Used Manual Cars For Sale

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Used Manual Cars For Sale

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Used manual cars for sale

Manual cars are slowly falling out of fashion in the new car market but they’re still very popular used buys, and make up a significant proportion of the cars you’ll find on sale. Today they’re mostly the preserve of cheaper cars, as a manual is still cost-effective for manufacturers to install and the lower cost is appealing to drivers, but they’re being kept alive by enthusiasts in some sports cars too.

What is a manual car?

A manual car is any car where the driver is responsible for changing gear themselves. This typically means operating a clutch pedal and a gearlever to pull away from rest and change between gear ratios, keeping the engine in the most appropriate range for a given speed. Most drivers today will be familiar with five- and six-speed gearboxes, though some cars now have seven forward gears, while much older ones may have four or fewer gears.

Manual gearboxes are dwindling in popularity as automatic gearboxes (and electric cars) improve in terms of performance and efficiency, but manuals are still the first choice of many driving enthusiasts, who appreciate the extra interaction between driver and machine, and more finite control over a car’s performance than most automatics can offer.

What are the different manual car options?

There has been some impressive variety to manual gearboxes in the past. Older drivers might remember cars with column changes, where a manual lever sprouted from the steering column, or certain models from the likes of Citroen and Renault where the gears were operated by a lever that came directly out of the dashboard. For a time, some manufacturers even offered cars with manual gearshift layouts, but with automatic clutch operation.

Most modern manual gearboxes take a familiar form though: sometimes five forward gears, usually six (Porsche offers some cars with seven-speed manuals), a gearlever somewhere between the front seats, and three pedals in the footwell. The actual feel of gearshifts can differ greatly, with some carmakers prioritising a light and easy feel and others going for a shorter throw to the lever and more of a mechanical feel, but the layouts are generally similar - usually, only the position and method for accessing reverse gear differs slightly.

Some brands still experiment with manual gearbox technology though, and the most common feature is automatic rev-matching. This is a system that, when activated, blips the throttle as you move to a lower gear to smoothly match engine speed and road speed, just as a skilled driver would do themselves.

Why buy a used manual car?

The manual gearbox is increasingly becoming a left-field choice appreciated only by enthusiasts, and craving some extra driver interaction when technology is generally removing people from the experience is as good a reason as any to buy a manual car. Buying used opens up your options too, given that manuals are getting harder to find in new cars.

Another reason you might go manual though is to save some money. It’s not the case on every car - in-demand performance cars with manual gearboxes can actually be more expensive than their automatic equivalents - but manuals remain the gearbox of choice in smaller, cheaper cars, and their popularity generally means a greater choice of used cars and slightly lower prices.

Where can I find used manual cars for sale?

Manual cars are still very common on the used market - of the roughly 200,000 cars for sale on the RAC’s used car search website, just over half are manual, and they’re easy to find on dealer forecourts and from private sellers. Depending on the manufacturer, that is - some brands, such as Mercedes-Benz or Lexus, have rarely ever offered manual options, so sometimes you’ll have to search a bit harder.

Basic used manual car checks

As well as all the usual used car checks, such as investigating the car’s history (and if over three years old, its MOT history) beforehand, reading up on buying guides, and generally making sure the car you’re looking at is in good condition, there are a couple of things specific to manual cars that you can also look into.

On a test drive, you should ensure the clutch and gearbox both operate smoothly. The biting point of the clutch should be neither too high nor too low, and ideally there should be no strange noises when the clutch is engaged or disengaged. In some cars, you may also be able to test if the clutch is worn, by holding the car on the handbrake and putting it in third or fourth gear, then trying to pull away. If the revs rise rather than the car immediately stalling, the clutch is slipping and may need replacement.

With the gearbox, try every gear on the test drive, including reverse, and ensure the lever operates smoothly and there are no crunches, clunks, or stiffness.