Cars with gear shift on left in England

Old Jan 8th, 2005, 01:04 PM
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Cars with gear shift on left in England

Hi
My wife was looking at a guidebook & saw that in English cars, the gear shift is on the left. I have driven in England with a car I rented in Germany where the car was configured like an American car. However, I think I might have a hard time with a manual transmission and shifting with my left hand. Does anyone know if most rental cars are configured this way?
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Old Jan 8th, 2005, 01:12 PM
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James, the UK is different from Germany. Yes, in Germany all cars are configured like in the US or Canada. But any car you rent in the UK will be for a driver seated on the right. That means that the gearshift will be on your left.
I don't think it's possible to rent a left hand drive car in the UK. I could be wrong.
You mention that it would be hard to shift with your left hand. Have you thought of the difficulty of driving on what will seem to be the "wrong side" of the road, or about the difficulty of sitting in the "passenger seat" to drive? Shifting is the least of the problems. Most drivers I know felt that once they adjusted to the whole "backwards" thing, the shifting became quite normal and easy.
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Old Jan 8th, 2005, 01:15 PM
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Every manual car I've rented in the UK had the gear shift on the left. Initially I thought I might not be able to handle it but it really was a non issue. I drive a stick shift at home too and had not trouble readjusting after the vacation.
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Old Jan 8th, 2005, 01:26 PM
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i know i'll sound like a wimp here, but i just rented an automatic in london. it had the tiptronic which was nice to be able to "shift", but i just didn't want to add to my difficulties of driving on the other side. but yes it's on the left...and it's freaky at first.
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Old Jan 8th, 2005, 01:38 PM
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My husband likes to have the shift on the left; he says it remind him that he's driving on the "wrong" side of the road.
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Old Jan 8th, 2005, 01:59 PM
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I'm pretty directionally challenged but, our last trip to Ireland, the automatic we reserved was unavailable so we had to accept a standard transmission or walk. It was so much less of an issue than we expected and I would do it again without hesitation.
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Old Jan 8th, 2005, 04:13 PM
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It really hasn't been a problem for me... I think most peoples' brains are able to adjust quite easily to everything being "opposite" to what you're used to. Since you're driving on the other side, it makes sense that everything else (passenger, gear shift)is on the other side as well.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 01:45 AM
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Things are actually not "opposite" or "mirror image", (for example, 1st gear is still to the left of 3rd gear, and you still use your right foot for gas), but I agree that most people's brain can adapt pretty quickly. So don't worry about it.

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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 03:31 AM
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Some time last year I saw statistics on the accident rates of tourists driving in the UK. It shouldn't be surprising that it was higher than for citizens of the UK, but the magnitude shocked me--like 4 or 5 times higher. However, the article pointed out that most tourists don't drive very fast, so fatality rates weren't bad.

It went on to point out that, while tourist driver accident rates are higher in just about any country, it's especially high when the visitor has to switch sides of the road and the car.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 04:12 AM
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Hi James. As a Brit who drives regularly in the US I have no problem switching from one to the other. It really is like riding a bike.
If in doubt you can order an automatic but the worst problem you will have is getting in the wrong door!!
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 04:27 AM
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The shift pattern is the same as a left-hand drive car and the clutch and brake pedals are in the same position as LH drive. Two problems I encountered 1. what would be the "slow lane" i.e. far right lane on the motorways is the "fast lane", but flashing head lights will help you get that sorted out. 2. When backing out of a driveway e.g. looking to the right first. A small problem, looking nonchalant when I approached the passenger side to slip into the driver's seat.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 04:35 AM
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James P - the stick doesn't go anywhere... you do. it really isn't all that bad. maybe your first downshift to pass all the "slowpokes" in front of you might find you clawing at the door handle, but after that, no worries.

