The transmission in your car is responsible for shifting between gears to transmit the right amount of power from the engine to the wheels. Transmissions get more complex with every new model year, but the most common types today are manual, automatic, and Continuously Variable.
A manual transmission, also called a stick-shift, is a transmission that the driver has to shift manually as the car’s speed changes. Manual cars have a third pedal for releasing the clutch, which lets you change to a different gear before engaging the clutch again.
Manual transmissions are less common than automatic ones today, but they’re still found in some new cars. For instance, low-cost cars may come standard with a manual transmission to further cut costs or you might find one on a high-end sports car. Driving enthusiasts love driving with a manual transmission for the connection and power it gives over the drive.
An automatic transmission is designed to automatically change the gear for you as you change speed using either a hydraulic torque converter or a dual clutch. This makes driving simpler since there are fewer pedals and levers to concentrate on, but it can also take some of the fun out of the drive.
Automatic transmissions can also have more gears than manual transmissions, which means that shifting from one gear to the next is smoother, since it shifts at smaller increments of speed. Manual transmissions usually have five or at most seven gears, while the more advanced automatic transmission can have nine or 10 gears.
The CVT has become more popular in recent years, which uses a pulley and belt system instead of gears to determine how much power needs to go to the wheels. Since it doesn’t have gears, this transmission doesn’t shift — it constantly adjusts power rather than adjusting at a certain speed, which means the driver can’t feel it shift.
This makes for a very smooth ride and better fuel economy, but some drivers prefer the feeling of the gears shifting. Some cars with CVTs also come with paddle shifters that make it feel like the car is shifting gears even when it’s not.
Check out the incredible vehicles at Mama's Used Cars to help determine if your next car should have a manual, automatic, or CVT.