By on July 17, 2020

2001 Volkswagen GTI GLX VR6 in Denver junkyard, manual gearshift - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I have no idea whether that’s a real group or hashtag or not. Frankly, I don’t care to find out.

Unbeknownst to yours truly, yesterday happened to be National Stick Shift Day, which is an event my fair city did not mark by raising a symbolic flag over city hall (the bike lobby must be baked into that council chamber). Had I known, I’d have driven my discontinued manual sedan with extra gusto.

As you read earlier today, Honda poured cold water on the morning-after glow by announcing the scrapping of the manual-transmission Accord for 2021, not that you ever considered buying one. The stick scarcity grows. So who’s driving them these days? Who even knows how to drive one?

According to a survey of 500 “people” by, presumably of wildly varying ages, a few people are still able to make headway if handed the keys to a three-pedal vehicle.

While the methodology behind a tweet are difficult to ascertain, and the total surveyed is a quarter of the sum we’d prefer, these findings are merely meant to be taken as an amusing aside. Everyone likes a distraction.

When asked whether they knew how to drive a manual transmission, 84 percent of men and 60 percent of women said yes. Frankly, this crowd must have included a great deal of older people, unless I’m somehow wildly out of touch with the under-30 demographic’s lived experience. Okay then.

For those who currently own a stick-shift vehicle, by far the largest slice of the people pie (23 percent) said BMW was their brand, followed far behind by Toyota (11 percent) and Honda (9 percent), with Ford and Audi owners making up 6 percent each.

If the survey’s representative of the broader population, and on this score it would seem to be, the largest cohort of those who know how to row their own learned the practice between the ages of 16 and 18 (34 percent). Your author falls into that camp, as he bailed on his high school graduation ceremony to go used car hunting at various sketchy lots — the kind where tires have already started rotting and each wheezy engine seems to contain either rainwater or squirrels.

Interestingly, 12 percent claimed to be 15 or younger, which implies a good (read: fun) childhood. After the 19-22 crowd (18 percent), the next largest slice was those claiming to be over 40 when they learned how to operate that third pedal.

Asked how they learned, 37 percent of respondents said they were taught by their dad (thanks, dad), with moms accounting for 7 percent of the stick-shift tutorials. Friends (21 percent) and driving instructors (17 percent) did their part, but it was the self-taught crowd (21 percent) who probably have the best stories to tell. Yours truly purchased his first car, a manual, without knowing how to drive it, so I offer many thanks to my departed father for providing instructions on the way out of the lot.

There’s not much we can control these days, but a clutch pedal and shift lever are at least among the things that bend to our will. It’s good to be king.

[Image: Murilee Martin/TTAC]

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93 Comments on “#StickNation Update: News You Probably Won’t Be Able to Use...”

  • avatar

    I know how to use one.

    Can’t be bothered, don’t want to, and don’t plan to ever own a manual transmission car. It’s sort of like owning vinyl records or a VHS player; nostalgia which doesn’t have much place in the modern world.

    And like those other two technologies, you can hang on to the old ones, but sooner or later there won’t be any new ones produced.

    • 0 avatar

      @Corey Lewis _ I’m at the point in my life that when it comes to cars, or trucks, I’m in agreement.
      In the realm of motorcycles, an emphatic NO. Perhaps because motorcycle automatics are still in their infancy. You also have to compete against standard motorcycle transmissions that shift fast and are sequential.
      I had looked at the Africa Twin since they offer both a manual and automatic i.e. dual clutch automatic. The reviews are what turned me off. If you were a novice or perhaps a lazy intermediate, the DCT was viewed as the better choice.

    • 0 avatar

      I can shift relatively smooth but I never really mastered shifting for speed. I also never experienced the “fun factor” with a manual transmission that gives so many others the preference.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d like to point out that a BAD manual transmission can completely suck the enjoyment out of driving. Maybe you had a bunch of those—they aren’t as rare as people like to think nowadays.

        Rev hang (extremely prevalent nowadays), clunky shift action, a badly positioned shifter, clutch with “guess the bite point” action—any one of these things can completely ruin a car.

        I’ve had two such cars in my lifetime: a 2004 Sentra Spec-V 6 speed which was not enjoyable to row, and due to the engine actually moving so much on its mounts under hard acceleration pulled the cable and causing mis-shifts/grinding. Oh, and shifting from 5-6? You had to make darn sure you were being precise instead of speed, because often you’d find yourself heading down the reverse tunnel for more grinding fun (reverse was to the right of 5-6). Completely ruined the driving experience. Couldn’t wait to get rid of that car.

        2009 Fit 5 speed. People love saying how great Honda manuals are, but this one was mediocre at best. First, the driving position leaves you reaching forward and down for the stick all the time. Second, bad rev hang which made quick shifting a nightmare. I hear there are quite a few Hondas that suffer from this–I don’t know how anybody puts up with bad rev hang—waiting in between shifts is extra annoying in a slow car with a very short 1st gear—trying to get through an intersection or not annoy people behind you would make me avoid driving the car.

        But when you get a good, solid MT, its all worth it.

        • 0 avatar

          Regarding the comment about BAD manuals: my first manual that I had as a daily driver was a 2011 Kia Forte LX and it had exhibited many of the idiosyncrasies you described, from the needlessly heavy clutch action, to the wandering bite point. I couldn’t get that thing smooth to save my life as much as I tried. I had the thing for 18 months and never made it more than a week without stalling.

