Car Basics: Transmission Types

Here at The Car Brokers we want to give you as much information as possible to help you with your next car purchase.  This post gives some basic information about the different types of car transmissions (or gearbox’s in older language). 

A cars transmission is the mechanism that transmits the power generated by the engine via the crankshaft (the rotating axle that takes power from the engine) to the driveshaft running under the car that ultimately powers the wheels.

Most cars sold in New Zealand are petrol or diesel powered – so this post is focused on the transmission types for those vehicles.  Electric cars don’t have a traditional transmission - but if you’re interested in an electric vehicle check out our earlier post Thinking of buying an Electric Vehicle? — The Car Brokers.

Manual transmissions use a driver-operated clutch, usually a foot lever, to change gears.  Manual transmissions are usually 5 or 6 speeds, that is there are 5 or 6 forward gear ratios to select from depending on the speed you are going.  In general, the more the better i.e. 6 is better than 5.  Manual transmissions are generally provided in the base models of small cars – though they are also popular in sports cars.  Over the last 20 years manual transmissions have become less popular in New Zealand.  Vehicles with manual transmissions comprise less than 10% of new car sales in New Zealand.

Automatic transmissions can automatically change gear ratios as the vehicle moves, freeing the driver from having to shift gears manually. Like a manual transmission it has a number of speeds, or ratios.  Most are between 5 or 6 but the range is from 4 to 9 for new cars.  Like manual transmissions, in general, the more speeds the better, though not always.  The most popular is the hydraulic automatic transmission.

continuously variable transmission commonly abbreviated to CVT, is a type of automatic transmission.  It is a single-speed transmission that can change through a continuous range of effective gear ratios. The benefits over a traditional hydraulic automatic transmission are primarily the extremely smooth shifts and better fuel economy.   

dual-clutch transmission (DCT or DSG) is a form of automatic transmission.  It is an electronically controlled dual-clutch multiple-shaft transmission in a trans-axle design, with an automatic clutch operation.  It allows for fully automatic or semi-manual gear selection.  The benefits over a traditional hydraulic automatic transmission are primarily faster gear shifts and better fuel economy.   

The Car Brokers can help you determine the best vehicle for your specific needs and then find and negotiate the best deal for it.  Visit us at - we’ll do the hard work and save you time and money.