Big surge in automatic-only driving tests in the UK

A man driving a car increases the transmission.

A new report has revealed an increase of 269 per cent in the number of learners booking automatic-only driving tests in the past decade. 

According to the most recent data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, there were about 324,064 automatic-only driving tests performed in 2022–2023 as opposed to 87,844 in 2012–2013, an almost fourfold increase. 

Even though manual transmissions remain the most popular with those taking their practical driving test today, the new analysis shows that one in five tests is now for an automatic-only licence.

In comparison, a decade ago, only one in 20 tests was automatic-only.

TrackDays.co.uk, which undertook the analysis of driving test booking numbers, stated that the shift in demand for automatic-only licences reflects a “switch in mentality from motorists looking to get on the road.”

Dan Jones, operations manager, says: “As EVs have automatic transmissions, many learners will be left wondering if there is any value in learning to drive a manual vehicle when the cars they’re most likely to be driving in the future will likely feature an automatic gearbox.”

Additionally, the data set showed a gender shift in the demographics of those wishing to take automatic-only tests, with 36% of tests scheduled by men in 2022–2023. 

However, only within the last three years has this increased, with it stubbornly staying at around a quarter of the bookings for seven years.

Dan says a ‘change in perception’ may have influenced booking trends.

“We live in a much more fast-paced society than even five years ago,” he explained. 

“The hassle-free mechanics of driving an automatic car seem to be much more appealing to those wishing to get out on the road quickly.”

However, despite the fact that novice drivers might believe passing a driving test in an automatic car is simpler than in one with a manual gearbox, the statistics contradict this.

Figures from the DVSA show that the average pass rate for automatic driving tests in 2022-23 was 42.7 per cent.

It is evident that students perform better on manual exams when comparing this to the average pass percentage for the UK (auto and manual combined), which was 48.4%.

According to a forecast made by insurance company Direct Line last year, the last individual to take their driving test in a manual car could be born in 2027, just four years from now, due to the increasing popularity of automated vehicles.

Is the popularity of auto tests down to the EV switch?

TrackDays claims that the EV revolution and the impending 2035 ban on the sale of all vehicles other than electric cars would drive the demand for auto licences; yet, current research indicates that the number of new cars available with manual transmissions is already significantly lower.

Less than one-third of new cars in dealerships have manual gearboxes, according to a CarWow survey published in October 2022.

Of the 298 new models available to order at the time, 200 (67.1 per cent) were sold exclusively with automatic gearboxes.

For drivers who want to change gear themselves, that left just 98 cars (32.9 per cent).

Many car makers only provide automatic gearboxes on their models; manual transmissions are not offered on any Mercedes, Genesis, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lexus, Maserati, Rolls-Royce, Subaru, or Volvo models. 

Only two car makers, Abarth and Seat, were discovered to provide manual gearboxes with every vehicle they sold; however, the former has expanded its lineup of cars to include the Abarth 500e, which is exclusively offered with an automatic gearbox.

According to official records maintained by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, automatic cars accounted for fewer than 25% of all new car registrations in 2011. By 2021, that percentage had increased to 62.4%.

1 thought on “Big surge in automatic-only driving tests in the UK”

  1. People today are not interested in “learning “. Such as the skill required to use the clutch with the gears. Nowadays it’s about the license and the opportunity to acquire one with minimal effort. With so many risk takers on the road, driving a manual car on an automatic license means nothing as the chances of being caught ar very small.

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