          I about gave up when I needed a second car. I’d gone into a dealership and bought the second car. On a whim, I asked if it might be possible to get myself into a 2013 Focus SE. Long story short, it did and my confidence grew exponentially. I was no longer nervous every time I went anywhere because I was reasonably sure I wouldn’t stall out. It truly was a revelation.

          I no longer have a manual as a daily driver, but wouldn’t be sad to get my hands on one. My priorities have shifted slightly is all.

          I feel like the loss of many vehicles is a chicken/egg situation. So often to get a manual, you give up other options. For example, I looked at a Subaru Impreza and to get a sunroof required the CVT. Subaru lost a sale there because I’m just not interested in a Subaru and just because I want a manual doesn’t mean I don’t want a sunroof. The packaging seems to play a part in the lower take rate, as does dealer stock ordering, manuals confined to boring color choices or base models (generally).

          I’m sure there’s big data describing the correlation somewhere, but that’s my impression. If manuals were offered as a standalone option that could be ordered, it would make things interesting, especially on vehicle platforms that once offered them (Mazda6 for example, and I believe the current gen CX-5 is heavily based on the first gen which offered one). I know the costs to certify an engine/transmission combo are pretty high so I guess I get it.

    • 0 avatar

      New vinyl records aren’t a new thing. But to say you’ll never (plan to) own a stick shift car?

      Some of the greatest cars ever, you wouldn’t want with an automatic, or they didn’t even offer one. And you write for a car enthusiast site?

      Do you even know what a “Countach” is? By god, we’ve surrendered the site to the geeks (no offense).

    • 0 avatar

      Never say never.
      I believe you said you’d never thought you would own a CVT vehicle, yet you had an Outback not long ago.

      Although the take rate keeps decreasing by the day, a manual transmission can be super useful for the few ones that still know how to drive one. I can see a near future where a manual transmission will make for a good theft deterrent feature.

    • 0 avatar

      What’s the difference between your opinion on manual transmissions and that of CV transmissions? From here it seems simply to be parroting what’s popular among certain vehicle snobs…errr enthusiasts.

    • 0 avatar

      Same. I had my manual phase in my mid-20s. Then I got a job that had me driving a minimum of 60 miles per day in heavy Chicago traffic. I gave up after about 6 months and haven’t looked back.

  • avatar

    My bet is the Mk8 GTI I buy next year will be the last time for a manual transmission if only because they will cease to be available.

  • avatar

    I always considered a stick shift a reliability issue. Manual transmissions typically last forever, automatics are virtually guaranteed to cost you a small fortune down the road – if you keep a vehicle long enough. I good clutch used properly will last +200k miles, I have two cars to back that up.

    • 0 avatar

      There is an old Redline Review of a late 90’s Acura Legend Coupe with the 6 speed manual. It had 580,000 miles on it. It still had its original clutch and transmission.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        The reasons I ordered a car with a manual transmission:
        1) Durability/maintenance cost. Having owned/leased multiple Grand Caravans and a Grand Cherokee, I was tired of having transmissions replaced. Since this was a purchase vehicle, for the sake of longevity I preferred a manual.
        2) Safety. You can tell a child something a million times and it might not sink in, but if you make a teenager/young adult drive a manual transmission it is almost impossible for them to text while driving.
        3) Safety. Driving a manual transmission forces you to look farther ahead while driving. Something taught in defensive driving courses. You actually have to plan what you are doing.
        4) Safety. Driving a manual forces you to learn more about the physics of driving. Engine braking, something that those who experienced ‘unintended acceleration’ seemed not to understand, nor does it seem did they understand what neutral’ means in a transmission. Trying to pass, go up or down a hill or take a curve in the wrong gear and you quickly learn.
        5) Skill acquisition. As Napoleon Dynamite noted you need skills. Being able to drive a manual is a skill and one that is becoming increasingly rare.
        6) Fun. It is more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. And driving a car with a manual transmission makes it even more fun, on an open road.

        • 0 avatar

          Well said, although for #2, the additional tasks one can become capable of, with practice, are neither here nor there… For #3 and #4, @iMatt put it succinctly farther down when he said “preselect” a gear.

          • 0 avatar

            For a lot of boring cars, Camry or whatever, it would have to be a manual, especially if I’m in it hours a day, heavy traffic, etc, just to keep from going insane.

        • 0 avatar

          #3 is spot on. Every young learning teenage driver should be taught to drive on a stick. It fundamentally changes the way you approach driving. Even if they then get an automatic, the habits they pick up in their formative driving years with a stick don’t just go away.

        • 0 avatar

          Great post, and I largely agree with your points about safety, but in some situations that arise in congested urban environments, I think safety considerations favor automatics. Here in downtown Philly, we have some crazy on ramps and interchanges that, when crowded, give you ZERO margin for error. (Blind on ramps feeding into the left lane–good times!) If you’re caught in the wrong gear for even an instant, despite your skill and attention, you could be in serious trouble. I’m an enthusiast who’s driven manuals for decades, even for a long commute I had for 15 years, but I’ve reluctantly concluded an automatic is probably better here. A manual does foster engagement and concentration, but I think our increasingly stifling traffic and resulting chaos have tipped the safety balance the other way.

          So, I’m going to enjoy the 6MT in my 2010 Acura TSX for a little while longer, and then probably go with an automatic. I feel like I’ve gone through the stages of grief about the death of manual transmissions, and I may have arrived at acceptance.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I drive a 2015 Mazda6 with a manual. I purchased this car specifically because it had a manual.

