Buying a Car?

Automatic cars: how to buy one and what you need to know

Added 6 April 2016 by

Who wouldn’t like to drive an automatic car if only they were a bit more affordable? Sadly, potential repair costs are so high that most of the buyers need to opt for second-hand vehicles. These may be cheaper but remember: automatic transmission car market is a real minefield. Before you start looking, read this article to learn about different types of automatic transmission and the models where they have proven to work properly (or not).

Types of automatic transmission

If you are buying a second-hand car, there are 4 types of automatic transmission to be found in the vehicles. Each of them has its strengths and weaknesses; you need to know which one will work best for you in order to truly enjoy driving.

The classic automatic transmission

The classic automatic transmission was mostly used in premium cars at first. It was only after it proved to work fine that it started being implemented in lower class vehicles. Its popularity makes it easy to find a qualified workshop if you need repairs. Remember about one thing, though: classic automatic transmission is usually faultless but may increase fuel consumption.

Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG)

Made popular by Volkswagen, this type of gearbox is characterized by very good performance and modern construction. It can bring about substantial fuel savings (up to 15%). The transmission has two gearboxes (one for odd and one for even gears) and a dual mass flywheel. Unfortunately, it is expensive in use (consumable fluids) and repairs. Volkswagen offers the following models with this transmission type: Audi (marked as S tronic) TT, A1, A3, S3, A4 and S4 (B8), A5, A7, A8 (D4), Q5 and R8, Seat Ibiza, Leon, Altea, Toledo, Alhambra, Skoda Fabia, Octavia, Rapid, Roomster, Superb II andYeti, as well as Volkswagen Polo, Golf GTI, TDI, Jetta, Vento, Bora, Eos, Touran, New Beetle, Passat, CC, Sharan, Scirocco, Tiguan, Caddy, and Transporter.

If you are after this kind of transmission, think about Skoda Fabia II (2007-) 1.2 TSI 105 KM, Seat Ibiza IV (2008-) 1.2 TSI 105 KM, Volkswagen Golf V (2003-2008) 1.9 TDI 105 KM, Skoda Octavia II (2004-2013) 1.9 TDI 105 KM, Skoda Yeti (2009-) 2.0 DI CR 140 KM, and Volkswagen Tiguan (2007-) 2.0 TDI 140 KM. We’d be more careful about Chevy Cruze (2008-), though.


Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT)

This mechanism is interesting in itself, as it is partly based on Leonardo da Vinci’s concepts that were obviously developed before any cars were there at all. In practical terms, this kind of transmission is expensive when it comes to repairs, so before you purchase a car with CVT, you need to make sure it won’t require servicing anytime soon. CVT is used in Audis (marked as Multitronic), Nissans and Toyotas (marked as CVT), among others.

Among the more popular second-hand CVT vehicles, the most notable one is Nissan Micra K12 (2002-2010) 1.4 16V 88KM.When it comes to less trustworthy cars, be careful of Audi A4 Multitronic (2000-).

Selespeed (semi-automatic or automatized manual transmission)

Selespeed is a kind of transmission when gears are changed using the traditional gear lever or buttons on the steering wheel but without the clutch pedal. Unfortunately, this kind of gear is difficult to adjust but apart from clutch steering, it is generally very durable. Selespeed is used mostly in FIAT vehicles, marked e.g. as Sportshift and R Tronic.

If you are after this type of transmission, look for an Audi A4 Tiptronic (2000-2008) 2.4 V6 170 KM. We strongly recommend you to stay away from Fiat Grande Punto (Dualogic), Opel Corsa (Easytronic), Citroen C4 Picasso or older models of Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo.

How to buy cars with automatic transmission

Having familiarized yourself with the list of those “critical” models that are known to cause trouble, you can now move on to examining ads. The number of second-hand vehicles with automatic transmission you can purchase is – and will be – growing, especially taking the introduction of automatic hybrid vehicles. Since there is so much to choose from, don’t let yourself be driven by low prices alone. Check mileage as well; the lower it is, the better, as this means only minor transmission wear.

When you have found the car you like, make the test drive as long as possible. Remember: automatic transmissions have the tendency to worsen their performance after some time of driving, even if they work excellent when you’re starting the car. When going to the mechanic workshop, choose one that specializes in automatic cars; transmission is too important to be checked by a random mechanic. While they’re checking the car, pay attention to the gear oil: check if there is enough of at and if it is transparent (it should be).

If you are looking for an automatic car, remember that the comfort it guarantees always comes together with higher repair costs. This is why these cars are recommended for drivers who can affors paying a substantial sum of money in the case of an unexpected breakdown. If every penny matters to you, give yourself some more time and, until it gets better, go for a manual car.

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