In Australia, most cars are automatic, and most people stay on "drive" while braking when stopped at a red light (i.e. if they weren't breaking, the car would drive forward).

I was wondering if moving the gear handle to "neutral" when stopping for a couple of minutes would help save a non-negligeable amount of petrol?

I am aware of the following existing question but I consider my question to be different enough to ask it: When does using a car's start-stop system become more economical?

  • If it also prevents wear on the transmission, it could save money on that too. Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 1:27

1 Answer 1


According to this answer over on mechanics.SE, below a certain engine RPM, your vehicle automatically disengages the torque converter. That is to say, when stopped, there isn't a fundamental difference between having the transmission in drive or neutral.

On the other hand, shifting back and forth each time you're at a stop light does cause a bit of wear, and slows your reaction time (meaning you might slow traffic behind you, or be unable to respond quickly in case of emergency).

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