What's the best way to learn to drive stick in Toronto?
September 8, 2009 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm in Toronto and I'd like to learn to drive a manual transmission. I don't want to ask anyone to lend me their manual-tranmission car because of the wear and tear I might inflict on it, and you can't rent stick-shift cars (as far as I know) for exactly that reason. So I'm considering paying for lessons. My question: does it make sense to spend more money for lessons from a dedicated learn-to-drive-manual outfit like Shifters, or should I inquire with a regular driving school like CSS about individual lessons? Or, alternatively, do you have any other suggestions?
posted by Dasein to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You're not likely to inflict lots of wear and tear on a manual transmission unless you're a moron or really uncoordinated. I'm reasonably uncoordinated, and my husband taught me to drive stick without my damaging the 12-year-old clutch of our then car in any way. So if a friend is willing to teach you to drive stick, I would take them up on the offer--the chances that you'd have to pay hundreds of dollars to replace a busted clutch are very low.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:45 AM on September 8, 2009

Have a friend stay in the car with you while teaching. You'll be able to judge by their facial expressions whether you should abort and go for coffee.

But really, it's a single Sunday afternoon. It should be fine.
posted by rokusan at 11:50 AM on September 8, 2009

Pay for lessons. I wish I would have thought of that when I bought a manual car and needed to learn to drive it.

I had a friend teach me. I didn't learn well because she was so nervous about all the strange noises her car was making. (My car was vintage so the first month it was being repaired, which is why I couldn't just use my car.) I am not a moron, nor I am completely uncoordinated, but learning to drive stick at age 35 was a bit of a challenge. It would have been so much easier if I had paid someone where I wasn't worried about what they thought of me or if they had something else to do, nor did I have to worry about potentially blowing up their car. I realize I couldn't do that, but unless you have a friend who is the Buddha, all of these things will probably come up. You can use your friends' cars to get more experience once you've mastered the basics, so you don't have to pay for road time.

Paying for lessons is kind of like why I used to pay for a cat sitter, despite having dozens of loving friends who adored my cat and lived nearby. I paid for the cat sitter so I didn't have to worry about imposing or asking a favor or asking too often or being upset if someone who said they would come over after work didn't, nor did I have any qualms about specifically saying "please make sure you clean the litter box EVERY DAY". I was paying someone to come every day and perform certain tasks. I could then ask friends if they had time to come over and play with the kitty cat, but I wasn't depending on them as my only source of cat sitting.

Just my $.02.
posted by micawber at 11:52 AM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, do not assume that you will get it in one afternoon. I did not. It took me three months to really get the hang of it. I also lived in a very hilly city, but even then, I was still occasionally stalling out on exit ramps.
posted by micawber at 11:53 AM on September 8, 2009

I took a manual course in high-school, shortly after I got my license. While I did well enough to pass the course, I wouldn't have considered myself an adept shifter. And since I didn't have access to a manual transmission, I didn't reinforce the lessons and have since lost all ability to drive a stick.

My fiancee drives a manual transmission and while my inability to drive it is a useful excuse for not doing my share of the driving, I'm going to have to break down and learn (again) some time. I imagine I'll pick it up again quickly enough, but I know I'll have to keep at it (and stay away from automatics for a bit) in order to really "get" it.
posted by flipper at 12:08 PM on September 8, 2009

I am not a moron, nor I am completely uncoordinated, but learning to drive stick at age 35 was a bit of a challenge.

But you didn't break your friend's clutch, is the thing. "It was a bit of a challenge" makes sense to me, too (and I learned at age 42, so). But the "I'm going to break the clutch" fear that many people have is, in my opinion, exaggerated.

