Learning how to drive an automatic car for the first time may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Originally thought of as an option for people who struggle with manual gearboxes, automatic cars are now more frequently seen than ever.
If you’re considering learning how to drive an automatic for the first time, take a look at our useful automatic car driving tips and advice below. Or maybe you’re looking for temporary car insurance as you need to borrow a family members or friend’s automatic car for the first time. Either way, we’ve put together our top 6 tips to remember when driving an automatic gearbox car for the first time.
Here are 6 automatic car driving tips
1. Getting comfortable using the gearstick
Before turning the engine on, take the time to get used to the gearstick. You’ll only have to use it occasionally, but if you need to put the car in reverse quickly, you’ll be glad you did! There are four basic gears:
Many drivers will put the vehicle into neutral when stopped at traffic lights or stuck in traffic for more than a few seconds. Like a manual car, it’s better to apply the parking brake to ensure the car doesn’t roll.
This is for going forwards. Once you’re moving quickly enough, the vehicle will automatically progress through the gears.
As the name suggests, the reverse gear is the same in a manual car and is used when you want to drive backwards.
Park is similar to neutral but with locked gears, so the wheels can’t be turned. It’s a good idea to put the car into park before switching off the engine and starting the engine.
2. Starting the vehicle
Now that the gears are familiar, you can start the vehicle. Automatics are easier to start and move off in than manual cars. To start your vehicle:
- First, firmly hold down the brake pedal with your right foot.
- Switch the engine on
- Push the security release button that’s on the gear selector lever.
- Pull the gear lever into Drive.
3. Stopping & parking the car
Now you’re comfortable starting the vehicle and moving away, it’s time to practice stopping your car.
Once you’ve finished your journey, you need to park the car, press your foot down onto the brake pedal, and shift the gearstick into Park. Then simply turn off the engine.
4. The lack of a clutch pedal
The absence of a clutch pedal might be a bit baffling to those used to driving manuals. To avoid pressing the accelerator and brake pedals simultaneously, try tucking your left foot behind your right.
This means that there’s no risk of your foot resting in the place where the clutch pedal would normally be.
5. Get enough practice
It’s a good idea to practice on quiet roads before driving on busier roads.
This will build your confidence, and it shouldn’t take long for you to get used to only using one foot and not keeping your hand on the gearstick!
6. ‘Creeping’ (or idle speed)
Automatic cars can slowly roll forwards if you’re in any forward gear. If the vehicle is in Reverse, it will move slowly back. This is known as ‘creeping’ and makes it easier to keep your foot on the brake whilst you’re parking.
How long does it take to learn to drive an automatic car?
Because there’s a lot less to learn with a car with an automatic transmission, it’s possible to learn the basics in just one day.
However, everyone learns at a different pace, so only begin driving once you’re fully confident with the gearstick, and starting and stopping safely.
The different types of gearboxes you should be aware of
Conventional automatic gearboxes
The most commonly used automatic gearbox, the conventional gearbox, has a torque converter instead of a clutch. They also have between 3-10 ratios, but they do typically use more fuel than manual gearboxes.
Continuously variable transmissions (CVT)
Usually found in hybrid cars, CVTs have a belt that provides a press-and-go function, putting the vehicle neatly into action. CVTs are highly reliable, and the absence of any gears mean you can enjoy smoother journeys. However, the acceleration will be a bit slower compared to automatic gearboxes.
These gearboxes work similarly to conventional gearboxes, just without the torque converter. As the name suggests, it uses two automatic clutches, one to operate the gear you’re using, and the other to prepare the next gear shift.
Automated manual gearboxes
Similar to a regular manually operated gearbox, an automatic manual gearbox chooses the gears automatically and operates the clutch using an onboard computer instead of a pedal.
Is it difficult to drive an automatic car?
No, quite the opposite. Many people find it easier to drive automatics than a vehicle with a manual transmission. This is because there’s more to think about and learn in a manual car.
Do you need to use the handbrake in an automatic car?
Yes, you should use the handbrake when you’ve parked the car or if you’re going to be stationary for a while, such as waiting in a traffic jam.
Do you use both feet when driving an automatic car?
No – when driving automatic cars, you generally only use the right foot. This is because there are only two pedals – the brake and the accelerator.
Final thoughts on how to drive an automatic car for the first time
Hopefully, you’ve found this guide on how to drive an automatic car useful. Although automatics have the same basic functions outlined in this guide, cars can vary.
If you’ve just bought your first automatic car, it’s strongly recommended to read the owner’s manual so that you can understand its basic principles.