and adamhornets... if you open the wrong door you just pretend you were unloading your bags/maps onto the passenger seat before getting in. works for me! "I meant for that to happen".
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 05:08 AM
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Thanks for all the helpful responses. I found a website that gives you an all inclusive price including VAT and collision damage waver which seems very reasonable. Also, if you pick up and drop off at heathrow or gatwick and type in "free upgrade" in the comment section of the booking form, they will upgrade up to the higher car category. I priced it for 3 days, 4 days, a week & 9 days which is how long I will be there. The price for a D level car, which is a VW Golf, for 3 days is 96 GBP and for 4 days is 128 GBP and the price for 7 days is 168 GBP. Theoretically, they will upgrade you to a E level car wich is an intermediate and the only intermediate they offer is a Citroen C5 1800cc with manual & A/C. It is probably risky to recommend them when I have not used them. I am going to travel in the last 9 days of 2/05 and will report back if I use them. I am trying to decide between the Britrail pass and a car. We are going to have a total of 5 people traveling with us. The website is: http://www.fourmotion.com/uk/default.asp
Jim
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 05:16 AM
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Hi, I really do have to jump in here and mention that your ability to make the change to left-hand shifting might have something to do with how well you do things with your left hand (if you are right-handed) in general. As far as I'm concerned, I'd be a fool to try. J.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 05:55 AM
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Like obxgirl, I had no trouble with the six speed man shifter in a large Totota, but I had the absolute worst time "judging where the left side of the car was in space", which sounds very wierd until you are there. I sort of liked apexing all the left side curbs and turns but my passengers objected and I had to fold in the left side view mirror in London as I surely would have lost it.
All in all, a fun experience as my passengers paid for the petrol.
M

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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 06:20 AM
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Can you imagine the alternative -- a right-side steering wheel with the gear shift on the right -- i.e. between the driver and the door.

Such a car was once manufactured -- my in-laws rented one in England around 1960 and NEVER stopped talking about it.

The driver had to climb over the gear shift to get out his or her side of the car. My MIL snagged many nylons in the process.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 07:49 AM
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I agree with jmw44. For me, shifting with the left hand did not come easy even though I drove a stick shift for 47 years. Safety is a much higher priority than saving money.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 08:11 AM
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James_P, If it were me, I'd choose a car over train travel because it offers you greater flexibility. And even with high petrol costs, it's probably cheaper than 5 BritRail passes. But there's another issue to consider:

Realistically, five people and their luggage tooling around the UK for 9 days are going to need something larger than an intermediate sized car. I'd suggest a mini-van (estate car) and the website you mentioned has them with automatic transmissions.

Have you done some price comparisions? Autoeurope.com is mentioned frequently here. We've used them with good results.

Finally, the manual vs. auto is something only you can determine and probably not until you've gotten behind the wheel. Like jsmith, my husband has driven a stick for years but can't make the transition in the UK. He's the navigator and I'm the driver.

If you have any doubts, I'd book an automatic (there are fewer of them).
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 08:23 AM
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I had the pleasure of driving on the right on Gozo. Like mikemo, I found myself straying too far to the left, producing at least one gasp over the clearance between my mirror and a parked car in Victoria.

However, the most disconcerting thing was looking up and to the right every time I wanted to look in the rear-view mirror, only to discover that I was looking at the top corner of my door. Then I'd remember to look up and to the left.

It was an interesting experience, although I'm glad we rented only on Gozo and not Malta itself. By the way, stop signs are suggestions on Gozo, and I recollect only one traffic light on the whole island.

Anselm
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 12:53 PM
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In my experience the most dangerous aspect of being in a country where people drive on the "wrong" (in my case RH) side is crossing the street on foot. I have to constantly remind myself to look left for oncoming traffic, not right.

When driving, you must be especially mindful in situations where you don't have other traffic to tell you where you should be, e.g. turning into an otherwise empty road.

For me the worst of both worlds would be driving on the "wrong" side in a car configured for the "right" side. Far better to have everything reversed.

tedgale, I suspect that the English car with the stick shift on the right of the driver was a 6-cylinder Riley - a guy I knew owned one in the '60s. From memory the driver's seat was an odd shape, to accommodate the gear lever. I wonder what motivated the company to create such an eccentricity?
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