Tips for driving an automatic car

Automatic cars are becoming so popular in South Africa that many automotive manufacturers now offer an automatic option for most of their vehicles. In fact, some models are only available with an automatic gearbox. These are the main reasons for the automatic vehicles gaining in popularity: 

  • It’s a pleasure driving an automatic car in traffic
  • Better fuel consumption
  • Require less maintenance

If you’re looking to buy a new car, check out the automatic cars for sale on the MotorHappy Car Portal. Here you will find over 4000 makes and models, all with a proven service history. We can also assist with arranging finance and insurance.

Although automatics are relatively easy to drive, there is often some confusion when it comes to stopping and starting the automatic gearbox. 

Firstly, the gear stick should be in P (park), this allows you to start the vehicle and prevents the car from rolling. Secondly, R (reverse) is only accessible with your foot on the brake pedal. N (neutral) is placed under reserve and is only used for towing or revving the engine. Lastly, D, which stands for drive, allows the vehicle to move forward and change gears when needed.

Most automatic vehicles will only start if your foot is on the brake pedal, and most importantly an automatic car should only be driven with your right foot. This is because you are in control of only the brake and accelerator pedal, which is similar to a manual as you would also only control these two pedals with your right leg.

There are many different types of automatic gearboxes. Generally, the type of automatic gearbox suits the type of vehicle. Below is a short list of the different types of automatic gearbox’s and which are ranked better.


  • Automated manual – These types of gearboxes are seen as a semi-automatic, because you still have to select the gears manually. However, the clutch is controlled through an electric computer, so the vehicle has no clutch pedal. This type of gearbox is rated last on our list because these gearboxes were slow to react and gear changes were not considered smooth in any way.
  • Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) – Thirdly ranked is the CVT type automatics, these types of gearboxes allow for a smooth ride as there is only one gear ratio in a CVT, therefore the gearbox does not have to change up or down gears. However, these gearboxes are noticeably slower to accelerate than other automatics.
  • Conventional automatic – second on our list is the most popular type of automatic gearboxes available today and is found in most automatic vehicles. The conventional automatic uses a torque converter as a clutch, which allows for smoother gear changes.
  • Dual-clutch automatic – the best type of automatic available today is the dual-clutch auto, which works in a similar way to the conventional automatic, but is accompanied by two clutches which allows for much faster gear changes. These types of automatics are mainly found in performance orientated vehicles, ranging between VW, Audi and Porsche.

Overall the Conventional Automatic and Dual-Clutch Automatics are rated as the best and most refined automatics available today, both of these gearboxes provide a smooth and relaxing drive. However, if you’re looking for a fast responsive automatic then the Dual-Clutch Automatic Gearbox will be the better option.

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