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My friend is against cars with automatic transmission because he thinks that they break easily and that their repairing cost a lot. He thinks that it is impossible to maintain an automatic transmission box. Hence he is avoiding all cars with automatic transmissions -- I am very skeptical about this.

What are the lifetimes of automatic transmission boxes and manual transmission boxes? By which actions you can increase the lifetime of an automatic transmission box? Is it more expensive to maintain a car with automatic-transmission than a car with a manual transmission?

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2 Answers 2

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They will probably work out to be the same.

An automatic transmission is inherently more complicated which means more can go wrong and usually does (more so than manuals). The increased complexity also makes them more expensive, heavier, less fuel efficient etc.

A manual transmission is less complicated which means there is less that can go wrong. Through normal use a manual transmission should far outlive an automatic transmission with regards to absolute lifespan. HOWEVER, a manual transmission requires the use of a clutch which will wear out quite quickly relative to an automatic transmissions life-cycle. If you are not able to replace a clutch yourself (which requires removing the transmission) then you will be paying quite a bit more maintenance on the manual transmission every time the clutch wears out (anywhere from 2-8 years). With the automatic transmission there is less high ticket maintenance required besides fluid flushes. If your automatic transmission dies however then it will probably be at-least $1000 more expensive than the equivalent manual transmission to replace.

So it probably depends how long he wants to keep the vehicle and whether he cares about having to replace clutches or is able to do that himself to save money.

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+1 good point about the fact of doing some things yourself such as changing the clutch, I found an instruction video here and it requires good space to change the clutch. Manual can be cheaper if you have sufficient time, space, tools etc to do some things yourself but if you need to run all the time to mechnaic about clutch/gear/etc, it may be about the same. –  hhh Jun 6 '13 at 19:27
I have done a fast googling and it looks like clutch-items/parts cost under 1k EUR (done myself) altogether and automatic-gearbox cost about 2-3k EUR altogether (done by a mechanic). So the manual car is cheaper to fix if the gearbox is found to be broken, about 1-2k difference. My peer has driven his Volvo over 10 years without changing a clutch-etc -- it looks like the gearbox-change depends a lot on the driving style, environment and maintenance. He is very careful in maintaining the car. So I speculate that the manual becomes cheaper for a very careful driver particularly if able to repair –  hhh Jun 6 '13 at 21:14
I agree that the manual is probably cheaper in most cases because if you do have an issue with the automatic it will cost you alot more. However if you have a solid well working automatic the maintenance on the manual could be more expensive in some cases but again it depends on whether you are hard on the clutch. –  Mike Saull Jun 6 '13 at 23:12
Clutch change intervals are affected by driving conditions and style. Towing loads aggressively up mountains is the worst case and can kill a clutch in mere thousands of miles (or, actually, even faster if driven VERY poorly). Long cruises with easy acceleration and infrequent, precise gear changes can see a clutch lasting 100,000+ miles. –  Brian Knoblauch Dec 12 '14 at 21:21

Auto transmission uses fluid to generate torque. That puts a little less strain on the components that are actually touching. And each gear has it's own "clutch"

Manual ones goes directly to physical contact. and there's one big clutch.

So the auto will outlast the manuals everytime. But when it finally comes time to rebuild it (remember, the clutches are in each gear) it's usually a $1000 to more.

The manual will burn the clutch faster*. but it's $200 and an hour in the shop to replace.

.* keep in mind this is all affected by several factors. so for one case you can have a manual lasting 150k miles and an auto lasting 50k miles... but it's two different cases that can't be compared easily. All that i said here is based on the most common designs and ignoring driving conditions/drivers.

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