What to expect when driving an automatic car for the first time

If you hold a manual licence, you can legally drive and rent an automatic car.

And with both manual and automatic cars available to hire at Arnold Clark Car & Van Rental branches across the UK, you won't be short of options.

However, if you've haven’t driven an automatic before, there are a few things you’ll want to look out for.

No clutch

Firstly, if you’ve been used to driving a manual for years, then be ready for the biggest change – in an automatic, there is no clutch pedal because the gears automatically change.

Be careful not to mistakenly slam down on the brake pedal, as this will likely result in some uncomfortable emergency braking. If it’s your first time driving an automatic, you might even find it easier to tuck your left foot off to the side.

The gearstick

Before you hit the road, it’s always a good idea to have a play about with the gear stick.

Familiarise yourself with each of the options and what they do, as well as how to change from drive to reverse in case you need to quickly manoeuvre yourself out of a situation.

Automatics tend to have four options on the gear stick – Park (P), Reverse (R), Neutral (N) and Drive (D). The shift pattern will either be displayed on the gear stick itself or along the side of it.


Unlike in a manual vehicle, when you remove your foot from the brake pedal, the car will slowly start to move forwards or backwards depending on the selected gear. This is called ‘creeping’ or ‘idle speed’.

Hovering your left foot over the brake while parking or in slow-moving traffic can help prevent any unwanted bumps.

Of course, you can select Neutral and/or use the brake or handbrake to make sure you don’t move at all.

The benefits

If you’ll be covering lots of miles and driving in busy traffic, you might be better off with an automatic so you don't have to worry about changing gears or ever fear stalling.

If you're learning to drive in a manual, they'll be no need to practice finding the biting point, and of course, hill starts will be much easier.

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