How to Save Gas, $30,000 and Your Pride
A brash foursome of 90210-good-looking American college jocks barged ahead of us in line, only to be told that all the cars available had manual transmissions. That's the case in most countries of the world other than the U.S., where only 5% of us drive a stick shift. They glanced at each other with uncertainty, and then their fearless leader said cockily, "A stick? Cool man! How hard can it be?"
After waiting patiently, my wife and I finally got the keys to our rental car and headed out to the parking lot. There sat the four pushy princes in their five-speed Fiat, lurching forward a couple feet at a time, then stalling, lurch, stall, lurch, stall....
Smoke rose from the tires. A series of foot-long skid marks trailed off across the parking lot behind their car, looking like the "Tear Here" marks on the bottom half of your electric bill. The lurching motion became so violent at one point that the driver's Smith sunglasses flew off his face and smacked against the windshield.
The cool dudes inside the car were not amused, although the gathering crowd of locals was having a blast watching. As I smoothly slid our rental car into first gear and rolled out of the parking lot, I gave a friendly shoulder shrug to the onlookers and said something in quasi English-Greek, like "Yish! Crazy Americans."
Save Serious Cash
Learning to drive a car with a manual transmission might not only save you some major embarrassment in life, but it can also save you gas and some serious money.
Consumer Reports found that cars with manual transmissions get two to four miles per gallon more than the same models with automatic transmissions. If you drive, say, 15,000 miles per year, that's going to save you about $350 annually at today's gas prices.
But that's only the beginning of the savings. New cars with manual transmissions generally cost about $800 less than those with automatic transmissions, and a manual transmission is less expensive to repair or replace when the time comes. Plus, because you're using the car's engine to help you decelerate, manual transmissions are easier on the brakes, which means added savings on brake maintenance and repairs.
All told, you'll probably save about 5,000 gallons of gas and $30,000 or more by only driving cars with manual transmissions over the course of your lifetime. And with a little practice, driving a stick is easy, fun, and oh sooo cool.