5 Used Cars to Buy to Learn the Art of the Manual Transmission

Updated 8/13/19

Last year, we revisited the death of the manual transmission. For shoppers who still want to learn or those who want to refresh their skills on the open road, they’ve got a few options when it comes to used cars. Here’s our list of the top used cars for learning to use a manual transmission for every walk of life.

When AWD Is a Priority

For drivers who want a manual with all-wheel drive (AWD), the Subaru WRX is a top choice. Not only did the 2016 model score an 8.5/10 from our reviewer, but the 2015-2018 version is also in the top three for highest number of leads in 2019. And what’s not to love? The base trim packs a hefty amount of power, with 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and includes good-to-have features like torque vectoring and brake assist to help in inclement conditions. 

When Speed Is a Priority

Once you’ve got the basics, or if you’re looking for a new-to-you ride with a manual, you have plenty of speedy options. You can set your sights on the 2015-2018 Ford Mustang, which is a top choice for CarGurus shoppers, as it has the highest number of unique leads. The Mustang has been improving in the eyes of our reviewers year after year, with the 2018 model scoring an 8.3/10. It also has the benefit of having the most listings for a manual vehicle on our site, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to find the perfect package. 

When Space Is a Priority

With 72.4 cubic feet of cargo space, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is one of the only top-searched manuals that includes plenty of space. Our reviewer gave the 2018 model an overall score of 7.5/10, an improvement compared to the 2016 version thanks to better technology and slightly improved safety features. 

When Safety Is a Priority

Shopping for a younger driver? It’s hard to go wrong with the Honda Civic. Both the 2015 and 2016 models scored 9/10 for safety, thanks in part to their LaneWatch system and Honda Sensing Safety system. Both models also earned a 5-star rating from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

When Style Is a Priority

If you’re looking for a manual car that will make you stand out, set your sights on the MINI Cooper. With its iconic 1960s-inspired design–and the option of British Racing Green or Union Jack details–it will always make an entrance. Our reviewer gave the 2015 model a 9/10 for Look and Feel. 

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6 Comments

  1. I’d put the Mustang on the list. I don’t drive stick frequently or really at all. But I have to say the clutch on the Mustang from the ’05 era and newer, is pretty easy for new drivers in my opinion. I agree the Ranger is pretty good, but a lot of them are asking a high price, seeing as compact trucks are in kind of a high demand.

    I wouldn’t mind a VW Jetta TDI with s 5 or 6 speed manual, despite the scandal. The part stopping me is timing belts on there engines. If they had chains instead, I’d get one in a heart beat.

  2. Another one would be a older civic or accord. Get it for cheap learn stick on it then get rid of it, when you’re ready. I recently picked up a 99 accord which was kept in a good condition. The clutch was replaced and shifting was wonderful.

  3. I brought a nice Mercedes C230, here at Choice Motors, in CT. Love my car dealership very business minded. Friendly and helpful. One Love

  4. Great article. I have a teenager who I am adamant simply must learn to drive a manual, but don’t want her causing any major chaos in my car. We were originally leaning towards getting a Jetta, but amidst that scandal everyone seems to be talking about, we’ve been re-examining other options. Glad the Ranger made the list. She (of course) does not want a truck but I wouldn’t hate having one for myself as an extra vehicle. Thanks for the post, gives me some options to consider!

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