Photo of an automatic gearbox by Jean-Philippe Delberghe

Is It Easier to Pass Your Driving Test in an Automatic or Manual Car?

This is a question that appears obvious, of course it’s automatic right? The whole point of automatic cars is that they remove the need to change gears. Well prepare to be surprised!

When looking at the government recorded statistical data on test centres the results don't support the automatic argument.

Since 2009, data has been recorded on the pass rates of learner drivers in automatic cars and overall pass rates in manual and automatic (unfortunately none on just manual).

To get to the point, every year since 2009 the automatic pass rate has been below the combined pass rate! Take the most recent year of 2018/19; the automatic pass rate was 39.8% and the combined rate was 45.8%.

The reason for this? It’s hard to say, as it feels as though having the extra job of remembering to shift gears would correlate with better pass rates.

Maybe having to focus on your gears helps keen students in a concentrated mind state. Perhaps the added benefit of engine braking in manual cars allow for more control, and therefore higher pass rates.

Regardless of why, when debating whether to learn in automatic or manual keep this in mind.

Electric Cars

All electric cars use an automatic transmission. It's worth keeping that in mind that, even if it is a little harder to pass, it's also very likely that electric vehicles will become the new modern standard.

You should also be aware, however, that when you pass, your driving licence will only cover you driving automatic cars. You'll need to take an additional test if you want to drive a car with a manual transmission. This rule doesn't apply in the reverse, though. If you receive a manual licence, you can drive an automatic.