Automatic Transmission vs. Continuously Variable Transmission

While shopping for cars, many shoppers enter the lot fully aware of the features they are looking for. You know the ones we’re talking about: built-in entertainment, automatic locks and windows, heated and/or leather seats, extra storage, etc. Unfortunately, however, many buyers are under-educated on the topic of transmission types, and what different types will mean in regards to how your car drives.

If you’re about to start shopping, allow us to quickly educate you so you have a better idea of what you will be driving off the lot with.

Automatic Transmission

Both automatic transmission and continuously variable transmissions use on-board sensors to technically automate a vehicle’s transmission, and neither require a clutch pedal, however an automatic transmission has a set number of gear ratios as opposed to CVT having an infinite number. With an automatic transmission – and similar to a manual transmission – you will often hear and feel as the transmission if shifting from one gear to the next.

Continuously Variable Transmission

Unlike the standard, gear type transmission, CVT provides a much smoother ride, While you will feel the gear change as you initially accelerate, as you continue going faster the gear change will be practically unrecognizable.


CVT uses two, variable-width pulleys with a belt between. The pulleys work with and opposite of one another, meaning that as one pulley opens the other closes.

While the ride in a car with CVT is smoother, unfortunately increased transmission issues may be an issue.The pulley system is less durable than a gear type transmission, and may require increased care and maintenance as your car ages. In addition, the complexity of a CVT may prevent it from putting out as much torque as a traditional automatic transmission. On the flip side, vehicles with CVT are generally more fuel efficient.

Have a Question About Servicing Your Transmission?

At Jim Dowell Transmission, our technicians are educated and experienced in servicing both gear type and continuously variable transmissions. We understand that timely service is a priority, but we also patiently and explicitly walk you through the service process so you understand what you are getting and why. The next time you need transmission service in Sarasota, Bradenton and the surrounding areas, we invite you to, we invite you to contact us for a free estimate.