What is a CVT Transmission?

Chances are you have driven a vehicle with a CVT transmission and probably had no idea you were doing so. But wait, aren’t vehicles either automatic or manual? Traditionally yes. But since the early-mid 2000’s the CVT option has become a popular alternative, despite being invented hundreds of years ago (thanks Leonardo Da Vinci).

Continuously Variable Transmission, abbreviated as “CVT” is a single-speed automatic transmission that operates under a pulley system rather than using fixed gears. It runs continuously (like a chain on a bike) instead of shifting through gears. CVT on the surface is very similar to an automatic transmission – you have your usual park, reverse, neutral, drive, etc. But unlike an automatic where specific gears are tied to specific speeds, the CVT adapts to your driving situation.

It’s almost like comparing climbing a ladder vs. taking an escalator. On a ladder, you need to step up each rung one at a time whereas an escalator, you have a continuous smooth trip to your destination (Came up with that analogy as I’m writing this – proud of me?).

The CVT transmission gets mixed reviews depending on who you speak with – some people love them, others absolutely hate them (horsepower concerns, weird noises). But one thing that can’t be denied is the efficiency of a CVT transmission.


  • Fuel Efficiency
  • Smoother Ride
  • Fewer Parts


  • Replacement Costs
  • Less Torque (mainly on older models)
  • Still Improving

The CVT is always changing based on the way you are driving. It will do its best to keep your vehicle at the optimal performance level at all times. This results in better fuel economy. Without the need for gears, the progression of speed is seamless – you won’t even notice the transmission shift at all (because it doesn’t need to). Many of your favorite automotive manufactures have been using CVT for years – Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Nissan and many more.

Just a few CVT vehicle options

  • Honda Civic
  • Infiniti QX60
  • Mitsubishi Lancer
  • Nissan Murano
  • Toyota Camry
  • FIAT 500
  • Ford Fiesta
  • Nissan Rogue

Which transmission should I get?

That would mainly depend on how you drive. Or better yet, how and what you would like to drive. If you are a daily commuter, who mainly goes from point A to point B – automatic or CVT provides a near effortless interaction and would best suit your needs. If you enjoy driving so much that you go driving for the purpose of well, driving – a manual vehicle is going to provide a more enjoyable and challenging time on the road. For the average consumer, the type of transmission may not impact their buying decision. But it’s one of the most important working parts of a vehicle and does play a large part in the overall driving experience.

Die-hard car enthusiasts usually opt for a manual transmission (watch any Fast and Furious movie). However, manuals or “standards” are very much becoming an endangered species – with many car companies phasing out standard vehicles in favor of automatic and CVT’s. Choosing to instead stick-shift their attention to non-manual offerings (see what I did there?).

Each transmission type has its own pros and cons. But one thing’s for sure, controlled variable transmission doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon – so next time you see “CVT” written somewhere, don’t be alarmed. It’s not some new teenage texting slang. It’s a type of vehicle transmission.

Trading In vs Selling Privately

Go Auto currently has over 1100 vehicles in stock with CVT transmissions including the Honda Civic, Nissan Rogue, Infiniti QX60, and Jeep Patriot to name a few. Don’t want a CVT? With over 10,000 vehicles available, Go Auto is sure to have a vehicle that fits whatever your transmission needs may be.

Have more questions about transmissions, or vehicles in general? Contact one of our automotive solution specialists right now!