I know that it is more expensive / harder to find a car with an automatic transmission to rent, but why is that the case?

My first guess would be that autos are more expensive to buy, and that any excess wear and tear on the car caused by people who are bad at driving manuals simply doesn't come close to the increased purchase price.

Another option would be that people prefer to drive manuals, I guess?

This answer states that they used to have better fuel economy: What is the most common transmission type for rental cars in Japan? Is that still the reason for primarily offering manuals?

The above question & answers indicate that Japan is now mostly (exclusively?) automatics in the rental market. I believe the same is true of NZ and Australia. Are those countries ahead of the curve, or are European countries behind it?

EDIT: Of course, NZ and AU import a huge number of their cars from Japan, so that's probably trickled on through to the rental market (Japan produces less manual cars, countries can't import as many manuals, less available to buy, rental companies wind up with mostly automatics).

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    I don't think this is a question about travel. It's harder to rent cars with automatic transmissions in Europe because most cars in Europe have manual transmissions. Why that is the case is not a travel question: the answer, whatever it is, doesn't depend on the fact that you're a visitor to Europe, since Europeans would still drive the same cars even if you weren't there watching them. Feb 26, 2016 at 2:06
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    I think its cultural, like how you can only rent manual in the USA Feb 26, 2016 at 2:48
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    It is mostly a cultural thing yes, in the EU everyone learns how to drive manual and manual is favoured over automatic.
    – Summer
    Aug 8, 2016 at 12:26

1 Answer 1


Cars with manual transmissions are simply more popular in Europe. While the cost of automatic cars is usually higher by a small percentage that does not make up for the difference.

What allows rental agencies to increase rental fees is that automatic cars are a specialized demand which is almost exclusively catered to tourists. Locals are most likely to look for manual transmissions since that is more prevalent. When renting to tourists the cost of ownership of the car, from the point of view of the rental agency, must be divided by the volume of tourists renting which is likely lower than that of locals.

One place where this is taken yet a step further is Iceland where the cost of automatic car rentals is quite expensive. They have a very short tourist season, around 3 months, where they most cover their costs and accumulate profits. The large fleets of rental cars remains largely unused the remainder of the year. That is exactly what the explained to me when I commented about how much more costly it was to rent a car there.

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    I think the cost-thing is a bit of cop out. Another reason to make things more expensive for tourists is just because you can. So it's an opportunity to practice price discrimination (that's a term of art) and extract more money from wealthy (American) tourists, whether the costs are significantly higher isn't that important.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 26, 2016 at 7:24
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    @JonathanReez, you only get an "automatic only" license if you repeatedly fail your manual test and need to take the easy way out. It's not something normally done.
    – Separatrix
    Feb 26, 2016 at 8:23
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    @JonathanReez, in the UK you'd only do that if you had no self-respect ;)
    – Separatrix
    Feb 26, 2016 at 9:12
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    Also, as manual cars are more common and more popular over here, it's easier for the rental company to sell them on afterwards...
    – Nick C
    Feb 26, 2016 at 11:04
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    @JonathanReez it was the progressives who opposed the national ID card when it was proposed in the UK - police state and all that... Not to mention the fact people were expected to pay for their own cards and it came with all sorts of intrusive extras. But now we're getting off topic :-) Feb 26, 2016 at 14:12

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