Used Automatic Cars For Sale

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Used Automatic Cars For Sale

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Used automatic cars for sale

Automatic cars are more popular than ever. Of the roughly 200,000 cars on the RAC Simple Search online tool, around half are automatics, available in just about every size and shape of vehicle and for just about every budget.

It’s not difficult to see why, as they make driving a lot easier, without the need to coordinate hands and feet to change gears yourself, and modern automatics tend to be both a little quicker and a little more frugal than their manual counterparts. On roads that are getting busier and with dodging crumbling tarmac an ever more common pastime, driving a vehicle that takes away some of the strain begins to look quite appealing.

What is an automatic car?

An automatic car is any car where the driver doesn’t have to change gears themselves. There are many different types of automatic transmission, as detailed below, but they’re probably best characterised by the way you’ll find two pedals in the driver’s footwell, for acceleration and braking, but not a third used for operating the clutch on a manual car.

Automatic gearboxes used to be relatively rare, typically offered as an option on certain models and standard only on a handful of luxury vehicles, but their popularity has increased significantly over the last few decades, and are now the only option on a wide range of models. This popularity has gone hand in hand with technological improvements that mean modern automatics are typically quicker and more economical than manual cars.

What are the different types of automatic car?

There are several different types of automatic gearbox and they can operate quite differently on a technical level, but regardless of technology, all are designed to remove the need for the driver to change between gears themselves.

Most automatics still use a collection of planetary gears with different ratios, and a torque converter to both pull away from rest and blend between gears. These autos are characterised by smooth changes and a natural but not always instantaneous feel when pulling away from rest or asking for quick blasts of acceleration.

Another popular type is the dual-clutch automatic, often given proprietary names like DCT, DSG, EDC, and PDK. They are mechanically similar to manual transmissions, but use two clutches in order to select one gear and pre-select another, and swap between them near-instantly. They drive similarly to traditional automatics, but can feel more responsive, and are often used in performance cars as a result.

Continuously variable transmissions or CVTs don’t have separate gears, and instead translate engine speed to road speed in a variable ratio. Accelerate hard in a CVT and the engine revs will rise, with the car’s speed rising to catch up. They’re most familiar today in some hybrids, such as those from Toyota, whose system blends petrol and electric power in one seamless motion.

Automated manual gearboxes, like dual-clutch gearboxes, are similar internally to manual transmissions, but use hydraulic or electronic actuators to operate a clutch, much as you would with a manual gearbox. They were quite common for a time, found in everything from the Smart Fortwo to a Ferrari Enzo (with proprietary names like F1, EGS, SMG, E-Gear and others), but can be slightly jerky to operate and have fallen out of favour as a result.

Finally, there are electric cars, which are automatics by nature - rather than a conventional gearbox with different ratios, a typical electric car uses a single-speed transmission to convert the rotation of an electric motor into a suitable ratio for the road.

Why buy a used automatic car?

While automatic gearboxes aren't for everyone, an increasing number of people are turning to them, and it isn’t difficult to see why. From a pragmatic point of view, they often outperform manual gearboxes both in terms of straight line performance, and economy - the former looking good in the brochure and the latter often resulting in lower tax figures and improvements at the pumps.

They’re also simply easier for most people to drive, with no need to coordinate your feet for smooth gearchanges and less effort in nose to tail traffic. Most still allow you to shift gears yourself when the mood takes you, often with paddles mounted behind the steering wheel (a concept originally inspired by racing cars).

The popularity of automatics in new cars means they’re increasingly popular on the used market too, and with many of the benefits still apply. Electric cars are automatics by default, so if you want an EV, an automatic transmission is part and parcel.

How do I choose the ideal used automatic car?

You’ll first need to decide what kind of car you want, as this will dictate whether an automatic gearbox is even available. Most modern cars are offered with automatics though and many are only offered as autos, with no manual option, so this is easier than it used to be, and you’re not just restricted to one or two different types of car - or forced to search for weeks before a model you’re interested in appears as an automatic.

You don’t typically get a choice when it comes to what kind of automatic you’re after though, as that entirely depends on how a car manufacturer engineered the model you’re looking at. It shouldn’t matter too much, as for you as the driver, most will operate in a pretty similar way - get in, put your foot on the brake, select Drive, and go.

Where can I find used automatic cars for sale?

Searching for a used automatic car is no more difficult than any other car, and modern internet tools are very much your friend here. The RAC’s used car search tool for instance lets you select automatic transmission vehicles, and you can select other search criteria from there.

It pays to do some research on the cars you’re interested in to begin with though, because of the different transmission types mentioned above. It’ll help with some of the transmission jargon too, like determining whether you should buy a ‘Tiptronic’ Porsche or one with ‘PDK’ - both automatic, but both quite different in feel and operation.

Basic used automatic car checks

As above, researching particular cars can help before you even get as far as going to view an automatic car. If you have an idea of a model you’re interested in, then it’s worth seeking out a buying guide on that model, which will almost certainly have information on what the car’s automatic gearbox is like to use, and even whether there are any issues you should be aware of.

After that you can really begin your search, and once you’ve found a few cars, it’s sensible to run their numberplates through an online history checker to see whether the car has any outstanding finance, accident records, or if it’s more than three years old, to check its MOT history.

On a test drive, you’ll want to check the operation of the automatic gearbox just as you would with a manual. This should be easy in an electric car - if it moves, you’re probably good to go - but with a traditional automatic in a combustion vehicle, you should ensure it shifts smoothly, that all the gear positions work, that the paddleshift or manual functions operate correctly if it has them, and that there are no clunks or unusual noises.