    I was a confirmed gear-head by age 5. I would lay in bed and night, humming the sounds of engines revving, shifing gear, revving some more. I even had my own personal gear stick within reach! (men understand this). Mine was a four speed.

    I first operated a real gearbox at around age 12, a Yamaha 175 two-stroke enduro. Nobody really needed to teach me because had studied mechanical stuff intently, understood what was happening, and needed only to develop muscle memory.

    Within a year, my step-father let me try driving his 1970 Volvo 142. I am not lying when I tell you that I got that car going from a dead start without a stall. I was hooked!

    My first car was a 1980 Pinto wagon nerd-mobile…but it was a manual, so it was fine for me. I used it to pull a trailer filled with motorcycles!

    I have owned a few automatics over the years, but never loved a single one. I have loved ALL of my manuals.

    If I were to wake up rich tomorrow, I would quit my job and spend the rest of the year travelling my home State of California, buying up all the rust-free old cars with manual transmissions I could find…and hoard them all to myself!

    While I admire the advance of technology, and recognize that contemporary automatics are quite good, (I like the FCA-licensed ZF 8-speeds!) but my heart, and left foot, are fully obsessed with manuals. When new ones are no longer available, I will simply buy used ones…and lovingly maaintain them into perpetuity!

    • 0 avatar

      I will own a manual powered vehicle as long as I can.
      Despite being only 30, I have owned 5 manual transmission cars, not all of them memorable, from a 1984 Nissan truck, to my latest rides, a 2010 Accord and more recently my current ride a 2012 Fiesta. I’ve actually owned the same car both in Auto and Manual and would take the Manual every single time. I also have a truck with (predictably) an Automatic transmission.

  • avatar

    My first two Accords (’87 and ’92) were 5 speed sticks. They were a joy to drive, particularly the ’92, which gave me 165,000 great miles until one of my sons put on another 75,000. Silky smooth gearbox, and you are right – I always felt an extra degree of control with the manual.

    But when I bought my 2000, my wife was leaving her minivan phase and wanted a car with an automatic. Sadly, I acceded to her wishes. The 2000 was a great car as well, but I did miss the joy of going through the gears. All cars since then have been autos to accommodate her, but I still remember the good old days…

    Actually, the good old days I remember most fondly was right out of college, when I drove a ’72 Mercury Capri with a 4 speed stick. That was a terrific driving car – very sporty, good tranny, nice riding for as small a car as it was (I was smaller then too). Unfortunately, it was not as good mechanically, and for multiple reasons by 75,000 miles it was shot. But those 75,000 were extremely fun miles.

    I’m 70 and drive my one son’s GTI on occasion, so I still can do it. Hope Honda reintroduces the manual in the 2022 Accord.

  • avatar

    My niece and nephew – both under 25 – own and drive stick shift vehicles. My niece somehow found an Outback wagon with a stick, and my nephew drives the stereotypical Civic Si sedan, which is slowly getting butchered in the usual fashion. My sister is 61 and still drives a stick. So my family is doing what we can, lol

  • avatar

    I’m back in a manual after about a 10 year hiatus. It’s fun and I enjoy the interaction. It’s a 2018 GTI so the choice was a no brainer.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned a manual car since I learned to drive back in ’85. My mother taught me on her pathetic Dodge Omni. I taught my wife while we were dating in HS and she enjoyed the stick (hehe) for many years. However about 3 years ago she gave up and got an automatic, mainly because her commute (like everyone’s) was soul crushing. About 1 year ago her employer approved working her from home permanently. She can always borrow my car when the urge hits, because like riding a bike you never forget.

    My C7 is a manual but with C8 being a DCT I could very well be driving my last 3 pedal machine. The choices are disappearing at an alarming rate. When even sports cars don’t come with sticks there is no hope. We fought the good fight but we have lost the war sadly.

  • avatar

    One of the charms that a manual transmission gave was the ability to control what one’s car was doing. but with ever-tightening emissions standards and electronic throttles, manufacturers started programming annoying things like “rev hang” into the ECUs and you were controlling less and less.

    I sold my last manual transmission vehicle in 2017, and will probably never go back.

    Just this morning I looked at over just this issue. They list a mere 49 2020 vehicles available with manual transmission, but when you strip out the (essentially) duplicates – like the Mitsubishi Mirage hatch and G3 sedan, and cars that really don’t exist – like the Mazda2, which is only still sold in Puerto Rico, there are only about 30.

    Now various automotive blogs are reporting on the death of the Honda Fit and Accord manual, the Toyota Yaris, The FIAT Spider, etc. etc., I suspect the number of stickshift cars available for 2021 will be about two dozen. And good luck finding most any of them on a dealer lot.

    • 0 avatar

      My fault. Had some figures screwed up in my head. EPA lists 99 vehicles and when I thin them out there about 50 distinct vehicles among them.

