Used car buyers guide: Automatic users guide

Used car buyers guide: Automatic user manual

When looking for your next used car you have two transmission options available. You can opt for the traditional gearstick and clutch pedal combination or an automatic transmission which is an option that's becoming increasingly popular. While an automatic transmission is a user friendly experience, it

Gear selection

On most automatic cars you will find the letter "PRNDS"  written on or near the gear selector. This stands for Park (P), Reverse (R), Neutral (N), Drive (D) and Sport (S). These are the primary gear positions found on the gear selector of an automatic transmission car. Each letter corresponds to a specific gear or mode, and drivers use these positions to control the movement of the vehicle. Here's a brief explanation of each:  

Park (P):  Engages the transmission's parking mechanism, preventing the vehicle from moving. Always use the Park position when the vehicle is  stationary and the engine is running or when parking.

Reverse (R): Engages the reverse gear, allowing the vehicle to move backward. Use this when you need to reverse the car, such as when backing out of a parking space.

Neutral (N): Disengages the transmission from the engine, allowing the wheels to spin freely without any connection to the engine. Use Neutral when the car is stationary and the engine is running but you don't want to move forward or backward.

Drive (D): Engages the forward gears, allowing the vehicle to move forward. Use Drive when driving the car in a forward direction.

Sport (S): Similar to Drive, this engages the forward gears. The difference here is that the driving characteristics of the car are altered to give a more sporty feel 

These gear positions are standard on most automatic transmission vehicles, providing a simple and user-friendly way for drivers to control their cars. Additionally, some vehicles may have additional settings such as "1," "2," or "L," which represent lower gears and are often used in situations like descending steep hills to provide more engine braking or to give manual control when traction is low (snow for example).

How to get moving

Starting an automatic car is a straightforward process. Here's a step-by-step guide:

Enter the Vehicle:        

  • Ensure the gear selector is in the 'P' (Park) position.        
  • Adjust the driver's seat and mirrors if necessary.

Insert the Key or Press the Start Button:     

  • If your car has a traditional key ignition, insert the key and turn it clockwise.        
  • For vehicles  with a push-button start, press the brake pedal and then push the start button.  

Depress the  Brake Pedal:

  • Before shifting gears, press the brake pedal with your right foot. This safety feature ensures that the car won't move until the brake is engaged.    

Shift to 'D' (Drive):       

  • Once the brake pedal is depressed, shift the gear selector to 'D' (Drive). This allows the car to move forward once the parking brake is released.

Release the Parking Brake:

  • If you  engaged the parking brake, release it by either pressing the release button or pulling the lever, depending on your car's design.


  • Gently release your foot from the brake pedal and the car will start moving. Once you are rolling you can switch your foot over to the accelerator to get up too speed. The automatic transmission will shift gears automatically as needed.    

Remember that the specific steps may vary slightly depending on the make and model of your automatic car. Always refer to your vehicle's owner's manual for any model-specific instructions. Additionally, it's essential to follow local traffic laws and regulations for a safe and legal driving experience.

Licence rules

As long as you have a valid UK driving licence you are free to drive automatic vehicles on the road without any special requirements. If you passed your test in a manual vehicle you can drive manual and automatic cars however if you pass your test in an automatic vehicle you are not allowed to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission.

As great as the automatic transmission is we always advise learning to drive in a manual car so that you have the most choice available when buying your next used car and can drive a manual in emergency situations.

Reasons to own an automatic vehicle

Here are some of the best reasons to own and automatic used vehicle.

1. Simplicity and Ease of Use:

  • One of the primary advantages of automatic transmissions lies in their simplicity. With no need for manually shifting gears, driving becomes a more straightforward and stress-free endeavor, especially for those who may be new to driving or prefer a more relaxed approach behind the wheel.

2. Smooth and Seamless Transitions:

  • Automatic transmissions excel in delivering smooth and seamless gear transitions. The gearbox intuitively shifts gears based on driving conditions, providing a comfortable and uninterrupted ride. This feature is particularly appreciated during stop-and-go city driving or in heavy traffic situations.

3. Reduced Driver Fatigue:

  • The elimination of constant gear shifting means less physical effort for the driver. This reduction in manual labor significantly contributes to decreased driver fatigue, making automatic transmissions an excellent choice for long commutes or extended periods behind the wheel.

4. Convenient for Urban Driving:

  • Automatic transmissions shine in urban environments with frequent starts and stops. The gearbox's ability to navigate traffic effortlessly allows for a more enjoyable and less demanding driving experience, particularly in busy city streets.

5. User-Friendly for Beginners:

  • For new drivers, mastering the art of manual gear shifting can be a daunting task. Automatic transmissions simplify the learning curve, allowing beginners to focus on the fundamentals of driving without the added complexity of manual gear changes.

