After many years of driving Jeeps I would never go back to a manual. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a manual I just prefer the automatic for rock crawling. I can say one thing for sure, with the automatic I never killed the engine at an inopportune time. I learned to drive on a manual and it's my favorite tranny, just not for my off roader. Yes the new Rubicons have a very low 1st gear and are less susceptible to killing the engine but the possibility is still there. I know $2000 is a lot for an auto so each one has to decide where their money is best spent, for me it was the auto.