How to drive a manual car: a guide for beginners


These days, automatic vehicles rule the road — but driving stick shift was once the norm, and can still be useful. If you want to add manual driving to your skillset, we’ve got the guide for you!


Why learn manual?

While automatic vehicles are convenient, knowing how to drive a manual car can come in handy.

Manual cars:

  • can be less costly to maintain and repair, as automatic car transmissions are more complex and have more parts and functions that can fail
  • are more fuel efficient, typically improving gas mileage by 2 to 5 mpg, and
  • are more prevalent in certain parts of the world (so knowing how to drive one can be useful for avid travellers).

Knowing how to drive a manual car can also come in clutch when it comes to emergencies. Whether you need to take the wheel of a friend’s manual car, or borrow a relative’s car in a hurry, you’ll know just how to get going.


Make sure you’re driving by the rules

Before hopping into a manual car, double check whether any restrictions apply to your licence. These can vary by state.

In New South Wales

If you obtained your P1 licence in an automatic car, you can only drive automatic until you pass your P2 licence.

In Victoria

Drivers who obtained their provisionary licence in an automatic car must wait until they have their unrestricted licence to drive manual.

In Western Australia and Queensland

Automatic drivers must sit a practical driving test to remove the manual restriction on their licence. Drivers must also obtain a learner’s permit and be supervised by someone who holds an unrestricted licence.

In Tasmania

Drivers who first learnt to drive automatic are restricted to automatic driving indefinitely, but can request to have this restriction removed after three years.

In South Australia

Drivers can enjoy unrestricted driving between automatic and manual cars, regardless of which type of vehicle they completed their test in.

No matter the restrictions or requirements in your state, it’s always a good idea to brush up on your driving skills. AAMI’s Skilled Drivers course might be able to help, equipping you with some extra confidence on the road.


How to actually drive manual, step-by-step

  • Put on your seatbelt first.
  • Turn the engine on.
  • Push the clutch pedal (the pedal on the left) down.
  • Move the gear stick into first gear.
  • Use your right foot to lightly press down on the accelerator, increasing engine revs slightly.
  • Use your left foot to slowly lift the clutch pedal until it starts to vibrate (this is sometimes known as the “bite point”).
  • Remove the handbrake, allowing the car to move slowly.
  • Increase your revs while taking your foot off the clutch, using only the accelerator pedal to move.

Of course, the steps above are only a rough guide. Taking lessons with a professional is the best way of perfecting your manual driving skills. Reach out to a driving instructor in your area to determine your eligibility  for manual driving lessons.

With some practice, you could soon perfect your manual driving skills. Before hitting the road, you may gain some reassurance by being adequately insured. AAMI Comprehensive Car Insurance might be a good option, as learner drivers don’t need to be listed on the policy as long as the insured licensed driver is in the front passenger seat with them when they’re driving1.

1. If a learner is driving at the time of an incident, an inexperienced driver or age excess my also apply.


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Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as AAMI. Any advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situation or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it. Please read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before you make any decision regarding this product. The Target Market Determination is also available.