6. Adaptive Driving Modes:

  • Many modern automatic transmissions come equipped with adaptive driving modes. These modes, such as Eco or Sport, cater to different driving preferences, offering a customizable experience that suits the driver's needs and preferences.

7. Extend your driving life

  • Unfortunately as people get older it can become difficult or taxing on the body to operate a manual vehicle. However there is no need to give up on driving entirely! we have had many customers on the verge of losing their independence make the transition to an automatic car and carry on driving for many more happy years.

Automatic transmissions have undeniably revolutionised the driving experience for many people, providing a range of advantages that cater to the diverse needs of motorists. From the ease of use and reduced driver fatigue to the seamless transitions and adaptability to various driving conditions, automatic gearboxes continue to shape the way we navigate the roads. As automotive technology advances, the advantages of automatic transmissions make them an attractive choice for those seeking a more relaxed and enjoyable driving experience.

Types of automatic gearbox

In the ever-evolving world of automotive technology, automatic transmissions have become increasingly popular, offering a host of advantages that appeal to a broad spectrum of drivers. Gone are the days when manually shifting gears was the norm; today, automatic gearboxes have taken center stage, providing a smoother and more user-friendly driving experience. In this blog, we explore the advantages of automatic transmissions, highlighting the features that make them a preferred choice for many motorists.

Traditional Automatic Transmission:

  • Description: This type uses a torque converter to transfer power from the engine to the transmission. It offers a smooth and gradual transition between gears.
  • Cars: The Jaguar XE, Land Rover Discovery Sport, and Vauxhall Insignia often feature traditional automatic transmissions.

Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT):

  • Description: DCTs use two clutches to pre-select and engage gears. This results in quicker shifts and improved fuel efficiency.
  • Cars: The Ford Fiesta ST, Volkswagen Golf GTI, and Audi TT frequently come equipped with dual-clutch transmissions.

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT):

  • Description: CVTs don't have traditional gears but use a system of belts and pulleys to provide an infinite number of gear ratios. This results in smooth acceleration and improved fuel efficiency.

  • Cars: The Nissan Qashqai, Honda Jazz, and Toyota C-HR are examples of models offering CVTs in the UK.

Automated Manual Transmission (AMT):

  • Description: AMTs are essentially manual transmissions with automated control. They use a computerized system to manage the clutch and gear changes.
  • Cars: The Hyundai i10, Renault Captur, and Suzuki Swift may come with automated manual transmissions.

Tiptronic Transmission:

  • Description: A type of automatic transmission that allows the driver to manually shift gears without a clutch, usually via paddles on the steering wheel. It provides a blend of automatic convenience and manual control.
  • Cars: The Audi A3, Volkswagen Polo, and Porsche Macan may feature Tiptronic transmissions in the UK.

Hybrid Synergy Drive (e-CVT):

  • Description: A variation of CVT commonly used in hybrid vehicles. It combines an electric motor and a gasoline engine for improved fuel efficiency..
  • Cars: The Toyota Prius, Lexus UX, and Honda CR-V Hybrid utilize e-CVT technology.

DSG (Direct-Shift Gearbox):

  • Description: Similar to a DCT, the DSG is a dual-clutch transmission developed by Volkswagen. It offers fast gear changes and is known for its performance-oriented applications
  • Cars: Volkswagen models like the Golf GTI, Audi A4, and SEAT Leon Cupra often feature DSG transmissions in the UK.

Are Automatic gearboxes reliable?

Automatic gearboxes, like any automotive component, can be reliable when well-designed, properly maintained, and used according to the manufacturer's guidelines. Many modern automatic transmissions are engineered with advanced technology to provide smooth and efficient gear changes. However, reliability can vary depending on the type of automatic gearbox, the manufacturer, and how well the car owner takes care of the vehicle.

Here are some factors to consider regarding the reliability of automatic gearboxes:

Regular Maintenance:

Following the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule is crucial for the reliability of any transmission and  can extend the life of an automatic gearbox.

Type of Automatic Transmission:

Different types of automatic transmissions have varying degrees of complexity. Traditional torque converter automatics, for example, are generally robust and durable, while more complex systems like dual-clutch transmissions may require specific maintenance practices. We will always consider the type of gearbox when advising on what used car you buy next.

Technology Advances:

Recent advancements in transmission technology, such as improved materials, electronic control systems, and adaptive learning capabilities, have contributed to the reliability and efficiency of modern automatic gearboxes.

While automatic gearboxes are more reliable than ever, it's essential for car owners to be proactive in servicing and maintenance and to address any issues promptly. Regularly checking the transmission fluid level, addressing leaks, and responding to warning signs like unusual noises or delayed shifts can help ensure the longevity and reliability of an automatic gearbox.


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