Updated: 8/7/2012 2:35 PM ET|
Is stick shift an anti-theft device?
A manual transmission may not deter car thieves or affect insurance rates, but even if it doesn't, there are still good reasons to learn to drive with one.
It's folk wisdom: If no one really drives a manual transmission anymore, then no one's going to want to steal one, right?
Makes sense. It makes good sense, in fact. That little stick on the floor might as well come with a big car-insurance discount; one look down and any thief with an ounce of sense is going to move right along.
Or will he? Does the evidence back up this bit of wishful thinking on the part of manual enthusiasts?
The numbers would certainly seem to confirm what common sense tells us -- at least at first.
After all, the manual shifter really has become one of the most unpopular rides on the road. In 2010, sales of stick-shift cars and lightweight trucks made up just 6.7% of the U.S. market, according to federal government figures. Compare that with 22.2% in 1990 and a healthy 34.6% in 1980.
Driver's ed classes often don't cover manual shifting anymore, and parents wonder if they should even bother teaching their kids how to drive a stick. (The answer is yes, but more on that later.)
And the Internet says . . .
Neither insurance companies nor the government breaks out theft data by transmission type (in case you're wondering, in 2009 nearly 800,000 vehicles were reported stolen in the U.S. -- one every 40 seconds). But police say only a tiny percentage of stolen cars have manual transmissions.
If that's not enough, there are always the stories. Tales that roll around every year or two about a would-be thief who looks down and realizes he is unable to drive away the car thanks to the presence of a gearshift.
In 2008, it was a carjacker in Florida, who pulled a woman from her car, wrested the keys away, got them in the ignition, then sat there stumped by the five-speed. Busted. The man was jailed on carjacking charges.
But all this leaves out a crucial piece of the equation: the thief's motive. A thief, police say, seizes opportunity. He takes what is easy to take, and what will be useful to someone, and nearly everything finds a use at a chop shop.
Good in the clutch
The idea that a stick shift would serve as a deterrent to car thieves -- most of whom are skilled at bypassing sophisticated anti-theft systems -- is a lot of bunk, says John Abounader, the executive director of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators.
In fact, he and others say, a manual transmission is easier to steal.
"If I saw a car in a parking lot and there's nothing in front of it, I'd simply put it in neutral and push it away," says Sgt. Don Lusk, a veteran detective with the Michigan State Police's auto theft squad in Detroit.
What about the argument that one transmission type is more expensive to insure than the other? Wrong again. The big insurance companies say they don't consider whether a vehicle has a standard or automatic transmission when determining rates.
Stick shift: Learn it, drive it
As mentioned, it's still a good idea to learn to drive a stick shift.
Here's why, courtesy of Eddie Alterman, the editor-in-chief of Car and Driver magazine, who launched a "Save the Manuals!" campaign in response to dwindling industry production of the stick shift:
- It's enjoyable: "It's more fun to have control over the gears," says Alterman, noting "the gratification of a well-timed heel-toe downshift."
- It's revivable: "You can start your car if it's got a dead battery by popping the clutch on a hill, whereas with an automatic you have to get a jump or a tow," he says.
- It requires focus: "If you're worried about your kid texting while driving, there's no way they can do all this at once," Alterman says. "It's a big deterrent to doing anything behind the wheel other than driving."
- It's fuel-efficient: When driven correctly, a manual transmission delivers more miles per gallon than an automatic.
- It's cheap: A manual transmission has fewer parts, so it's less expensive to repair. When offered as an option, it also typically costs less to buy.
- It offers control: "You think there would be all these unintended acceleration problems if people had stick shifts?" asks Alterman, referring to recent reports of problems with Toyotas.
- It will get you from Point A to Point B: What if there's an emergency and the only vehicle has a stick? 'Nuf said.
So get behind the wheel and start shifting. Enjoy -- just don't expect the thieves to steer clear.
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I'm in the market for a new car, and it is difficult at best to find a car with a manual transmission. Some makes and models are out completely for me, as they don't even offer a manual, auto only. Just a personal preference, I find it more fun to drive and pretty much no one asks to borrow my car, since they can't drive a stick.
You forgot the most important reason to learn to drive a stick:
It's difficult to find an automatic rental car in most other countries. And if you do, you'll have to pay more. With this, you'll look like an idiot for not knowing one of life's basic skills.
That said, realize that America is one of the few countries where most people drive automatic (also Japan and Korea, but those are the only others I can think of). That goes well with our poor driving skills and habits (e.g. - cramming a whole meal down our throats while driving instead of driving well and then taking a few moments to enjoy our food).
Do yourself and the rest of the US a favour: Learn to drive, take it seriously, and let's get some better eating habits, too.
I had nothing but manual-transmission cars for about 10 years after I first started driving at the tender age of 16. It's definitely a skill I think every driver should posess. I mean, if you learn to drive on a stick-shift, you can pretty much drive any non-commercial vehicle out there in a pinch.
These days I drive an automatic for comfort and convenience in the ever-present stop-&-go nature of the daily commute. But, when my mid-life crisis arrives, a sporty 5-speed (or, more likely 6-speed) is near the top of the shopping list
Which reminds me . . . no self-respecting car enthusiast buys an automatic "sports car." Right or wrong, the first word that comes to mind when I see a high-performance car w/o a stick is "poser." I guess I'm just old-school that way (haha).
Driving manual is easy and fun. If you don't know how - learn.
Any thief who doesn't know how should be ashamed and expelled from the brotherhood.
Been driving for over 40 years, cars, and motorcycles. I have a WRX , a Yamaha & a Kawasaki, all have manual transmissions. My daughter learned on a stick, and loves to brag how she can drive a stick. More control, and less cost.
Price a rebuilt transmission, and then compare it to the cost of replacing a clutch.
"If I saw a car in a parking lot and there's nothing in front of it, I'd simply put it in neutral and push it away," says Sgt. Don Lusk, a veteran detective with the Michigan State Police's auto theft squad in Detroit. LOL
A cop thief! But not a very clever one! How far do you think you want to push (and can push) a heavy piece of metal before asking yourself: 'why am I doing this?'
It's called a gear stick over in England and manuals are the preferred cars as they are cheaper and they are also driven all over Europe - so another reason if you're planning to visit Europe and hire a car. But that said I drive an automatic. Over here you can choose to learn in a manual or an automatic. However, if you learn to drive in an automatic, it is illegal to drive a manual because you are not competently trained to drive one. However, learning in a manual means you can instantly drive an automatic, because they don't call for much intelligence to drive!
However, if this figure was true, it is proof of 2 things: People blow lip service about being concerned with fuel mileage, but in the end want their slippy, slidey, any moron can work one automatics. Also proof that the IQ of people you see on the highway is dropping.
True that car salesmen push automatics and react with shock and horror when you inquire about a manual transmission. Also true that the window sticker claims one gets equal mileage with an automatic (bald faced lie). But warning: Your mileage may vary. Most high performance drivers will be disappointed with automatics...unless you have 800 horsepower in a 2500 pound car, you will go quicker with a manual.
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