Reasons to learn how to drive stick
A number of cars on the road during rush hour

Driving stick is a rare skill, and one that can feel rewarding for a driver to have in their arsenal. It’s telling that in the 2020s, even as electric vehicles — most of which don’t have gearboxes, let alone manual ones — gradually take over the road, there are still plenty of new cars that can be had with an old-fashioned stick shift. (To be crystal clear here, we’re talking about proper manual transmissions, cars with three pedals and stick-shift gearboxes; those automatic transmissions with a paddle-shift “manual mode” don’t count.)

Here are nine reasons to learn to drive stick:

1. You could save money an a European rental

Going on holiday to the French Riviera, or Tuscany, or the Swiss Alps is expensive enough without the added cost of trying to rent an automatic car in Europe. With many rental companies, you’ll find automatic cars are twice or even three times as expensive as their stick-shift equivalents. You don’t want to be learning stick and stalling while trying to thread a rental car along the treacherously narrow roads of the Amalfi Coast.

2. A stick makes slow cars better

In cheaper cars with tiny, underpowered motors, a stick shift really shines because it gives a driver more control over the engine, making it easier to use every last horsepower. Subjectively at least, the small motors you’ll find in budget-friendly cars tend to feel more peppy when paired with a stick shift.

3. You can buy a less-expensive new car

It used to be that an automatic gearbox was an expensive upgrade. Not anymore. These days automatics are usually standard equipment. However, some trucks and SUVs, as well as some budget-friendly cars, still come standard with a stick shift. If you know how to drive stick, it means you don’t have to shell out $1,000 or more for the optional automatic. 

4. A stick makes driving more fun

By far the largest group of cars still available (sometimes exclusively) with a stick shift are machines aimed at driving enthusiasts. From sports cars to powerful sedans and hot hatchbacks, you may be surprised how many enthusiasts opt for a manual over an automatic when they have a choice, especially here in Canada. In 2019, for example, more than 80 per cent of Porsche 911 GT3 buyers in this country chose the stick, a higher percentage than in the U.S. even. Why? For many driving enthusiasts, the appeal of a stick shift comes down to fun. Sure, a stick can be a pain in stop-and-go traffic, but using an old-fashioned shifter adds an element of difficulty and engagement that many enthusiasts lament has been lost in modern cars.

5. Mastering the skill is its own reward

It feels good to master a skill, whether it’s playing the piano, a particular video game, a basketball layup, or a perfect first-to-second shift on a manual ‘box. There’s a quiet, personal satisfaction that comes with nailing it. But… 

6. There’s always something to improve on

Learning to drive stick isn’t that hard, but you could spend a lifetime perfecting your technique. Heel-and-toeing a downshift — in which you simultaneously press the clutch with your left foot while braking and blipping the throttle with your right foot — takes a lot of practice to get just right. To some, that sounds like a nightmare, to others it’s a delight.

7. It means you can drive anything

If you’re shopping for a cheap used car, or need to borrow a buddy’s truck, or are looking to get a summer job as a valet, knowing how to drive stick is a definite bonus. You never know what you might be called upon to drive, and there’ll be no need to sheepishly ask, “oh wait, is it stick?” beforehand.

8. It makes learning to ride a motorcycle easier

Most motorcycles have manual gearboxes, and if you’ve already wrapped your head around how a clutch and shifter work in a car, it’ll make learning to ride a motorcycle that much easier.

9. Knowing stick could make you a better, safer, more confident driver

When driving a stick shift, you’ve naturally got to plan ahead and anticipate traffic more so than with an automatic. Those skills don’t just help you drive stick, they could help you become an all-around safer, more confident driver with greater situational awareness.

Looking for a home and auto insurance quote?