      • 0 avatar

        And your list:

        BMW 230i
        BMW 430i
        BMW 440i convertible and xDrive coupe
        BMW M2 & M2CS
        BMW M240i
        BMW M4 coupe & coupe competition & convertible & convertible competition
        Chevrolet Camaro 2.0T & 3.6 & 6.2
        Chevrolet Spark & Activ
        Dodge Challenger 5.7 & 6.4 & 6.4 S/C & Widebody
        FIAT 124 Spider (dead for 2021)
        Ford Mustang coupe/convertible 2.3T & 2.3HO & 5.0 & Bullitt & Shelby GT350 & Rousch S/C
        Genesis G70
        Honda Accord (dead for 2021)
        Honda Civic sedan/hatch/coupe 1.5T & 2.0T
        Honda Fit (dead for 2021)
        Hyundai Accent
        Hyundai Elantra & Elantra GT
        Hyundai Veloster & Veloster N
        Hyundai Venue
        Jeep Compass 2WD & 4WD
        Jeep Gladiator
        Jeep Wrangler 2-door & 4-door
        Kia Forte 2.0 & 1.6T
        Kia Soul
        Lotus Evora 3.5 & 3.5 S/C
        Mazda 2 (N/A mainland US)
        Mazda 3
        Mazda MX-5
        Mitsubishi Mirage & Mirage G4
        Nissan 370Z
        Nissan Versa
        Porsche 718 Cayman & Spyder
        Porsche 911 Carrera S coupe & cabriolet and Carrera 4S coupe & cabriolet
        Porsche Boxter & Boxter T 2.0 & 2.5
        Porsche Cayman & Cayman T & 2.5
        Subaru BRZ
        Subaru Crosstrek
        Subaru Impreza & Impreza Sport sedan/hatch
        Subaru WRX 2.0T & 2.5T
        Volkswagen Golf 1.4T
        Volkswagen GTI
        Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T & 2.0T
        Toyota Corolla sedan 1.8 & 2.0 & hatchback 2.0
        Toyota Yaris (dead for 2021)
        Toyota Tacoma 3.5

        • 0 avatar

          Thanks for that list eggsalad.
          I think you can add the new Bronco.

          • 0 avatar

            Kind of – it’s only available with the smaller engine and cannot be had with some of the most popular packages for off road enthusiasts (Sasquatch). Baffling as those are the ones that would really want to row their own.

        • 0 avatar

          Jeep’s dropped the manual in the Compass.

          • 0 avatar

            I had played with the configuration tool for the Compass during this current generation. Jeep did offer some interesting combinations of options where you could still keep the manual trans.

            I built one with manual trans, 4×4, and a cold weather package that included heated seats and heated steering wheel but due to the manual, no remote start. Although God knows if that theoretical combo was ever actually built in the factory.

    • 0 avatar

      “And good luck finding most any of them on a dealer lot.”

      I’ve wanted to drive an Accord 2.0T manual since the current generation came out. None of my local dealers has ever stocked one that I could test drive. I’m not even sure they’ve placed any customer orders for them.

      They’ve had maybe 4 1.5T manuals between them during the current generation.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I learned on a stick in 1979 (78 Fiesta; thanks for your patience, Dad), and drove one every day until 2002. After a 3-year break, I drove another (05 xB1) until 2012, then took another break until now.

    I recently acquired an 08 Rabbit 5-spd, and driving it was like putting on old slippers. But it’s not for me; it’s for my youngest (19) who will be driving it every week during the school year.

    Although I attempted to teach all five of my kids how to drive a stick, it only really took with two of them.

    Personally, I get tired of the demands of the manual transmission after a while, and don’t miss it when I have an automatic. But my EV 1-speed is the best of all.

  • avatar

    I’ve never bought a new car that wasn’t a manual, and I probably never will. There are a number of cars that I would have bought new if they were available with a manual, a BMW F31 3-series and an Alfa Giulia being the big two. Most recently, I bought an ’11 128i convertible instead of a new 230i convertible largely because no manual, with a second factor of no more Euro Delivery.

    I don’t NEED to buy new cars, there is a universe of lovely used ones out there that are equipped to my liking. I just like to buy new when I can get what I want.

    The car manufacturers are saving me a ton of money. I could cheerfully drive the cars I currently own for the rest of my life at the rate I put miles on them. My GTI is the one that gets the most, it just rolled over 20K at 3.5 years old, but for the first two it was basically my only car in FL.

  • avatar

    My wife and I drive manuals. We are not “enthusiasts’ in any way, in fact we’d prefer to spend less time driving if there were better options (we are not “greenies”, we come from Europe)

    The main reason we drive manuals is to escape the damned “driver aids” that we consider to be total nuisance: proximity/blind spot sensors that beep incessantly in the narrow streets of Boston, AEBs that would violently engage because they think that the lane is much wider than those we have around here, and various puzzling messages, blinkers and buzzers that ostensibly help – assuming one can decipher them in time.

    I once was sufficiently irritated by a rented car to look what some silly icon meant, only to find out that it was a “wrong way indicator”. Duh..

    • 0 avatar

      That’s cool, my fiancee and me know how to drive stick shift. We used to have a 5 spd manual Accord and when we replaced it she was very explicit about wanting another manual car. We got a 5 spd Ford Fiesta for dirt cheap and although I have a newer Ram 1500 with an Automatic transmission, I always look for an excuse to grab her ride, even if it’s a tiny little econobox.

  • avatar

    I’m a stick-in-the-mud (ha) manual person. 30yrs of driving (even taking my driving test with one), only ever owned 1 AT car and hated it (for reasons both including and other than the trans). I don’t even consider myself 100% proficient; I can’t heel-toe for the life of me.

    I know a surprising number of people who crash-coursed 3-pedaling in their 20s-30s due to having bought their first MT enthusiast car never driven stick before.

  • avatar

    According to my special events calendar, yesterday was:
    Be A Dork Day
    Cow Appreciation Day
    National Hot Dog Day
    Tapioca Pudding Day.