There are other good reasons, as you suggest, to learn from a professional rather than a friend.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:19 PM on September 8, 2009

I just taught my kids how to drive a standard transmission with the help of a guide from a local skills based driver education company. It's similar to this, the only difference in methodology is it quantifies the steps. So "practice pressing the clutch pedal" should be "depress the clutch pedal 100 times". Repetition is the key. Do everything 100 times. It doesn't take that long and it really works.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 12:24 PM on September 8, 2009

Some used car lots are so desperate to sell a car they will send you out with a salesperson to learn on the car you are interested in buying. My mother-in-law used to be the designated "teach them how to drive stick so they buy the car" person at one of those places.
posted by yfatah at 12:50 PM on September 8, 2009

Don't pay for lessons. 30 minutes to learn, a lifetime to master. I've been driving stick since my first car, and I had to learn how to drive that on the way home from the seller's house with a kitten roaming around under the pedals. ( he wouldn't sell me the car unless I took a kitten.)
posted by Gungho at 1:10 PM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, pay for lessons. People get really cranky when you make their cars make all kinds of weird noises, and they become progressively worse teachers. And then you get nervous and become a worse student.

I think I took one or two lessons (after abandoning the cranky friend option) from a company that specialized in teaching people to drive manual. It was worth it. I am in Toronto, but can't remember the name of the company (it was so, so long ago).
posted by Badmichelle at 1:33 PM on September 8, 2009

I practiced a few times with my aunt's car, but it takes some actual time with it to really get it down pat. My way of learning was just to buy a car with manual transmission. Sink or swim. I've since taught my brother and sister, and they took to it faster than I did (because I'm an awesome teacher, I assume).

When I teach other people I usually suggest they don't worry about the gas pedal at first - you can get the car moving (assuming you're on flat ground) just by releasing the clutch slowly. Once it starts moving, you slowly add some gas, while continuing to release the clutch.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:21 PM on September 8, 2009

I'd pay for lessons. My first clutch lesson was in an old car that required you to jiggle the shift just so, and the friend who owned it wasn't the most patient person, so I quickly got flustered. And then the clutch blew. The friend insisted that it had nothing to do with me, that the clutch was old and destined to crap out, but it was definitely not a good experience.

I later had another clutch lesson with a much more patient person, but that was also a very old car with quirks. If you pay for lessons, you'll get someone who's paid to be nice, and you'll get a car that actually functions.
posted by PatoPata at 5:17 PM on September 8, 2009

I will nth the stories of people trying to teach you who just get irritated/angry/nervous/frustrated and your ability to learn thusly decreasing. I tried to learn on my mother's Audi when I was also learning to drive, and was totally overwhelmed - eventually I quit and just decided to drive automatics. Thankfully, a few years ago I got sick of this and managed to learn, and I now own a manual and absolutely adore it. The key for me was that I had my license the second time around, and thus could learn with no one else in the car at all. I had my mother with me for fifteen minutes to show me the basics - which are really pretty basic - and once I understood how it was supposed to work, she left and I went out on my own, knowing that no one could see me stall but the person whose house I was unlucky enough to jerk to a stop in front of. For me, the privacy made all the difference in getting over the hump.

As a caveat, driving manual confidently and smoothly requires constant practice (as Gungho said above). After I learned, I bough a manual transmission car and it was a good year before I stopped sweating each time I stopped on a hill. So if you don't have constant access to a manual, don't think that just learning how to shift the gears means you should be able to drive stick flawlessly - it'll be undue pressure. Lessons will get you the basics, but know that you have to refresh on occasion to keep the skill if you can't use a stick on a regular basis.
posted by AthenaPolias at 8:16 AM on September 9, 2009

A follow-up: I've decided that it's worthwhile paying someone who is not going to mind if I stall their car constantly, and who knows how to teach. I compared the per-hour rates of Young Drivers and Shifters, and Shifters was cheaper, so now that winter is over I'm going with them. If this thread is still open in a month (I can never remember when respective sections close) I'll let you know how it went.
posted by Dasein at 11:56 AM on April 16, 2010

« Older Discussion movies for highschoolers   |   Better than Risk Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.