Less than a third of new car model lines currently on sale are available with manual gearboxes. This is the conclusion of research by Carwow on new models available f or sale in the UK.

Of the 298* new car model lines available to order in the UK, 200 (67.11%), are available with automatic transmissions. This leaves 98 cars (32.89%) available with manual gearboxes.

No option

Some carmakers offer automatic gearboxes only across their ranges. No new models from Mercedes, Genesis, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lexus, Maserati, Rolls-Royce, Subaru and Volvo are available with manual transmissions. In fact, only two car makers – Abarth and Seat – offer manual gearboxes on their whole range available to buy in the UK.

“The writing has been on the wall for manual gearboxes for some time,” says Hugo Griffiths, consumer editor at Carwow. “The rise of electric cars coupled with increasingly sophisticated safety systems that work best with automatic transmissions have conspired to push manuals to the sidelines.

“Added to this is the smooth and efficient nature of modern automatics, which dovetails perfectly with the value drivers place on comfort and convenience.

“There will undoubtedly come a time when being able to drive a car with a manual gearbox will be as archaic a skill as trimming a candle wick or programming a video recorder.”

Supply and demand

The scarcity of manual gearboxes in car makers’ ranges is echoed in new-car sales figures.

Data shared by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows 24% of new cars sold in 2011 were ordered with an automatic gearbox,. This has resulted in a rise of 62.4% to 2021.

This momentum has also been recorded in the choice of model to learn in by learners.

Learner drivers are more likely than ever to take their driving test in a car with an automatic gearbox. This in turn prevents them from buying a manual used car as their first vehicle.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) told Carwow that 5.2% of candidates took their test in an automatic in financial year 2010/11. This proportion had more than trebled by 2021/22, when 15.78% of driving tests were conducted in automatic cars. The rise in the popularity of electric vehicles in order to better protect the environment is also a key feature of their preferences. This is being reinforced by the government’s banning off the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030.

“The real death knell for manuals will sound when the proportion of candidates taking their driving test in an automatic car overtakes those doing so in a manual, ” adds Griffiths. “This will signal that knowing how to change gear manually is neither useful nor interesting to most of the population.

“Given current projections, that time will come in a little over a decade.”

Automatic vs manual sales (Source: SMMT)



2021 62.4% 37.7%
2020 56.2% 43.9%
2019 49.1% 50.9%
2018 43.2% 56.9%
2017 40.0% 60.0%
…2011 24% 76%

Automatic vs manual driving tests (Source: DVSA)

Financial year Auto driving tests
2021/22 15.78%
2020/21 13.81%
2019/20 12.66%
2018/19 11.12%
2017/18… 9.53%
2010/11 5.2%

*Audit of cars available on manufacturers’ online configurators conducted in September 2022; vehicle derivatives (e.g. estates) were assessed, but not counted as individual models