My husband wants a manual car. I’d feel calmer driving an automatic. Should he change gear?

<span>Illustration: Igor Bastidas/The Guardian</span>
Illustration: Igor Bastidas/The Guardian

The prosecution: Julia

I passed my test 14 years ago, but haven’t driven much since – and only ever an automatic

Both my husband, Johnny, and I can drive manual cars, but we disagree over whether we should get a manual or an automatic for our first family car.

We have a nine-month-old baby, Rowena, and after years of not owning a car we have decided that we can no longer go without one. I feel strongly that we should buy an automatic, whereas Johnny thinks a manual would be better. His main argument is that it’s far cheaper to buy a manual. Since we have just had a baby, money is tight. Looking at prices, there is a big difference (it’s about £3,000 between a manual and the automatic car I would like) so I don’t disagree with him there.

But I’m a new mum and value comfort and ease. It’s also a question of confidence. I am with Rowena at home most of the time, but when I do want to drive, I don’t want to feel like I’m trapped because I’m scared of my car. I passed my test 14 years ago, when I was 18, and since then I have only driven on and off, and always in an automatic, except once with a friend’s car on a weekend away. I hated all the constant gear switching, and I don’t want to go back to that.

Johnny says driving a manual is “like riding a bike – you don’t forget”, but I think I have forgotten. I would have to have lessons again and that would also be a waste of money.

We live in a big city. If we had an automatic, I would feel more relaxed as I wouldn’t have the stress of constant gear shifting in slow traffic.

Our baby will often be in the car and I believe my sense of wellbeing and her safety to be the most important factors

Besides, our baby will often be in the car. I believe my sense of wellbeing and her safety are paramount, so if I’m not comfortable getting into a manual, I don’t think I should be forced to do so just to save a few grand.

Though we would be sharing the car, Johnny would be driving it more: he will use it every day to commute, so he thinks he should have a bigger say. But my opinion counts as it’s still a shared car. We share chores pretty well, but if I don’t like the car, it will put the burden of driving on Johnny. If he’s happy with that, then fine, but I know after a while it will grate on him.

The defence: Johnny

A manual car will cost us thousands less – and they are easier and cheaper to maintain, too

Most people in the UK drive a manual transmission car, so if we get one, we won’t be in the minority. Julia thinks it’s less modern to own a manual but that’s not true. We don’t live in the US or Australia, where manual cars are not that common. It’s still really normal here.

Manual cars are easier to come by in the secondhand car world, too – it seems like there’s always a good deal to be had. And now we have Rowena, I’m keen to save money where we can. The make of car we want will cost us thousands less in a manual than the automatic. Manual cars are also generally less maintenance than automatics, and you have greater control when you’re driving.

In my mind, you’re not a ‘real’ driver unless you can master a manual as well as an automatic

I think it makes for a better driving experience. In my mind, you’re not a “real” driver unless you can master a manual as well as an automatic. I know that’s not strictly true but it’s what my dad taught me when I was learning to drive, and it’s just how I feel. Maybe it’s a man thing.

I passed my test when I was 18, the same age as Julia, but as I have been driving non-stop since then, I don’t really feel a lack of confidence. Julia is a very good driver and she wouldn’t need more lessons, but I would be happy to take her out and refresh her skills before she hops in the driving seat.

I think she is panicking because her driving is a bit rusty, but that is an easy fix. It’s not the end of the world if we have to get her a few lessons, and that would still be much cheaper than getting an automatic. Also, because I’m the one who will be driving it every day, Julia doesn’t need to panic about it yet.

Yes, we would both have access to the car, but she wouldn’t drive it much as she’s still on maternity leave and would just use it at weekends and in the evenings. I would take her out, with Rowena, and build up her confidence when she’s driving. Overall we would save thousands of pounds and it would be largely my car, so it just makes more sense to have a manual. To me it’s a no-brainer.

The jury of Guardian readers

Should Johnny get back in his lane?

Oh Johnny, is this really the hill you’ve chosen: “Real drivers drive manuals”? Right now, the primary concern is how comfortable and safe your wife feels driving the car and the autonomy she’ll have. Don’t make her rely on you to drive her around – that way resentment lies.
Tonia, 47

Johnny makes some valid points, but he lost me with the “man thing”. Now that he has a baby, it’s time to consider the feelings of his partner. The last thing she needs with a young child is worrying about the complexities of a manual gear box.
John, 67

It feels as if Johnny is brushing off Julia’s worries. She should be able to take her child out on her own and feel confident doing it. It’s unacceptable for him to limit her independence and freedom just to save a few thousand  pounds.
Hannah, 27

I think Julia should brave a manual car. It will take probably two hours of lessons for her to get her confidence back, which will cost much less than £3,000. I agree with Johnny’s dad: you’re not a real driver unless you can drive a manual.
Bola, 32

Automatics are a lot smoother and more pleasurable to drive. You don’t want to be stalling all over the shop with a baby in the car. Drop the cash, Johnny – it will be worth it in the end.
Mike, 62

Now you be the judge

In our online poll, tell us: should Johnny agree with Julia and choose an automatic?

The poll is now closed

Last week’s result

We asked whether Cara should agree with Danny over allowing a fox to sleep in their garden.

53% of you said Cara is guilty – she should let the fox be.
47% of you said Cara is not guilty – this Mr Fox is far from fantastic.