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Four Easy Tips to Drive an Automatic Rental Car

These days, more and more of us are taught to drive in an automatic and never get around to operating a manual. However, for a large group of drivers, they may be used to only ever driving in a manual and prefer the ‘control’ that a manual provides. If you are used to driving a manual, and indeed feel more comfortable driving stick, then it can be daunting getting behind the wheel of an automatic. Especially if that car is a rental and you’re worried about causing any damage. You may have touched down in New Orleans and plan on renting a car to take in the sights. Before you go and rent a car in the French Quarter, you should feel confident and perfectly safe driving an automatic. Follow these steps, and you’ll be able to enjoy your automatic car rental.

Forget the Clutch

First things first, the clutch that you’re so accustomed to in your manual needs to be forgotten. Yes, gears are still present in automatic vehicles, but the vehicle will take care of all that gear changing on its own accord. You only have two pedals to worry about – a break and an accelerator. Just remember to avoid hitting both pedals at the same time – the car won’t like that!

Know Your Gearstick

Know Your Gearstick

Before driving an automatic, get a feel of the gearstick. While you will not be using the gearstick nearly as often as you would in a manual, it still pays to get a feel for it. This is more or less easy, as there are only four primary gears that you need to worry about.

The most important of these to focus on are the Drive and Reverse. You won’t be using the Neutral gear very often, and the Park will be relatively straight forward. Just remember - always have the vehicle at a complete stop before changing the mode to Park. Some automatics also have other settings on their gears. They will display a number set, generally from 1-2, as well as a Low setting and in some cases a Sport mode. 1 and 2 settings are preferred for traveling up and down hills. Low allows you to stay in a secure low gear and Sport gives you advanced acceleration.

Understand Your Car Will ‘Creep’

When you’re driving an automatic and put the gear in either drive or reverse and take your handbrake off, the vehicle will invariably begin to move. This is quite normal and will only occur at a minimal speed. When you’re in the midst of heavy traffic, this ‘creep’ feature can be extremely handy. All you are required to do is to place your foot hovering over the brake and be prepared to press down on it at intervals. If you come to a prolonged stop, then you can always change the gear to neutral or elect to apply the handbrake. This will help to stop the vehicle from creeping forward and negate the need to have your feet on the brake.

Get Used to Driving in Different Conditions

Get Used to Driving in Different Conditions

Driving an automatic provides a more comfortable driving experience in most conditions. There is less to do - most notably, there are no changing gears. Focus on what’s in front of you as you drive along. You’ll notice that driving an automatic is far easier than operating a manual – especially in heavy traffic, where you are constantly changing your speed. There’s no need to change gears up and down continually. However, if you’re driving an automatic and towing something behind you, you may find that you don’t have as much power as you may be used to in a manual. In order to counter this, some automatic vehicles have an OD feature on the gearstick. This “Overdrive” option is perfect in this scenario as it gives your car a tad more muscle.