Automatic cars: Buy new or convert your manual when switching?

April 19, 2017

Automatic cars can be a real lifesaver for people with disabilities or injuries, allowing them to enjoy the freedom a vehicle provides, without the need to continuously depress the clutch pedal when changing gear. This can be a particularly important feature if your condition has left you with a weakened leg, but you still need to operate a car regularly.

If you have a manual vehicle and are thinking about switching to an automatic for health reasons, you might be wondering where to start looking. For the majority of British motorists, an automatic vehicle is still an unfamiliar concept — they only made up one quarter of UK car sales in 2014, according to Autocar. Therefore, it’s only natural to have a few lingering questions about how you should move forward. To begin with, there are two main options available to you: to buy an automatic model or convert your existing manual car. But which option is right for you?

Buying an automatic modelcar

Trading in your current model for one that has an automatic transmission is the best option if you don’t want to undertake any of the mechanical hassle that comes with converting a manual vehicle. It gives you the chance to buy an automatic or semi-automatic car that has the latest technology, which has vastly improved vehicle performance and efficiency in recent years. 

This option can be more expensive, especially if you go for a top of the range model or your current car doesn’t have a lot of resale value, but these factors can also reduce the cost if they are in your favour. There are a few details that you need to consider when it comes to finding the right model for you —take a look at this guide to car controls from Rica, which contains advice on what to look for in an automatic car.

Converting your manual vehicle

Though it is not as commonplace as simply trading in your vehicle, it’s often possible to convert your current car to an automatic or semi-automatic transmission as an alternative. Reasons forthis can vary, ranging from already having specialist adaptations installed that would be expensive to replicate, to the car having a lot of sentimental value. 

Take 2016 Autosessive award-winner Clive James as an example — he suffered a leg injury that made operating a manual gearbox uncomfortable, but he couldn’t bear to part with his classic Toyota MR2. Instead, he undertook a conversion project that resulted in him being able to keep his car and still use it on a day-to-day basis.

If you aren’t mechanically-minded, taking on this kind of job yourself might be a step too far. However, should you be determined to keep hold of your car, it’s worth speaking to a trusted mechanic about whether the job is feasible. Older models are easier to convert than newer ones, owing to their lack of complicated computers and other technology, but anything is possible with the right know how.

Take some of the advice in this article on board and you will be able to make a decision about switching to an automatic car that is right for you. 



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