This paper uses a new typology of authoritarian regimes to explore the extent to which regime type explains the survival (and breakdown) of non-democratic regimes as well as the impact of different types of authoritarian regimes on democratic development. Our results demonstrate that different types of authoritarian regime face different propensities to develop toward democracy. Hence the nature of the authoritarian regime in question deserves to be added to the list of democracy’s essential preconditions. One regime type—the limited multiparty system—stands out as the prime stepping stone to democracy. The fact that this regime type has become the most common form of authoritarianism can be seen as a promising sign for the future.