Automatic cars aren’t what they used to be, and the people driving them aren’t who they used to be either.

Today, automatic cars are overtaking manuals are the preferred option, and an estimated 40% of cars on the road in the UK would agree.

Although some people prefer the excitement of a manual, it appears automatic cars are the easier way to drive.

How do you drive an automatic car, though? Automatic cars are easy to drive as there’s no need to change gears as you go, but you still need to learn the basics of braking, acceleration, steering, and general road rules.

Depending on the type of automatic car you drive, whether it’s CVT, semi, or fully automatic, there will be a slight difference in the way you use it.

Whether you’re just learning to drive or thinking about making the switch to an automatic car, there’s still a lot to uncover.

We’ll show you that learning how to drive an automatic car is easy and how these unique transmissions differ from a standard manual one.

Types of Automatic Gearboxes

Types of Automatic Gearboxes

In this day and age there are more and more variations of automatic transmissions evolving, and all aim to make the driving experience more enjoyable and simpler.

Here are a few of the different types of gearboxes you might hear about and what they mean:

  • CVT: CVT has become common in newer automatic vehicles and it operates without any physical gears but rather a pulley and belt system that simulates the process. The system changes with the acceleration of your car and offers a more seamless ride.
  • Semi-automatic: A semi-automatic car has no clutch pedal and gives the driver the option to use either manual or automatic transmission.
  • Automatic: The standard automatic gearbox also features no clutch pedal and changes through the gears automatically for the driver.

Getting Used to the Gearstick

Getting Used to the Gearstick

One of the biggest drawcards of an automatic vehicle is that you don’t have to change gears as often as a manual one.

The automatic gearbox in these cars will let you choose from just a few basic gears, and there’s no need to change them while you drive which can help to focus more on the road.

Some automatic cars come with the option to change between first and second gear as well, which might be helpful when you want to keep your speed low.

However, these are the standard gears you’ll find in an automatic car and what they mean:

  • Park: This is the gear you’ll use when you want to park the car and get out. Once it’s locked in park, the transmission will lock as well, and when applied with the handbrake, it’ll keep your car firmly in place until you return.
  • Reverse: When you need to reverse, pull out of a driveway, or go anywhere backward, the reverse gear is the one to use.
  • Neutral: This should only be used with the handbrake when you’re stopped for a short time, and never used while driving. Neutral is like having no gear selected at all.
  • Drive: Apply the drive gear whenever you’re driving, and the car will automatically select the rest of the gears for you as you do.

Where is the Clutch in an Automatic Car?

Where is the Clutch in an Automatic Car?

An automatic car still features a clutch, but as the car automatically changes the gears for you, it’s not something you’ll ever use.

In fact, with this type of car, only a mechanic would need to know about the clutch in case anything went wrong with it and it needed repair.

The key difference in these cars is that they contain a torque converter system whose job it is to change the gears. The torque converter connects the transmission to the engine and also features a lock-up clutch.

With a range of other motions and parts, this clutch receives signals and sends them to the automatic transmission, effectively changing the gears for you as you drive.

How to Drive Automatic

How to Drive Automatic

If you’re ready to make the move from manual to automatic or you’re learning to drive for the very first time, automatic cars make it simple.

The biggest difference to get used to is a lack of gearbox but ultimately this will make it easier to drive, so check out these steps to see how it’s done.

  1. Sitting in a parked car, put your right foot on the brake and push it down while you start the car. This can be either a push ignition or with the key, depending on the car.
  2. Change the gear down to either ‘D’ for driving forward or ‘R’ for reversing, keeping your foot on the brake as you do.
  3. Once you lift your foot on the brake, expect the car to move forward slightly, and then position your right foot onto the accelerator pedal. This will either take you backward or forwards, depending on the gear.
  4. As you drive, the car will take over changing gears for you, so there’s no need to shift them.
  5. When you’re ready to stop, pull up to the parking spot and keep your foot on the brake while you put the gear into P, and then pull up the handbrake. You can now take your foot off the brake.

The Popularity of Automatic Cars

The Popularity of Automatic Cars in the US

When you look at the use of automatic cars globally, it is interesting that Europe and the UK tend to lean towards their manual counterpart.

However, in the US, automatic is the preference and has been for many years, with a reported 98% of cars on the road being part of the automatic club.

The reason for their popularity in the US may be due to several lifestyle factors and their ease of use.

Some argue that they’re also popular because Americans see vehicles as simply a utilitarian thing, and may even multi-task while they drive, like eating breakfast on their way to work, even though it’s dangerous.

In Europe, cars have other purposes aside from their practicality. It’s common for teenagers to learn to drive using a stick shift as it’s believed to make them more engaged with the road and help them to stay focused.

Higher-end cars are preferably kept as manual models in Europe as well, and they stick to their traditional roots when using this transmission.

Regardless of the location, people are usually set on one way or another to drive.

Although there are benefits to driving a manual and it seems the preferred option for Europeans, the US will likely move even closer to completely automatic transmissions in the future, and it appears that the UK is slowly following this trend as well.

Auto For an Easy Drive

Where once automatic cars used to be reserved for the elderly or learners, they’re slowly overtaking manual cars as the preferred option for all.

Thankfully, learning how to drive an automatic car is easy and if you’re hoping for a simple driving experience that lets you focus on the road, it’s the only way to go.

Related Questions

Having an automatic transmission offers a lot to the modern driver but it’s not always the better option.

This personal preference depends on how you like to drive and what you find the safest, so you’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons.

If you have more questions about automatic transmission vehicles and what it means for your driving experience, we’re happy to help with the answers to some commonly asked ones.

What Are the Disadvantages of Automatic Cars?

What Are the Disadvantages of Automatic Cars?

There are a few downsides to driving an automatic car that you might need to consider, but ultimately it comes to personal preference.

These cars can be more expensive to purchase, costlier, and more time-consuming to repair, and if you only learn how to drive an automatic you won’t be able to drive any manual car either.

Do Automatic Cars Use More Fuel?

In the past, automatic cars were manufactured in a way that meant they used around 10% more fuel than their manual counterpart.

However, the automatic car of today has solved this problem and with a system like CVT transmission, they’re now more fuel-efficient than a manual car, so it depends on the model you buy.

Are Automatic Cars Safer?

The safety of a car is largely determined by the driver and the conditions they drive, but generally, automatic cars are seen as the safer option.

This is because someone in an automatic car will be able to give their full attention to the road without the distractions of clutch work and finding the right gear.


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