Many new vehicles come 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 entirely. The cost for this technology can be steep, however — just like new-car price tags. The median new-car price among Cars.com dealers in June was $39,770, up from $35,831 in June 2020.
Drivers who prefer to be more hands on than hands off behind the wheel can look for a vehicle with a manual transmission, and while the list of available options may be shrinking, there is an upside: Most manual-equipped models are more affordable than their automatic counterparts.
Related: Which New Cars Have Manual Transmissions?
To determine if a manual transmission can be a more economical choice, we analyzed vehicles that start at less than $40,000 and offer a manual either as standard or optionally. Depending on the model, rowing your own gears can save anywhere from $800 to $5,500 (if it grants you any savings at all; more on that below) at an average of $1,416. The prices below reflect the starting price of the most affordable trim for each model with a 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 often come standard in the vehicle’s base trim. For example, the 2022 Nissan Versa — one of the most affordable new cars on the market — offers a five-speed manual for its base S trim. Shoppers who choose to swap 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 cutting affordable cars at an increasing rate. Such is the case for the Chevrolet Spark and Hyundai Veloster N, both of which offer a standard manual and start well below the average new-car price ($14,990 and $33,595, respectively). Shoppers considering these vehicles need to move fast: Production of the Spark will end in the summer, while the Veloster N will be cut after the 2022 model year.
Those who have jumped on the pickup truck and 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 stick shift in their respective base models. The Bronco’s Base trim features a seven-speed manual transmission; opting for the 10-speed automatic bumps the price up by $1,595. The 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 stick shift: The Mazda MX-5 Miata’s base Sport trim only offers a manual transmission and starts under $30,000; opting for an automatic forces shoppers to upgrade to the roadster’s Grand Touring trim, which brings a $5,500 higher starting price. Muscle cars like the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang save shoppers $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 easier on the budget than 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 is not available on the base L model — it takes moving up to the SE trim and parting with an extra $3,150 to get the six-speed manual. The opposite is true for the Corolla’s hatchback variant, with the base SE trim starting at $22,190 for the manual and $23,290 for the CVT.
The most dramatic premiums can be found in the manual-equipped variants of the Dodge Challenger and Toyota Tacoma: The Challenger’s starting price climbs by $8,250 for the manual R/T, while the Tacoma’s TRD Sport comes with a $8,685 higher starting price than the base model.
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