Five years ago, car manufacturers said the stick-shift was dead, because fewer than one in 34 new-car buyers wanted a manual transmission. And experts figured the numbers would continue to drop, because most young people never even learned how to drive one. But, surprisingly enough, the stick shift is back!

According to the car buying website Edmunds.com, last year, manual transmissions accounted for 7-percent of new-vehicle sales. And the change in consumer behavior has surprised several car-makers, including Ford, which saw demand for a manual Ford Focus reach double their original forecast. 

Surprisingly enough, it has nothing to do with gas mileage, because, depending on the driver, manual transmissions often do much worse than today's computer-controlled automatics. So, why are cars with a clutch pedal hot again? 

  • First: The price. Manual transmission cars are usually at least $1,000 less than automatic models. And stick shifts are most often installed in small, highly-popular, lower-price cars snapped up by buyers on a budget.

  • Another reason stick shifts are becoming more popular: Performance. A lot of people consider manuals more “fun” to drive than automatics. 

  • Then there’s user-friendliness. Modern clutch pedals take less effort to push and release, and they engage the gears more smoothly, making it less likely you’ll stall the engine in traffic.

  • The final reason stick shifts are becoming more popular: World-travelers. An increasing number of people have traveled overseas, where manual cars are much more common, and they had to learn to drive a stick if they wanted a rental car. And once they got the hang of it, they wanted to have the same experience at home.