    I suspect National Stick Shift Day is an unsanctioned day. You might want to check with the North American Association of Sanctioned Days, NAASD. They coordinate with Canada, the US and Mexico so there are no conflicts. They also diligently keep out the Rutabaga Pie Day people who won’t follow procedures.

  • avatar

    Have 5 MT vehicles now, planning to hold most of them as long as I can since there aren’t really direct replacements.

    I’ll buy new manuals if they still install them in desirable vehicles, but that seems to be less and less common every year. It’s very possible I’ve bought my last new manual.

  • avatar

    At some point I’ll own one more manual transmission car. It will probably be an older Honda or BMW. It will be purely for one last chance at the experience and the feeling of being able to drive a stick well; there are no functional advantages anymore at this point.

    When I learned to drive, being able to drive stick unlocked significant gains in performance and economy with otherwise similar cars, and gave you the feeling of being part of a well-taught elite. Now, being able to drive stick is purely a nostalgia thing (well, maybe with a dash of theft prevention). Traditional stick shift skills won’t be relevant with electric cars even if they do sprout manually operated multi-gear transmissions, since the motors don’t have to idle.

    A few months ago I drove my boss to the airport in her 6MT Forester. It was fun (and I was amused how much smoother I was than her despite not having owned a stick car in five years) but the time is past.

  • avatar

    I dislike traditional autos because your right foot is also the gear selector. With manuals, it’s nice to be able to preselect a lower gear without having to accelerate during for instance, planning passing maneuvers.

    DCTs offer this ability but are expensive to purchase and maintain and “manumatic” styles just aren’t very good to use.

  • avatar

    I’ve had manuals on and off for the past 25 years. I’ve learned to drive stick on my dad’s 1992 Toyota pick-up while my car was an automatic Buick. Next car was a 4 speed manual Civic after which I had a 11 year hiatus. My next manual was not a daily driver but a toy ( 1984 Carrera). Currently my daily driver is a manual as well which took about 3-4 months to find within a reasonable distance from my house. More than likely I will not sell it and keep it for my son who is 14. If he will not learn now, more than likely he never will. It isn’t a must for me to own a manual, but given the CVT alternative, I would take a manual any day. Some CVTs are ok-ish ( Honda) some are terrible ( Nissan, Subaru, some Toyotas). I would take an 8 or 10 speed automatic over a CVT but if the car doesn’t offer it, or a manual, I avoid the brand alltogether.

  • avatar

    @Corey Lewis Sorry, but I do not agree about vinyl records. If you go to any audio show 90% of source playing on the high end audio equipment comes from analogue vinyl disks. According to audiophile community vinyl has a magical quality that goes beyond modern science and mathematics. That’s why it is called “magic”.

    • 0 avatar


      “We are the largest record pressing operation in North America with capacity to manufacture over 60,000 records per day.”

    • 0 avatar

      Not “magic,” just “distortion.” If you want accurate sound, high-resolution digital sources and modern solid-state equipment are the way to get it. If you want the sound equivalent of cheesy sepia effects on a photograph, feel free to throw many thousands of dollars away on vinyl and tubes.

      • 0 avatar

        With enough speakers, power and equalization, you’ll hear brand new things, lyrics, instruments, in old songs you’ve heard played a million times, on vinyl, radio, CD, jukebox, etc, even when YouTube is the source from your damn phone at 80 MPH.

      • 0 avatar


        Are you speaking from personal observation? Or referring to more or less meaningless numbers like % harmonic distortion? Yes, CD’s measure better. But, no they don’t sound better. Subjective quality of sound is all that matters to the listener, because that is the listeners experience of the sound.

        It is true that digital sound has improved dramatically since it first came out. Early digital sound was pretty dreadful even though it measured great.

        So, if the choice is measures well (irrelevant to our listening) or sounds good to human ears, then I’ll take sounds good to me any day.

        There is some science to using tubes. The distortion in tubes (even order harmonics, if I recall correctly) are much less objectionable to the human ear than the largely add order harmonic distortion produced by solid state. Even order harmonics are what you get with a musical instruments overtones and is pleasing to our ears. Odd order harmonics are very nasty to listen to.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          CD, Vinyl, lossless digital, it’s all preference but what has been proven to be the best format for reproducing sound in the most faithful manner possible is none of the above. It is reel to reel tape. As a bonus it is the coolest looking format available when on a golden era deck. It is also stupid expensive and prerecorded stuff is either not widely available or more stupidly expensive. Still, it is the king with respect to sound quality.

          Having said that, I think the dynamic threshold on vinyl is higher than CD, but not by much and the cost to get that last bit is so much higher it isn’t worth it. Then you have to constantly maintain the turntable, store the records just right, and the records ware. It isn’t worth it. I have some vinyl, but it is typically vinyl era stuff…not new stuff. Most of my new vinyl is either gifts or a couple of albums I really like and wanted to hear them on the format just because.

          Most of my music is from the 90s though so it is just right to hear it on CD. I think the era something was engineered in has the most effect on the sound. Alice in Chains is a CD band for example but if you think Hotel California sounds better on vinyl I wouldn’t argue with you because that’s the format the engineers were working with.

          Tubes vs Solid State is purely preference. I am a solid state guy because that’s what I grew up on and the equipment I like is from that era. Additionally I work on my own gear and solid state is way less likely to kill me. I have a single tube amp. My grandparents listened to the news Pearl Harbor had been bombed on it so I keep it around. People will defenrld either to the death though.

