What Speed Should You Change Gears?

When learning to drive a manual car, you’ll need to change gear a lot and once you’ve got the hang of knowing how to change gears (see palming method for changing gears), the next stage is when to change gears.

As a learner, your driving instructor or supervising passenger will initially help you by providing prompts for changing gear, but for some learner drivers, they gain a better understanding by knowing what speed they should be going for a gear change.

All cars are a little different, but if you want to have a general idea for what speed you should change gears at, follow this guide:

GearSpeed
1st gearBetween 0 mph and 10 mph
2nd gearBetween 10 mph and 20 mph
3rd gearBetween 20 mph and 30 mph
4th gearBetween 30 mph and 40 mph
5th gear40 mph and above
6th gear40 mph and above
Use this guide to understand what speed you should be driving to change gear

1st Gear

1st gear is only used for pulling away from a stationary position and for crawling along slowly in traffic queues. The speed to change up from 1st into 2nd gear is usually between 5 mph and 10 mph.

2nd Gear

2nd gear is commonly used for taking left or right turns; for example turning off from a main road into a minor road. The speed to change up from 2nd gear into 3rd gear is usually from between 15 mph and 20 mph.

3rd Gear

3rd gear is often used for driving around residential areas and areas that are restricted to 20 mph zones. 3rd gear is also often used as an overtaking gear. The speed to change up from 3rd gear into 4th gear is usually from between 25 mph and 30 mph.

4th Gear

4th gear is very often used for driving along 30 mph roads in towns and cities. The speed you usually change up from 4th gear into 5th gear is from between 35 mph and 40 mph.

5th Gear and 6th Gear

5th, or 6th gear (if you car has it) are termed as 'overdrive' gears. An overdrive gear allows your car to cruise at a high speed while maintaining low engine revolutions. You'll use 5th or 6th gear for highway cruising at speeds of 60 mph to 70 mph and are ideal gears for best fuel economy. You'll usually change up from 4th gear into 5th or 6th gear at a speed of around 40 mph or so.

9 thoughts on “What Speed Should You Change Gears?”

    1. Learn Driving Tips

      Hi Moses,
      Generally you’re in the highest gear at 60 mph or over. If you happen to need better acceleration for overtaking, then you can shift down a gear.

    1. Learn Driving Tips

      Hello Maurice,
      4th gear would be more economical if your Toyota is good for 4th gear at that speed.

    2. Yeah bro thats what i was wondering cause it feels like its a good gear to sit on at 50ks i was unsure wether to use 4th or 3rd gear ive got a 2wd toyota hilux as well

  1. I have a question. If I’m going 60mph on 6th gear and I have to slow down to 30mph… do I need to lower gears? Or can I keep the car on 6th?

    1. Learn Driving Tips

      I would probably change into 4th, but having said that, different cars have different gear ratios and handle things worse or better at different speeds. It’s likely that at 30 mph your car will become unresponsive (when pressing the accelerator) in 6th gear and that’s a sign to change down.

  2. Hi, if I am driving on a motorway, I will be in 5th at 70mph. There is a 6th gear on my mums car which I will be using soon, do I have to use 6th gear? All my cars have been only 5 gears so unsure of the 6th

    1. Learn Driving Tips

      6th gear is a cruising gear to use for best fuel economy. It’s always best to use 6th gear for cruising on a motorway and only change down if you need more power to overtake.

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