How to Drive an Automatic Car

Top Tips

What You Need to Know

  1. Driving an automatic means you’ll have much less chance of stalling, can make learning to drive considerably easier and take some of the stress out of motoring.
  2. Remember, both the acceleration and brake pedals should be operated by your right foot. Keep your left foot still and out of the way!
  3. Do not shift into park or reverse while your car is moving. This could do serious damage to the transmission.
  4. Putting the car into neutral if you are at rest for any length of time will help save on fuel.
  5. If you learn using an automatic car, you’ll only be licensed to drive automatics.
  6. Automatics are often more expensive, as, being less in demand in the UK, they are generally more scarce.

Why Drive an Automatic?

While cars automatic transmission may be relatively rare in the UK and Europe, especially when compared with the United States, there are a number of good reasons to make the move to auto. Benefits of this type of car include;

  • Driving tends to be easier; mastering clutch control is, for many people, the hardest part of driving. Bypassing this altogether can make driving much easier and so more practical and enjoyable.
  • You have much less chance of stalling an automatic car than you do a manual transmission.
  • You can learn and take your test in an automatic car. If you struggle with gear changes, this could be the difference between a pass and a fail.

Possible Drawbacks to Automatic Cars

At the same time, however, there are a number of potential drawbacks to ditching the stick and shifting to automatic. These include, but are not limited to;

  • While you can pass your test in an automatic, if you do so, you will only be licenced to drive an automatic. However, passing in a manual means you are qualified to drive both manual and automatic cars.
  • You will have less control over gear selection in an automatic. For some, this even takes the fun out of driving.
  • As a rule, automatic cars consume more fuel than manual ones.
  • Furthermore, since fewer are produced for the UK market, the cars themselves tend to be more expensive.

Learning the Basics: Getting Moving

To begin with, you should note that there are just two pedals in front of you – the brake and the accelerator. There is no clutch pedal. Generally speaking, driving instructors recommend you use your right foot to operate both of these, leaving your left foot still and out of the way. Aside from this, there will be no gearbox. Instead, there will be a gear shifter, usually marked with the letters P,R,N,D (for park, reverse, neutral, drive).

Now, to get driving, you should first ensure the car is in park (P). With the brake pedal fully pressed down, start the engine.

With the engine running, you can now get moving. Shift into drive (D) or reverse (R), according to which direction you want to move in, and then slowly ease your foot off the brake pedal. You should now feel the car begin to move.

Pushing down on the accelerator will increase your speed. Remember, if this is your first time in an automatic car, take things slowly and, if you are in any way uncomfortable, stop and start again if it is safe to do so.

If you want to reverse, simply follow the above procedure, but instead of shifting into drive (D) from park(P), go straight into reverse (R).

Stopping and Parking

Stopping an automatic car is much the same as stopping a car with manual transmission. So, except in an emergency, slow to a gradual halt by pressing lightly down onto the brake pedal, though, of course, you will not have to shift down gears. If you have yet to finish your journey, then there is no need to shift out of drive or reverse once you have stopped, but do ensure you have the brake pedal fully pressed down.

However, if you are stationary at the end of a journey, then put the gear shift into park before you switch the engine off.

Further Reading

  • Looking to switch to an automatic? Read our guide to buying a used car and bag a bargain.
  • Keep your motor in shape with our guide to car maintenance.
  • Obtaining specialist young drivers car insurance could save you a considerable amount of money.
    linda jones linda jones

    ive just bought a automatic plus i havnt driven for 3 yrs due to health issues,so was very nervous and diffrent people telling me all different things,but have found your tips very good and explains things more clearer thanks

    Callum Callum

    Thanks very much for the guide, I've learned to drive in a manual and I wanted to make sure that I knew how to drive an automatic if I needed to

    Saudia Saudia

    Just a learner driver. Very goods tips. Thanks a lot

    jag jag

    Diving a automatic takes a lot of stress out of driving as you don't have to think what gear you should be in you can concentrate your steering and road position and hill starts are a lot more easy

    Leo Leo

    Very helpful I haven't driven a automatic for 15 years so needed to refresh my memory, thanks.

    bangingmegums bangingmegums

    brilliant info, direct, precise & easy to absorb :O) huge thanks...

    Noah Noah

    Great tips, thank you.

    ami ami

    I am a beginner. Just about to buy a new car. So these tips are very clear and useful for me. Many Thanks.


    Leave a Comment on this Article
    leave comment >
How we use cookies


Visit and "like us" today

Find us on facebook

We Guide, You Decide