Choosing to take automatic driving lessons might leave you in the minority for now – only about 40,000 of the 720,000 tests taken in the UK are automatic driving tests. But learning in an automatic car is becoming increasingly popular (most hybrid and electric vehicles are in fact automatic) so this could soon be changing.
What’s different about driving an automatic car?
We’ve explained the difference between manual and automatic cars before, but to sum it up - a car without a manual clutch, where you change gears yourself - is an automatic.
Should I take automatic lessons?
In the UK, most learner drivers choose to learn in a manual car. Having a manual licence allows you to drive both an automatic car and a manual, whereas an automatic licence only covers you to drive an automatic. It can also be more expensive to take automatic lessons.
However, automatic driving does have some benefits:
- Without a clutch pedal, many drivers find the automatic an easier car to learn in as you can concentrate more on road position, speed and what others are doing around you rather than having to master the technique of changing gear smoothly.
- With less ‘skill’ required for mastering gears and perfecting bite points, some learners find it much quicker to pass their test and get their licence.
- Driving in an automatic gives you more opportunity to focus on your speed and manoeuvres instead of thinking about gears. Heavy traffic in a manual means constantly having to change gears, and it can be tiring.
Buying your first car
When it comes time to buy your first car, learning in an automatic car could prove to be more difficult. Having a manual licence gives you more options when buying a car, and means you'll find more used cars at lower prices.
Hybrid cars, electric cars and automatic driving
Automatic driving lessons could soon see a surge in popularity as many people are trying to cut their fuel bill, and limit their impact on the environment, by choosing an electric or hybrid car, which are usually automatic.
I have an automatic licence - can I change to a manual?
Changing an automatic licence to a manual isn't too much hassle. You can start learning straight away with no need to apply for a new provisional. The basic rules apply: you'll need to be insured, have a qualified person accompanying you (either a driving instructor or someone over the age of 21 with over 3 years on their licence), and display L plates. Once you're ready to take your manual test, apply the usual way. If you pass your test, you're ready to start driving a manual. And if you fail? You can still drive your automatic.
The key to learning to drive – whether in a manual or an automatic – is a good teacher. We have some excellent instructors who'll help you get out and about on the road.