-out, shuddering, and heavy vibrations coming from the transmission. However, the functions and their failure are dependent on your driving style.
Automatic transmissions have hundreds of hydraulic, mechanical, and electronic helpers that all work in harmony to shift the vehicle’s gears smoothly for you. With a manual transmission, however, there are primarily mechanical gears that rely on you (the driver) to shift and engage the clutch as needed.
When it comes time to replace the transmission fluid, it can cost up to $200 to replace the fluid for an automatic transmission. Of course, prices do vary based on where you go for the service and the vehicle style you have. While manual transmissions do require fluid changes periodically, the cost is usually half that of an automatic fluid change.
Transmission repair costs can vary widely based on what your vehicle needs at the time and what type it is. For example, it might cost a couple of hundred dollars to repair a leak in the system, but it’s going to cost much more if the mechanic has to tear apart your transmission to find the cause of the issue. Therefore, most repair shops do recommend that you replace the transmission when you notice any trouble. It’s much easier and less expensive to put in a new transmission than it is to fix internal problems or rebuild what you currently have. This is especially true of newer vehicles with dual-clutch automatics or continuously variable transmission systems. The parts are much harder to find, and mechanics aren’t as skilled with these types of transmission systems because they are more focused on more traditional models.
However, it isn’t impossible to find mechanics who can work on these transmission styles; it just means that you must do more research and choose a reputable mechanic.
The cost to replace your transmission can also vary significantly, but usually, manual transmissions are cheaper and roughly cost about $3,000 to replace for non-luxury makes. Automatic transmissions are much more expensive to replace, usually costing a full thousand dollars more than a manual transmission. Plus, you have to take into consideration whether your vehicle has a newer transmission style, such as CVT, which is going to be on the higher side of the pricing. New, luxury vehicles can cost upwards of $10,000 to replace the transmission.
While focusing on prices, it’s important to understand that some manual and automatic transmission parts are covered under the manufacturer’s powertrain warranty. For most vehicles, that can be anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 miles. However, the clutch (on a manual transmission) is considered a wear item, so it might only be covered under the warranty for 12,000 miles or so. Many times, clutches and similar parts are excluded from any extra-cost service contracts (the ones you can purchase yourself to protect your investment).
If your driving style has you burning through clutches quickly, you could spend more on repairs for a manual transmission than with an automatic. You might also find yourself grinding or chipping gears frequently, which can take a toll. However, automatic transmissions can also be abused, though they are less likely to see driving-style wear like a manual transmission.
When choosing your next vehicle, repairs and maintenance costs should be taken into consideration before deciding on a manual or automatic transmission.