Why learning to drive an automatic finally makes sense in the UK

Historically the majority of cars in the UK have been fitted with a manual gearbox which has dictated the need for new drivers to learn to drive a manual car. Over recent years this trend has been changing with a huge number of vehicles now available with automatic gearboxes as standard. From small city cars all the way up to supercars, the automatic gearbox is now commonplace in all types of cars. In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons why learning to drive an automatic is not as daft as it sounds.

Car availability

Automatic cars are now commonplace in the UK market with manufacturers such as VW, Audi, BMW, Ford, Vauxhall and Skoda all offering automatic variants of their best-selling models. Combined with modern stop/start engine technology these new generation automatic cars offer similar performance and economy when compared with their manual counterparts. 1 in 3 new cars sold in the UK is now automatic thanks in part to the growing number of electric and hybrid cars being sold.

With a huge number of automatic cars now available on the new and used markets, choice of drivetrain is no longer a restriction when it comes to learning to drive.


Automatic cars are great for learners who are nervous or lacking confidence. Free from the worry of stalling, rolling backwards and thinking about changing gears, new drivers can concentrate on controlling the vehicle and carrying out manoeuvres under the guidance of their instructor. As there is no clutch to worry about, new drivers often learn faster on automatic cars compared to manual cars as they have less to remember.

Town and city driving

With a growing number of vehicles on the roads, heavy stop/start traffic is almost inevitable. Automatic cars offer a much more relaxing and less tiring experience in traffic as they remove the need to constantly change gear at lower speeds. This, in turn, helps drivers stay focused while concentrating on the road ahead and gives them more time to react to the actions of other drivers.

Dual-clutch gearboxes

If you want to change gear whenever you want and have more control of your driving then you will want a car with a dual-clutch gearbox. This offers a semi-automatic driving experience where you can change gears using paddles on the steering wheel or pushing the gear lever backwards or forwards. Most modern cars fitted with automatic gearboxes offer this functionality and this is one of the key reasons for the growth in popularity of automatic drivetrains.

Faster learning

For anyone looking to pass their test in double-quick time, learning to drive an automatic is generally much quicker than a manual, particularly for older drivers. There are many people who don’t learn to drive when they are in their teens and for these people an automatic driving licence can make a lot of sense.

Can an automatic licence be upgraded to a manual licence?

Just because you learnt to drive on an automatic doesn’t mean you can’t ever learn to drive a manual car. Upgrading your licence from a Category B (Automatic) to a Category A (Manual) licence is fairly straightforward as you can have lessons without the need for a provisional licence. And, thanks to your experience driving an automatic car you will already know how to drive and simply need practice using a manual gearbox.

To upgrade your licence you’ll need to book a standard driving test in a manual vehicle and if you pass your licence will be upgraded to a Category A licence. If you fail your test you will still be able to continue driving automatic vehicles as normal and will not have your licence revoked.