          • 0 avatar

            Vinyl is a crap. It is very limited as a signal carrier and introduces distortion of mechanical nature esp at low frequencies. Tape is nonlinear and does not last long. In general I do not take statements made by audiophiles seriously, I cannot take seriously people who believe in black magic and snake oil and are not aware about Shannon theorem and do not trust science in general.

            Yes, analogue audio is obsolete and lossless digital formats provides the highest quality audio you can record and if you need you can digitize vinyl recording and will never be able to tell the difference from vinyl. The question is why you would want to imitate inferior quality recording method,

          • 0 avatar

            I challenge any of those audiophiles to find me any missing dynamic range, waveform, or other nonsense on my junkyard/pro system (my friend used to tear down churches, theaters, halls, etc), played through wifi/bluetooth/phone/youtube.

        • 0 avatar

          Suit yourself. If you think distorted sound sounds better, you’re not alone, and you’re welcome to spend a bunch of money chasing it. I’d rather hear what the engineers heard, and the way to do that is with equipment that measures accurately.

          Although I own some expensive speakers and amps, right now the equipment I have that measures best cost a total of $200: a Hidizs S8 USB DAC and a pair of Sony MDR-7506 monitor headphones (which are probably the most common monitors in professional musicmaking). The combination sounds absolutely fantastic, possibly the best of any stereo equipment I’ve ever used. Accuracy doesn’t have to be expensive.

          • 0 avatar

            It’s (always) all about that bass. But also filtering out the mids and highs from the bass, so an amp/eq for each.

            Distortion comes from overpowering speakers and or sending them frequencies they’re not designed for.

            What ever the artists and engineers put in it, I want to hear it as intended and or done live at concert, and without the vocals muddied by bass and or guitar.

            Or a bass grove or subsonic frequencies you didn’t know were there, hearing a classic song played a million times though regular stereos and or the subs simply handling full-range frequencies.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            This sounds like the “Beats by Dre” approach. All Bass, all the time.

            There are genres of music it works for but typically I prefer a more rounded approach, though I do own some Vegas specifically for when I am in a Van Halen or Motley Crue mood. You have people about the gear, and people about the music. I do agree that I really don’t get the vinyl craze though unless that’s just your era of music. It’s just a pain in the butt.

          • 0 avatar

            The bass section should just sit (silent) in the corners until called for.

            Van Halen’s “I’ll Wait” is a good one for crisp clean highs. Cymbals should always linger on, as if you’re standing on stage or in the recording studio. They normally end abruptly since speakers are usually overlapping the guitars and vocals, or even some bass.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t know about Van Halen, their CDs are not such of the good quality. Try Beck’s Sea Change on BD-Audio on 5.1 high end system – it will blow your mind. My system is only $10,000 and yet it can be considered as a high end. It does need to be expensive.

          • 0 avatar

            That’s a little too fast for me. I’ve been a huge fan of Beck since the early ’90s, but I recommend his “Dreams”.

            I’m not sure what a $10K system sounds like, but it’s too rich for my blood. I started to get serious 12 years ago with a system from a (closed) theater. Just left/right wall fixtures with six 6X9s and four tweets/horns each, circuit board wired.

            They’re a full custom build and compared to the rack systems I was used to, which themselves would get your attention (and your neighbors), but theses 2 enclosures surprised the hell out of me.

            I fed them 140 watts each (enclosure) and at concert DBs, they don’t leave your ears ringing. They’re just extremely clean and I was hearing new things in classic songs I’ve heard a million times, like “Benny and the Jets”. It’s like you’re at the frickin’ concert in 1971!

            Can you name this lyric, it’s in a song you’ve heard a million times, but it’s muddied by guitars: “…call the doctor, I think I’m gonna crash…Doctor says he’s coming, but you gotta pay him cash…”

            Anyway, I’m continuously adding to the “system” with now around 2,500 watts peak, flea-market finds, craigslist, etc, but 4 amps, time alignment, sub pre-outs, equalizers, floor to ceiling mids-towers, two 12″ subs and four 15″ pro DJ equipment.

  • avatar

    ’15 Accord manual here that I got used and I’m in my forties. (This is my third manual transmission car.) I taught two siblings how to drive a manual although I’m not sure they really remember. I learned a bit in high school thanks to my girlfriend’s older brother and I figured out the rest for myself.

    Either the transaxle on the Accords is not all that great or the previous owner of my car was really clumsy, mostly with the 2-3 shift but a few others too. I even changed the original fluid to some expensive purple stuff but that made only a minor improvement. ((shrug)) It’s still a nice car, but the “ooh, I’m driving a manual” aspect of it is merely okay.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    After a Miata phase, I strayed for over a decade. My last 2 have been manuals though so I’m comfortably back in the fold and will remain for as long as they are offered and my legs still work.

  • avatar

    Unsubstantiated guess, but plausibly the under-30’s are just as versed in driving manuals, percentage-wise, as older generations because those who normally couldn’t be bothered to learn stick are now more likely just to not drive at all?

  • avatar


    I’ve had two Hondas with stick shift – a Fit and an Accord.

    It’s almost like Honda is trying to remove everything that makes them better (more fun) than Toyota.

  • avatar

    I’ve driven manuals for over 30 years now. Currently driving a 16 Focus with the 5 speed manual. My DD. I would not have even considered owning this car with an automatic, it would be a penalty box. With a manual it’s actually a car that I like driving. I’ll keep seeking out 3 pedals as long as I can find them. I put my money where my mouth is.

