Gears inside of a car

What are the Three Types of Car Transmissions?

Manual vs Automatic vs CVT Transmission Comparison

Shopping for a car? You’ll come across a vast array of unique options. Not only will you need to decide on a body type, brand, and model, but you may also need to choose between various transmissions. The three types of car transmissions you will likely come across are manual, automatic, and CVT. How are these transmissions different? To help you decide, we will explore the pros and cons for each option.

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Manual Transmission Pros and Cons

Manual transmissions are exactly like they sound – manual. Many drivers like to call vehicles with a manual transmission “stick shift” as you need to change gears using the shift knob.

Close up of a manual gear shift in a car


  • Driver is in full control
  • Engaging for the driver
  • Cheap to repair and purchase


  • Difficult to learn and use – not recommended for new drivers
  • Requires taking a hand off the wheel
  • Requires precision and fast reactions
  • Can be tiring in stop and go traffic when the driver must shift frequently

Automatic Transmission Pros and Cons

Automatic transmissions do all the gear shifts in the background. Drivers will not need to change gears themselves while driving.

Close up of an automatic gear shift in a car


  • Easy to learn and drive with
  • Transitions are quick and smooth
  • Offers impressive fuel economy
  • Is the most common transmission type (easy to find and easy to sell a vehicle with automatic)


  • Can be seen as boring. However, this is subjective.
  • A bit expensive to repair and purchase

CVT Pros and Cons

CVT stands for “continuously variable transmission”. The CVT is gearless and operates by using a pulley system.

Close up of a CVT shift knob


  • Tends to offer better fuel efficiency than automatic or manual
  • There is no upshifting or downshifting, making transitions feel smooth
  • Can make the engine run at peak performance – due to this, CVTs are common in hybrids and models with 4-cylinder engines


  • Like automatic transmissions, may be seen as boring. Again, this is subjective.
  • Can produce a loud droning sound when the vehicle is accelerating
  • Isn’t easy to find compared to automatic transmissions
  • Repairs are on the pricey side

Still need help deciding which transmission is right for you? Contact us at Sheehy Auto Outlet and one of our representatives can offer some guidance based on what you are looking for in your next vehicle. For more helpful posts like this, follow the Sheehy Auto Outlet blog for monthly updates!