While I enjoy running through the gears myself, as far as longevity between major service and ease of driving in traffic - gots to go with the auto tranny preference.
If you all will indulge me in a story - back in the late 90s when I was travelling to Europe at least once per month - I thought it humorous that all the car rental agencies, upon finding out that I was an American, would make it a point to ask me if I knew how to drive a stick, because auto trannies were certainly in the minority over there. Pfffft - who cares? It's a rental. :-)~