  • avatar

    I still own several vehicles with manual transmissions. The one that I drive the most frequently and in fact have been driving the most out of any vehicles is my 06 F250 with the close ratio 4sp + Low and OD. I didn’t set out to buy one with a manual trans, but when this one came across the auction block, I knew I had to have it. When I bought it I told my wife that I didn’t know how long I’d keep it, but that I figured might as well do it while I still can. Frankly it is a pain and stressful when I have to take it downtown with the steep hills and people always riding your ass. On the other hand I normally don’t drive it that much and I’ve made it over 3 years so far.

    My Scouts have the close ratio 4sp and I don’t see those going away.

    If I were to buy a Mustang that would definitely be a manual trans, but for a daily driver I’ll go AT.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The first time in 35 years I do not have a vehicle with a manual transmission. I miss the manuals but with manuals becoming so rare especially in pickups I doubt I will ever buy another. Eventually new manuals will disappear especially if eventually most vehicles become EVs.

  • avatar

    Knowing how to drive a 6 speed is a skill I’m glad I picked up, but I recognize the futility of finding one equipped with a manual and options that I’d like.

    I tried like smell to find a manual Accord to drive, with the 2.0, and found exactly 1. The pricing was a bit rich for my blood so…

    If there is some sort of Renaissance in vehicles equipped with manuals that aren’t skinflint specials I’ll be extremely happy. Barring that, I’ll continue finding vehicles where I make the fewest sacrifices as far as other options.

    They’re fun and entertaining – and I know I’m not especially adept at, and don’t attempt, tricky driving maneuvers – but I admit some of the creature comforts are higher on the priority list.

    It’s a skill I have, and will prevent me from being stranded if I’m ever in a situation where the vehicle used is a manual and the driver is incapacitated (such as a few years ago where I was out with a friend, in his car, and he’d gotten drunk. I took the keys and got us home). However, in the end, a car’s a car.

  • avatar

    Monty Burns voice: “Bah! *True* enthusiasts drive non-synchronous transmissions! Synchronizer rings are a crutch for the weak-minded!”

    [On a possibly-related note, pretty sure the automatic conveyor car wash will never see widespread usage.]

  • avatar

    I learned how to drive stick in a rusted out 1959 Ford F100 that wasn’t even ten years old and swore I’d _NEVER_ own a slush box because I felt I could better control traction and so on .

    Then I moved to Los Angeles and in the early 1970’s the traffic was often grid locked and it gets very tiring bumping the clutch in and out for TWO HOURS just to go 25 miles or so….

    I kept on with the manuals for decades, I finally bought a slush box equipped work truck because after working in the Desert for 10 hours I didn’t want to push the clutch all the way home .

    Then came my second ‘fatal’ Moto crash when I shattered both knees and decided to give up on the clutches, now I have a five speed Ranger and two vintage four speed cars, I rather like them as long as no stop and go tarffic .

    It doesn’t matter what us nutters, er _Enthusiasts_ think, the manufacturers only want to make what sells the most .


  • avatar

    I wouldn’t mind bringing a manual back into the fold for my next vehicle purchase and the irony would be that my wife would try to come up with excuses to borrow that car. She taught me to drive a manual trans because she owned a 5 speed Pontiac Vibe when we started dating and didn’t want to be the one driving everywhere.

  • avatar

    I never got the love. Stick made horrid 80 horse economy cars a little bit less horrid, they were cheaper, and that’s about it. I’m not broke anymore, add to that how godawful the traffic is now and I wouldn’t drive one if it were free.

    You want to row your own windows too?

  • avatar

    I just don’t understand how the market is dying. I’ve been irritated all day at the loss of the civic coupe and accord Manuel, hell I’m still mad about the loss of the Accord coupe Manuel a couple years ago.
    Not just Honda every company is killing them.
    The last model Nissan Sentra Sr turbo was a good driving car in Manuel.
    I just feel like I’m getting robbed here, the feel of a stick shift to me is second nature.
    I like being one with the car it’s truly one of the few pleasures to get out of everyday life.
    I’ve been brought up with these amazing machines,they have been on movies and games, my entire life, just think about all that that subliminal youth advertising just thrown away. Surely they know that. Take me for example now as I get further in life and my career to afford one they no longer care to make them? Ugh they say there’s no time like the present but this really makes me wonder.

    • 0 avatar

      I was personally never a big fan of coupes or manuals, but now I am getting to a stage of life (fewer passengers, more potential road trips) where both would be appealing.

      Back in the day the automatic cost the OEM more and they charged more. Then with the volume shift toward automatics the cost became roughly equivalent (including fixed cost amortization which depends on volume). With the current low take rates on manuals, high per-unit fixed costs (including development cost) make the manual potentially more expensive on an all-in basis. And if the OEM were to charge a premium for the manual, the take rate would arguably go down further. You also get complexity issues on the production line (and supply chain in general) for low-take-rate options. As others have pointed out, the current U.S. dealer ordering/inventory management model has not helped the manual *at all*.

      Some (many?) manuals of ‘modern’ history aren’t very good (to drive). The longevity aspect which appeals to many manual devotees is not necessarily considered to be a positive by the OEM who would like to sell you another vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      Your autocorrect dictionary seems to have the Spanish/Latino baby name supplement, which makes this kinda funny to read.

      Manual… Manuel… I wonder if any of those cars prefer to be called “Manny” instead. :D

    • 0 avatar

      You can blame ICE – Manuel has been deported.

