Many new vehicles are equipped with self-driving features that control driving speed, lane position, parking and, in some cases, allow the driver to let go of the steering wheel completely. However, the cost of this technology can be high, as can the price tags of new cars. The median new car price at Cars.com dealerships in June was $39,770, down from $35,831 in June 2020.
Drivers who prefer to have more hands on than the hands stopped behind the wheel can look for a vehicle with a manual transmission, and while the list of available options may shrink, there’s an upside: most manual-equipped models are more affordable than their automatic counterparts.
Related: What new cars have manual transmissions?
To determine if a manual transmission might be a more economical choice, we analyzed vehicles that start under $40,000 and offer a standard or optional manual. Depending on the model, rowing your own gear can save anywhere from $800 to $5,500 (if it saves you at all, more on that below) to an average of $1,416. The prices below reflect the starting price of the most affordable version for each model with manual and automatic transmission (all prices include destination).
Manual transmission vehicles that save you money
- Chevrolet Camaro: $26,395 (manual); $27,890 (automatic)
- Chevrolet Spark: $14,990; $16,090
- Ford Bronco: $32,395; $33,990
- Ford Mustang: $28,865; $30,460
- Hyundai Elantra N: $33,245; $34,745
- Hyundai Veloster N: $33,595; $35,095
- Jeep Gladiator: $38,765; $40,765
- Jeep Wrangler: $31,590; $33,590
- Mazda MX-5 Miata: $28,665; $34,165
- Mitsubishi Mirage: $15,690; $17,640
- Nissan Versa: $16,475; $18,145
- Subaru BRZ: $29,615; $31,115
- Subaru Crosstrek: $26,220; $27,570
- Subaru Impreza: $20,290; $22,890
- Subaru WRX: $32,450; $34,300
- Toyota GR86: $28,725; $30,225
- Volkswagen Golf GTI: $31,370; $32,170
- Volkswagen Jetta: $21,460; $22,260
Manual transmissions are often standard in the base version of the vehicle. For example, the 2022 Nissan Versa – one of the most affordable new cars on the market – offers a five-speed manual transmission for its base S trim. Buyers who choose to trade in a continuously variable automatic will pay an additional $1,670 for the option.
As pickup trucks and SUVs continue to dominate new vehicle sales, automakers are increasingly cutting affordable cars. That’s the case with the Chevrolet Spark and Hyundai Veloster N, both of which offer a standard manual transmission and start well below the average new-car price ($14,990 and $33,595, respectively). Buyers considering these vehicles should act quickly: Spark production will end this summer, while the Veloster N will be cut after the 2022 model year.
Those who have hopped on the pickup truck and the SUV bandwagon can also save by going with three pedals. Off-road-oriented options like the 2022 Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator all come with a standard shifter in their respective base models. The base version of the Bronco includes a seven-speed manual transmission; opting for the 10-speed automatic bumps up the price by $1,595. Wrangler and Gladiator’s Sport variants each get a standard six-speed manual transmission, while the available eight-speed automatic demands a $2,000 premium.
Sports car enthusiasts can find the best savings by choosing a shifter: the base Sport version of the Mazda MX-5 Miata only offers a manual transmission and starts at less than $30,000; opting for an automatic requires buyers to upgrade to the Grand Touring version of the roadster, resulting in a higher starting price of $5,500. Muscle cars like the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang save buyers $1,495 and $1,595, respectively, when they choose the manual transmission.
Manual transmission vehicles that come at a cost
- Acura Integra: $36,895; $31,895
- Dodge Challenger: $40,275; $32,025
- Honda Civic hatchback: $25,845; $24,645
- Kia Forte: $25,585; $20,185
- Mazda Mazda3 hatchback: $29,715; $24,115
- Toyota Corolla: $24,600; $21,450
- Toyota Tacoma: $37,050; $28,365
Not all manual transmission models will be more economical than the automatic variants. In some cases, getting a manual requires upgrading to a higher trim level or paying a premium for the clutch. For example, the Toyota Corolla sedan’s high-tech manual transmission isn’t available on the base L model — you have to upgrade to the SE trim and part with an extra $3,150 to get the six-speed manual. The reverse is true for the hatchback variant of the Corolla, with the base SE trim starting at $22,190 for the manual and $23,290 for the CVT.
The most dramatic bonuses are found in the manual-equipped variants of the Dodge Challenger and Toyota Tacoma: the Challenger’s starting price jumps $8,250 for the manual R/T, while the Tacoma’s TRD Sport is offered with a starting price of $8,685 above base. model.
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