You Really Should Learn to Drive Stick

Young people are missing out on the skills and satisfaction of driving.

This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

There was once a time when everyone knew how to row the gears. Apart from the Ford Model T (which was basically cruise control all the time), virtually every car sold in America before 1939 came with a  gas, brake, and clutch pedal. Why do you think they call it a “standard” transmission?

Today, few young people know anything about how their cars work—let alone how to operate a manual transmission. To this generation, “D” means drive, and “H” means they’re taking the bus.

Boys, this is embarrassing.

Why has an entire generation simply overlooked one of the best and most critical driving skills? Sure, Gen Z shows less interest in driving than Millennials and Gen X, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to voluntarily eliminate a fifth of the used car market.

Besides the financial foolishness, people who forgo the chance to learn “the old way” also miss out on important aspects of the driving experience. Here’s why nobody knows how to drive a stick shift and why everyone should learn.

Table of Contents


Why Doesn’t Anyone Drive Manual Anymore?

It’s pretty simple: people are lazy. Yes, urbanization plays a role—it’s annoying to drive a stick shift in traffic, on steep hills, and whatnot. Anyone who drives a classic Volkswagen in San Francisco can attest to that.

It takes mental effort and primitive observation skills to shift at the right time. You have to listen and feel the car, which is a tall order for the Netflix and Uber Eats generation. It’s not just a touch of a button, and that’s simply unacceptable.

Who has time these days to drive a manual anyway? And hell, that third pedal needs to be pressed, released and pressed again, and that’s just too difficult.

Yeah, sure. Smells like bullshit. 

There’s no good reason for a typical, healthy twenty-something to intentionally avoid a manual transmission.

Like anything worthwhile (including driving), operating a standard transmission requires skill and time, and few are willing to devote any more to driving than what’s absolutely necessary.

The benefits of driving a manual outweigh the costs, and everyone should give it a try. Here’s a handful of reasons why every man should learn how to drive a manual transmission.

People Will Take You Seriously

Driving a standard transmission increases your credibility in any car circle, but it goes beyond the hobby. Here's an example that may hit closer to home.

Picture this hypothetical nightmare scenario (and since you can't drive a manual) with your hypothetical girlfriend. You’ve been with her for years and finally earned the respect of her father. After a long day of fishing, he tosses you the keys to his 1966 Corvette and says:

“Son, take it for a spin.”

His classic Chevy is his prized possession. He trusts you enough to give you a chance, and you should feel honored. But his daughter is more important to him than his car, and himself, which means it's a test that you better not screw up.

“Sorry sir, I don’t know how to drive a manual.”

Rest in peace, my friend. He already suspected you were useless, and now your willful incompetence hammered it in for good. And guess what—he’s right. But you don’t have to resign yourself to that fate.

You Should Know

Welcome to the 21st century. Not that long ago, there was a time called the 20th century. During this mysterious era, lots of people drove cars with manual transmissions, and there are still millions of them on the road today.

There are certain things in life that you should know how to do. You should know how to build a fire, catch a fish, tie a tie, handle a firearm, fix a faucet, change a tire, and drive a manual. That’s just how it is, and if you don’t believe me, life will teach you otherwise.

In 1980, 35% of all new vehicles came with a manual transmission. Today that number is less than 3%, but your odds of encountering a car with a stick shift are still fairly high.

It could be your best friend who’s trashed at the bar and needs someone to take him home. It could be your rental car in a foreign country. Or it could be your dream car at the perfect price—and you’ll miss out if you don’t know how to drive it.

There are numerous practical scenarios where you’ll need to drive a standard transmission, and any driving adult (especially one who likes cars) has no excuse not to.

It Opens the Door to Cooler Cars

Manual transmissions add value to many vehicles. Sometimes it’s because the automatic model the same year sucked (think 1990s Ford Exploder), and sometimes it’s because it makes the vehicle more robust (think Dodge pickup with a 24-valve Cummins).

And if you’re into classic cars, you’re severely limiting yourself if automatic is all you know. Want to buy a classic Beetle? Forget about it if you can’t drive a manual—and as far as we’re concerned, the VW Autostick never existed.

Pretty much half of all cars made before 1960 are off the table if you don't want to deal with an ancient  slushbox that devours power and fuel economy. 

It’s not just classic cars either. The Mazda Miata is a fantastic first car and surprisingly fun to whip around, but you’ll need that special set of skills to get behind the wheel of most models.

Some cars just don’t feel right without a manual. Any air-cooled Porsche 911 won’t feel like a true 911 until you try it with a manual. The same goes for other fast cars like the Subaru WRX.

If you’re one of the fortunate few, ask yourself a simple question: If you had a Lamborghini or a Ferrari, would you want to drive the car the way the designers intended?

It Makes You a Better Driver

I’m a car guy with annoyingly strong opinions. Most of us have such opinions. And when it comes to driving, I believe that you can’t truly feel your car unless you’re connected to the drivetrain.

A car with a manual transmission doesn’t lie to you. It tells you when you’re overloading the engine when it’s rolling with the wrong ratio, and when you’re being sloppy and not paying attention.

You’ll learn a lot about your car, too. Driving a manual gives you a practical understanding of powerbands, torque, and the general operation of your drivetrain. Yes, you’ll have more opportunities to mess it up—but the rules are simple, and you’ll be fine if you remember the steps and shift with care.

You Can Be Proud of Your Skills

Take some pride in something, man. Don’t you want to master a skill? There’s nothing like the feeling of being in control of your car—and doing it well. You can impress everyone else who can't, and there will be few cars on earth that you can’t drive with some level of competence.

But more importantly, you can teach someone and keep the skill (and the hobby) alive and well.

Shifting smoothly takes practice and skill, and it gives you much more precise control over the vehicle. It’ll take time to get good at it. But once you do, you can enjoy your driving experience to the fullest—and maybe even learn a thing or two about what’s going on under the chassis.

Do it. What are you waiting for? Conventional cars won’t be around forever. No matter how fast or flashy electric cars get, it’ll never be the same. There’s no reason to miss out on the authentic driving experience while you still have a chance.