  • avatar

    With three teen age grand children ,the lack of a back seat became an issue, so I traded my 15 EB Mustang (automatic) for a loaded 19 Impala.. I did however keep my 05 GT convertible stick.

    The Impala is a beautiful vehicle to drive ( girl friend loves it)

    If the weather is cooperates and I’m in the right mood, the Mustang comes out of the garage. Nothing like top down touring through farm country.. When I’m done the Mustang goes back in the garage .

    I took my drivers license test driving a 64 Chevy 6 banger with “three on the tree”.. That was then, this is 50 years later .. For day to day driving, running errands, etc. Give me my Impala .

    Bottom line …I love driving a stick, but not everyday.

  • avatar

    I learned to drive a manual back in 1968, on a 1961 Olds F-85, three on a tree.
    After I got my license, my dad got me a 69 mustang ht. But it was really “his” car, so I got a 1971 corolla 5 speed with the hemi engine. What a pocket rocket that was!

  • avatar
    el scotto

    The 800 pound gorillas in the room: Pick-up trucks, SUVs, and CUVs. The sales leaders are exclusively (half ton trucks) and mostly for SUVs/CUVs)automatics. Sedan drivers who purchase a manual are a subset of a subset. Add in carry over from the malaise era cars to the death of manuals. A car that sucks will only suck .0003283847734755 less with a manual transmission. A of the manual snobbery come from belief in a place that doesn’t exist anymore, if it ever did. Try catching a flight out of any city large enough for a major international airport and tell me how much better your manual is in stop and go traffic. Ironically,the drive from the D.C. beltway to Dulles airport is one of the easiest in D.C. Reagan is an Uber Black/Metro only deal.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My nephew has my Granddad’s 63 IH which has now been fully restore. It has a straight 6 with 3 on the tree. My nephew also has my 1999 S-10 extended cab with a 5 speed manual. He says he will keep both forever and handed them down eventually to his kids to keep in the family. I gave his wife my 2008 Isuzu 4×4 crew cab which has a 5 speed automatic. I bought a white 2008 Ford Ranger regular cab with an automatic because it had low mileage (101K) and was in good condition. I could have gotten a manual but most of the manuals were at least 20 years old with high mileage and very rusted costing more than what I paid for the Ranger. I was more interested in finding a truck with lower mileage with little rust for a reasonable price. Used trucks in my area go for very high prices and the ones that are cheap are usually high mileage and ready for the junkyard.

  • avatar
    Russell G

    I learned to drive a stick shift on a ’62 GT Hawk in 1964. Self-taught. It came quite easily. Had a Vette and 442, both with 4-speed manual trannies.

    Fast forward to today. I have a Honda S2000 in the garage with the best 6-speed tranny in the business. Really, how can one enjoy a sports car / performance car without a manual???

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, Honda makes the sweetest manual evah….snikety-snick. I have 2 Toyotas and after driving a 85 Accord, Honda is hands down #1 in smoothness and short throws.

  • avatar

    When I moved to Germany earlier this year, the requirement for my daily driver was that it had to be something I can’t get in the US and had to be a manual. While I really wanted a 1-series 5 door, I couldn’t find one fast enough so I found a 2012 Mercedes Benz B180 with a six speed. Not my ultimate car, but it’ll do for now. I’ve already informed my daughter she will be required to learn to drive a manual, whether she ever owns one or not.

  • avatar

    Why I like to drive a stick:
    1. Many movies had a scene where the driver shifts gear to indicate that *action* was about to happen.
    2. PTSD from the days of driving a 70HP Ford Escort with a 3-speed auto that kept slipping.
    3. The ability to control the torque *independently* of the throttle by feathering the clutch.
    4. Not having to second-guess when an automatic will respond by downshifting.
    5. All the magazine and internet articles that exhort the stick shift as the only way to truly drive.

    Why the world wants to drive automatic:
    1. Spouse.
    2. Modern engines have so much torque at low RPM that you have to shift like 5 times by the time you reach 37mph at normal speeds.
    3. Today’s automatics are much better than the 3-speed slush boxes of the 80s.
    4. Worse traffic congestion today compared to 1 or 2 generations ago.
    5. All the magazine and internet articles that keep pronouncing the stick shift dead.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    A good list and I agree. I feel more engaged with a manual but it is harder to find a manual and as I age I care less about them or even about automobiles or any type of vehicle. Vehicles have become more like appliances with limited choices especially in exterior and interior colors.

  • avatar

    In a minivan, an auto is fine. If I want to go take a weekend toy to play on the back roads or on a track, give me a manual every time. It isn’t always about setting FTD. A Jeep Trackhawk will probably be faster at a HP track like Road America, but I give dollars to donuts a Miata is more fun.

  • avatar

    If you ever tried driving the SMT in a MR2 Spyder, you will never go back to pressing a clutch again.

  • avatar

    Save for two cars I owned(’56 Bel Air and ’69 Datsun 510 wagon)every other car I owned up until Oct 2017 was a stick, the last one being an E46 BMW Coupe with a five speed that several of my shotgun occupants thought was an urban myth until they rode in it. Since then, my spouse drives a new RAV4 autobox which we share for commutes over the Sierras to Sacramento, and I picked up a nice ’68 Cougar with Select-Shift Merc-O-Matic for local drives ’cause I couldn’t fathom getting a four-speed one, otherwise I’d have gotten the lighter and slightly smaller Mustang. Who knows-there might be another manual gearbox ride as an interesting and pre-owned thing-maybe a clean S2000.

  • avatar

    Don’t shift for me. >:-O

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