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Why Manual Cars Still Dominate Nigerian Roads: Economic, Historical, and Social Factors

Gear Stick

This article explores the reasons why manual cars continue to dominate Nigerian roads despite the advancement of technology and the popularity of automatic cars in other parts of the world. The focus is on the economic, historical, and social factors that contribute to this trend.


Automatic Gear Automatic cars, also referred to as automatic transmission cars, are automatic vehicles that do not require the driver to manually change the gears. Unlike manual cars commonly found on Nigerian roads, which require the driver to engage in the clutch and shift the gears, automatic cars have a transmission system that automatically does what it is supposed to do  like its manual counterpart when the gear is changed. Thus, it automatically adjusts the gear ratios based on the vehicle's speed, engine RPM, and other factors. While manual cars are still prevalent in Nigeria, especially for short-distance transport services, automatic cars are gaining popularity. This is due to their convenience (automatic cars), smooth driving experience, and availability in various vehicle types and models in Nigeria.




When it comes to driving, one of the fundamental differences between automatic and manual cars is how gear shifting and clutch operation are handled.

Gear Shifting:

In Manual cars, the driver is responsible for shifting the gears by pressing down the clutch pedal before engaging the gear stick, However, In automatic cars the transmission system is automatically adjusted without the need for manual gear, A notable point to consider here is that due to this difference, the automatic transmission vehicles do not have a clutch pedal.
The gear shifting of an automatic vehicle is typically smooth and seamless, with the car automatically adjusting to the optimal gear for the driving conditions.

Driving Experience:

One way in which an automatic vehicle differs from a manual vehicle is its driving experience. Manual cars require more driver involvement and coordination in order to successfully drive the vehicle as the driver needs to constantly shift gears based on the speed. Meanwhile, in automatic cars, this offers more driving experience as the transmission system handles gear shifting automatically.

Learning Curve:

Manual cars require drivers to learn and master the skill of clutch operation and gear shifting, which may take time and practice, while automatic cars are generally easier to learn and drive, making them more accessible for drivers without prior experience with manual transmission. There's this mantra that "If you sabi  drive  manual, you  go fit drive automatic, but if you only  sabi how to drive automatic, you no fit drive manual".  

Availability In Nigeria:

Should I say because Nigeria is still a 3rd world country? manual vehicles are still common in some regions and even in the cities where they are often used for short-distance transport services.

The  Prevalence of Manual Vehicles on Nigerian Roads: A local Perspective

In Nigeria, despite the increasing popularity of automatic cars worldwide, manual vehicles are still prevalent on the roads, particularly for short-distance transport services. This is due to perhaps, several factors that are quite unique to the Nigerian context.


Nigeria is a developing country with a significant portion of the population facing economic challenges (as of the time this post is being written). Manual cars are often more affordable compared to automatic cars, both in terms of purchase price and maintenance costs. As a result, many Nigerians, especially those from lower-income groups, opt for manual vehicles as a more cost-effective transportation option.


Manual cars have a long-standing history in Nigeria, with manual transmission being the norm for many years before the introduction of automatic cars. This has led to a preference for manual vehicles among some Nigerians who are more familiar and comfortable with manual gear shifting.


Despite the global popularity of the automatic car, the availability of affordable automatic cars in the Nigerian market is relatively limited. This is due to various factors, including import restrictions, high import duties, and limited options for financing or leasing automatic cars. As a result, manual cars have continued to dominate the Nigerian automobile market.


In Nigeria, automatic cars are often associated with the middle class and are percieved as vehicles for private uses rather than for commercial purposes. this perception has resulted in many Nigerians preferring manual vehicles for public transportation or commercial hailing services, as they are often considered more durable and suitable for the demands of commercial use.


There is also a prevalent perception in Nigerian towns/cities among the dwellers that manual cars are likely to be used for nefarious activities, such as kidnappings, as compared to automatic cars. This perception resulted in some Nigerians preferring manual vehicles, even if they may be older or in not-so-good condition, as they are seen as less likely to be involved in illegal activities. So, if a GLE 63 coupe SUV pulls over by an average Nigerian waiting to get to somewhere with a taxi, He/she might look sideways, step away and decline to enter that vehicle thus preferring to wait longer till he/she sees an ideal vehicle that is usually seen to be used for transport services.

It is important to note that this preference for manual vehicles on Nigerian roads may also be influenced by some level of profiling and stereotyping. However, its worth mentioning that the Nigerian automotive market is evolving, and there is a gradual increase in the availability and usage of automatic cars, especially among the middle-class population who are using them for private use or as commercial hailing services in the face of the country's challenging economic conditions.

Weighing The Pros and Cons of Automatic And Manual Cars In Nigeria.

The choice between automatic and manual cars in Nigeria comes with its own set of pros and cons. While automatic cars offer convenience, ease of use, and potential fuel efficiency benefits, manual cars are often more affordable, durable, and suitable for commercial use. However, factors such as economic constraints, historical preferences, limited availability of affordable automatic cars, perception of automatic cars for private use, and safety concerns influence the prevalence of manual vehicles on Nigerian Roads.

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