Why I Drive a Stick

I’d left the lights on, and my car was dead in the company parking lot. “If you have jumper cables, I’ll give you jump,” said one of my fellow workers.

“No. I don’t have cables. But maybe you could just give me a push-start.”

“That only works with a manual transmission,” he said (with a bit of a smirk).

“This is a manual.”

“No kidding!”

Shaking his head in disbelief, he said, “Okay. Get in, step on the clutch, and put it in second.”

Minutes later, I was on my way.

Growing up in Chicago, there was no need for me to drive at all. Buses and subways were convenient and cheap. But then I moved to Idaho, where public transportation was nonexistent and nothing was in walking distance. So I had to learn. And the person who volunteered to teach me had a VW bug with a manual transmission.

That was a long time ago – but I still choose to drive a stick. Why?

  • It’s mechanically simpler than an automatic – which means there’s less maintenance and less that can go wrong. (At least that’s the argument I bought into way back when, though I’m told it’s no longer as much of a consideration.) Plus, if something does go wrong, it tends to be cheaper to fix.
  • It’s cheaper up front, by about $1,000 on a new car. And it’s more fuel efficient, which becomes more of an issue every year.
  • It has better acceleration – helpful when merging into highway traffic or passing.
  • It gives you control over the gears – good to have when negotiating a steep hill or curve, especially if the road is icy or wet.
  • Though the vast majority of cars in the U.S. have automatic transmissions, the rest of the world likes manuals. So if you expect to do any overseas traveling that will involve a rental car, being able to drive stick is a good skill to have.

Those are all my logical reasons. But there’s one more: the look on a man’s face when he finds out I can drive this thing. You’d think I’d just stepped out of a phone booth with my hands on my hips – in red, white, and blue spandex, knee-high boots, and carrying a whip.