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Automatic vs. Manual: Licence Restrictions Across States

Jacaranda Team

Jacaranda Team

April 3, 20207 minute read
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Is it better to get an automatic or manual licence? 

When applying for your driver’s licence, you may be wondering what’s best: Getting an automatic vs. manual licence. 

On this page:

    There are many pros and cons to each type of licence but what’s best for you may also depend on the state you’re living in. The regulations vary in each state, so what could be a disadvantage in one state, may not apply in another. 

    Even if you think you would be happy driving an automatic car for a few years, you may want to think of future scenarios and save yourself time and money by making an informed decision. 

    Positives and negatives of automatic vs manual licences

    While getting an automatic licence used to be stigmatised only a few years ago, the general trend has changed and more people are opting for automatic licences. The reason may be that there are more automatic cars available, making the hassle of a manual licence less necessary and desirable. So, what should you do? Is a manual or an automatic licence best? 

    Manual licence 

    Getting a manual licence gives you the option to drive both automatic or manual vehicles. Therefore, you are more flexible in your choice of cars. This is especially true if you travel overseas where manual cars may be more common as it’s easier for you to get a cheap rental anywhere. Additionally, you never know when having a manual licence may be handy. You might have to drive someone else’s vehicle in case of an emergency or it may be a part of your job requirements. Either way, you will have the possibility to choose what car you would like to drive. 

    • Performance control. Driving at low revs may be able to save fuel and improve the performance of your car long term. Most manual cars are also more fuel-efficient. Either way, you have more control if you shift gears manually. 
    • Costs. Manual cars are often cheaper to buy and to maintain. 
    • Require more skills. Driving a manual car may require more skills to learn when getting your licence initially. However, some people think driving a manual is also more fun. 
    • More work in traffic jams. While it may be fun to drive a manual when traffic is flowing nicely, it can be a pain to constantly shift gears in stop and go traffic. 
    • More practice hours. Learning to drive a manual is more work than driving an automatic. Therefore, you may need more lessons and spend more money on your initial licence. 

    Automatic licence 

    On the other hand, preparing to get an automatic licence is less hard work. Automatic cars are easier to operate and won’t require as much skill. However, learning to drive in an automatic car may restrict you in some states as you won’t be able to operate any manual vehicles. Automatic cars may feel easier to drive. As the name suggests, they automatically decide which gear your car will operate. However, they also contain more electronic parts that can get damaged over time and for that reason, are often pricier to buy and maintain. 

    • Easy to operate in traffic. In heavy traffic, an automatic car is easier to drive and will cause less stress. 
    • Faster to learn. Most people spend less time and money on learning to drive a manual car. The process is easier and faster. 
    • Less fuel-efficient. The rev of an automatic car is usually higher than a manual, so it uses more fuel. Their automatic choice of gear may not necessarily be the most efficient choice. Some models allow you to override their choice but you need enough knowledge to do so. 
    • Higher maintenance costs. Most automatic cars are unfortunately more costly to repair and maintain. 

    Licence Restrictions for Each State

    Now that we’ve covered the pros and cons of each licence, it’s important to have a look at the state you will be driving in. In some states, it may be more restrictive to drive with an automatic licence then in others. 


    If you gain your licence in an automatic car, you won’t be permitted to drive a manual car. If you would like to upgrade to a manual licence, you will have to pass another driving test in a manual vehicle. 

    So if you want to learn to drive a manual, you will undergo the same learning process again: You need to be supervised by someone who held an open licence for at least 1 year in that class in Queensland. And you will have to display an L-Plate on your vehicle again while you are learning. So if you are considering driving a manual in Queensland at some point, it may be sensible to get your manual licence straight away. 

    New South Wales

    It is a slightly different matter in NSW. Here, if you obtain your P1 licence (the one with the red P-Plate) in an automatic car, you are only allowed to drive automatic vehicles until you pass your P2 licence (the green P-Plate). The provisional P2 licence can be turned into a full (unrestricted) driver licence once you hold it for at least 24 months. 


    If you learn how to drive in an automatic car in Victoria, you will only be able to drive vehicles with automatic transmission through your P1 and P2 licence. This will be indicated with a little ‘A’ displayed as your condition. However, you will be able to drive manual vehicles without taking an additional test once you progress to your unrestricted licence. If you want to change this condition while you have a probationary licence, you have to pass the test in a vehicle with a manual transmission again and pay a licence variation fee. 

    However, in some cases, this condition may be stated in your driver’s licence due to a medical condition or impairment. If this is the case, a ‘V’ will be displayed on your driver’s licence even once you have obtained your unrestricted licence.


    If you obtain your driver’s licence in an automatic car is Tassie, your restrictions to only drive automatic will stay in place, even once you move on to your unrestricted licence. However, it is possible to request to have the restriction removed after three years. So if you plan to drive an automatic vehicle for a while before possibly transitioning to a manual, it wouldn’t cause a problem. 

    South Australia

    It’s an entirely different case in South Australia. With no restrictions in place, it doesn’t matter if you do your test in an automatic or a manual car. You can switch between the two as you want and won’t have any restrictions on your licence. 

    Western Australia

    If you obtained your driver’s licence in an automatic-only car, your licence will be restricted to only drive automatic cars. To remove this restriction, you are required to obtain a learner’s permit and learn how to drive a manual car under supervision. Your restriction will be removed once you pass the practical test in a manual car. 

    Northern Territory & Australian Capital Territory 

    If you pass your driving test in an automatic vehicle, your license will be restricted. Therefore, it may be sensible to take your test in a manual car as you will have to go through the whole process again if you ever want to remove the ‘A’ from your licence. 

    Think you’re ready to get on the road?

    If you ever plan to drive a manual vehicle, it is sensible to learn in a manual vehicle. While automatic cars are becoming more popular, having an unrestricted licence will give you the freedom to decide whether you want to choose an automatic or a manual vehicle. Manual cars have one big benefit: They are less expensive to buy and often less expensive to maintain. Their parts are more common and therefore, easier to get. 

    If you think about buying a used or new car, but you currently don’t have the right finances handy, Jacaranda may be able to help. Jacaranda car loans range from $5,000 to $35,000 and will get you moving in no time. The application process is 100% online, with transparent costs and a quick outcome. (If you apply during AEST business hours, you may know your outcome within 60 minutes!) We offer competitive interest rates, repayment terms ranging from 1 to 5 years and no early pay-off fees. Sounds great? Head over to our Jacaranda car loans if you want to hit the road soon.

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    Jacaranda Team
    Jacaranda Team

    Written by Jacaranda Team

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