Most people in the UK will end up completing their lessons in a manual car. This is mainly because if you learn in a manual you can drive both manuals and automatics were as if you have an automatic licence you can only drive autos.
The main difference between manual and automatic lessons is how much time is spent on the gearbox. For a complete newcomer to driving, several lessons will be required on the effective use of the gearbox. Most people pick it up after a few hours, but for some, it can be a pointless obstacle to progress.
Out of around 720,000, only 40,000 test taken are automatic ones. Even though the number of automatic gearboxes is soaring, it is still assumed that someone with a driving licence will know how to drive a manual.
So although automatics are soaring there is still a vast number of manual cars. A lot of commercial vehicles are manuals plus fleet and hirer cars are manuals. The main reason for this is because manual cars are cheaper to buy and generally speaking, they have fewer components in the gearbox meaning they are more reliable.
Once you have just passed your test you normally go looking for a cheap used vehicle. As already stated, they are more pricey but they are also seen as more premium, so you will mostly find them on top end cars rather than your used first-time buyer cars.
If, for whatever reason, you’re having problems learning to use a manual gearbox, opting to get an auto-only licence (Called a “Category B auto”) could get you on the road faster. It can be frustrating to keep spending money on manual lessons when you could skip that part of the syllabus altogether.
And while there are plenty of arguments for learning in a manual, nearly every car is available with an automatic gearbox. They might be slightly more expensive, but realistically your choice is unlikely to be significantly limited by the availability of an auto ‘box.
Plus – despite what you may hear from other drivers, and especially automotive journalists – driving a manual can be extremely tedious in traffic. Anything you read about “engagement” and “driving thrill” is mitigated by the dull ache of your left leg as the traffic jam you’re stuck in slows to a crawl.
If you want to upgrade your licence it is simple. Learner rules will apply, so if you want to go out with a friend or family you must have ‘L’ plates on and learner insurance must be bought. Then when you feel competent to go for your manual test. If you fail you can use your existing automatic licence.