Jeep Wrangler Manual vs Automatic Transmission

Jeep Wrangler Manual vs Automatic Transmission

Last Updated August 8, 2023 | Alison Smith

Pondering buying your first Jeep Wrangler but can’t decide whether to opt for an automatic or manual transmission? This is a heated topic in the Jeep community as some Jeepers are purists and only drive a manual, while others prefer the automatic. There are pros and cons to each Jeep Wrangler transmission that you will want to consider before deciding what option is best for you. Depending on how you will use your Wrangler, a manual transmission might suit your needs more than an automatic Wrangler. On the other hand, a Jeep Wrangler with a stick-shift may not be as practical as having an automatic transmission. When deciding between a Jeep Wrangler automatic vs manual, make sure to consider all the benefits and drawbacks so you can make an informed decision on which transmission will suit you best.

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Wrangler Manual Transmissions

If you’re a purist, then there’s really only one option to consider for your Jeep Wrangler transmission: manual. Manual transmissions are traditional, yet timeless. For true Jeep enthusiasts, there’s nothing like driving a manual Wrangler. Whether you are on or off the road, a manual transmission will let you become one with your Jeep. Bumping down the trail with the top off, wind in your hair, and one hand on the shift knob — is there any other place you’d rather be? Even if you aren’t a through-and-through Jeep fanatic (yet!), there are benefits to driving a manual Wrangler.

Here are a few reasons why you may want to opt for a manual Jeep Wrangler transmission:

  • Reliability: Manual transmissions in comparison to automatic transmissions are less complicated. They don’t require a torque converter, valve bodies, or auxiliary coolers. As such, they are more reliable. If something were to go awry with your manual Jeep Wrangler transmission, it’d be easier to fix than an automatic. Manual transmissions can also be push started in the event you need to give the battery an extra boost, unlike an auto Wrangler that would need a jump-start.
  • More Control: Do you want to feel at one with your Jeep Wrangler? A manual transmission will require you to engage with your vehicle and let you take complete control. So not only will a manual transmission make you feel more connected to your vehicle, but it will give you more authority over when you want to shift gears. An automatic transmission that does all the work for you will not give you full control of your Wrangler.
  • Fun to Drive: Jeep Wranglers are enjoyable no matter what transmission you have, but if you’re looking to have even more fun while cruising down the highway or conquering the trails, you can’t go wrong with a Wrangler manual transmission. Besides giving you more freedom to shift when you want, a manual can turn any boring drive into an exciting experience.
  • Cheaper: In general, manual transmissions are less expensive than automatic transmissions. If you’re eyeing the 2017 Wrangler Unlimited, it will cost you an extra $1,400 for the automatic transmission. So you can save money right off the bat by forgoing the automatic and sticking with the manual Jeep Wrangler. They typically require less maintenance over time as well, which will save you time, effort, and money.

Manual Transmission Jeep Wrangler

Wrangler Automatic Transmissions

Perhaps a manual transmission doesn’t suit your lifestyle. That’s okay! Plenty of Jeepers and die-hard Wrangler fans drive automatics. Automatics are just as fast, if not faster than a stick-shift. Since there’s no need to press in the clutch and shift gears, you can focus more on the road and your surroundings. Manuals may be a timeless classic, but let’s face it — automatics are the transmission of the future. In this day and age, where we see driverless cars and automated pizza delivery, manual transmissions are quickly falling behind the times. Auto Wranglers are great because they do all the hard work for you, no need to fiddle with that pesky gearshift!

Here are a few reasons to opt for an automatic Jeep Wrangler transmission:

  • Good for Commuting: Are you planning on driving your Wrangler daily? If so, do you encounter a lot of traffic on your way to and from the office? Automatic transmissions are much easier to operate in stop-and-go traffic than a manual Wrangler. While driving a manual on the road can be fun, it is a hassle when it comes to being stuck behind a bunch of cars on the highway. An automatic may be a better choice if you are using your Wrangler to commute.
  • Easy to Drive: There’s no doubt that driving an automatic is easier than driving a manual Wrangler. If you are just learning how to drive, an automatic makes things a lot simpler while you are trying to figure out how to change lanes or parallel park. Automatics are also easier to drive because you don’t have to worry about stalling or constantly shifting gears. Auto Wranglers are a great option if you share a car with other members of your family who may not know how to drive a manual. Anyone with a driver’s license can drive an automatic.
  • Constantly Improving: Automatic transmissions are constantly getting better and better. While manuals used to boast better gas mileage, automatics are catching up and even outranking some manuals when it comes to miles per gallon. Along with increased power, automatics are packing more gears than ever before, making them more efficient.
  • More Popular: Not that choosing your transmission is a popularity contest, but automatic transmissions are taking over the automotive industry in the U.S. While the rest of the world relies more on manual transmissions, American vehicles are producing more and more automatic vehicles. Not only has production decreased for manual transmissions, sales numbers have dropped rapidly over the past few years. The Los Angeles Times wrote that less than 3% of cars sold in America in 2016 were equipped with a stick-shift, citing an Edmunds analyst. That means when you are shopping around for a Wrangler, automatics will typically dominate the sales floor, giving you plenty of options to choose from.

Automatic Transmission Jeep Wrangler

Best Jeep Wrangler Transmission for Off-Roading

So now that we have the lowdown on Jeep Wrangler automatic vs manual transmissions, which Wrangler transmission is best for off-roading? If you’re planning on hitting the trails in your Wrangler, then you might want to consider which transmission is going to work best for your off-roading goals. If you’re planning on driving over rough terrain, where you need to constantly straddle rocks, then an automatic transmission might be your best bet. An auto Wrangler will allow you to crawl at a slower pace without worrying about holding the clutch in or shifting gears. The last thing you want is to stall your engine while traversing a rocky spot or in the midst of a hill climb. However, if you aren’t going to be conquering many rocks on the trail, then perhaps a manual Wrangler is a good option for you. While automatic transmissions can easily help you maintain a slow and steady pace while off-roading, manuals will give you more control overall. If your Wrangler transmission happens to blow on the trail, a manual transmission is an easier fix than an automatic. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, choosing your transmission is all about personal preference. Some people will always stick with a manual transmission, while others simply prefer an automatic. Whatever transmission you decide on for your Jeep Wrangler, there’s no doubt you will have a blast both on and off the road!

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This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.