Four-Wheel Drive vs. All-Wheel Drive

Auto / Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Four-Wheel Drive vs. All-Wheel Drive

Traveling in the winter months can be a hassle, especially when the months seem to be dragging on as we await the first days of Spring. Whether you’re in the midst of a late winter or remi niscing over past Honda Civic winter drifting crises, it’s never too late to think about investing in a new car fit for all seasons. A new car or truck may be a major investment, but the safety and efficiency benefits consumers get from purchasing one is worth it all. If you are currently driving a 2-wheel drive (2WD), also known as a front-wheel drive vehicle, there are two main different types of all weather vehicles, 4-wheel drive (4WD) and all-wheel drive (AWD).


How They Work

All-wheel drive (AWD) is pretty self explanatory by its name, the car drives with ALL wheels at the same time. Within AWD vehicles, there are full-time AWD and part-time AWD. Full-time AWDs are constantly using all 4 wheels, regardless of the road conditions. On the other hand, part-time AWDs use the AWD function when it senses road conditions necessary of the purpose. While the majority of AWD vehicles are automatic, as in the car turns on the function when needed, there are a small amount of AWD vehicles where the function can be manually turned off and on.

Four-wheel drive vehicles (4WD) are similar to AWD vehicles in a few ways. There are 4WD vehicles that are also either full-time and part-time. Full-time 4WD vehicles are always using all four wheels to drive, similar to AWD. However, part-time 4WD vehicles are completely manual, and are only functioning when turned on by the driver. Part-time 4WD vehicles take up the majority of 4WD abled cars on the road these days. Having both 2WD and 4WD capabilities is very appealing to drivers who live in places where all 4 seasons show their colors brightly throughout the year.  


Ok… So What’s the Difference?

Both AWD and 4WD are seemingly the same usefulness, but their main difference is in the terrain they thrive best in. In the snow, both cars are not 100% guaranteed to keep your from sliding off the road, but they offer a better chance than 2WD vehicles. Full time AWD and 4WD cars are the safest bet for wintery conditions. They better accompanying snowy and icy conditions, as the car will function with all 4 wheels when it needs to automatically, excelling past our brain’s ability to assume when to manually turn on 4WD or AWD. Additionally, 4WD vehicles tend to offer a big more rugged and rigid ride compared to that of an AWD. They are far less eco-friendly as well, and guzzle gas.


Is a AWD or 4WD vehicle the best option for you?

When deciding which of the two functionalities to pick from, it’s important to think about your lifestyle, the weather where you live, and where you are frequently driving to and from. When people think of AWD or 4WD vehicles, they generally assume cars with these capabilities are larger. AWD cars include many common city cars like the 2019 Toyota Prius, Audi A5, Ford Fusion, Honda CR-V, and Nissan Altima. If a potential buyer is someone who spends time in the city but also on the mountains, an AWD vehicle may be more conveniently sized and functional for them. 4WD cars include larger vehicles like the 2019 Chevrolet Suburban, Yukon, Toyota Tacoma, Tundra, 4Runner, Jeep Compass, Wrangler, and Ford F-150. These larger vehicles are more suitable for someone with a lifestyle consisting of pulling trailers, carrying large load, frequently being in heavy snow conditioned areas, and not needing a city car as much. 4WD vehicles are also for someone looking for off-roading capabilities.                         




If you’re still not sure which vehicle is right for you, the employees at car dealerships can also help figure out which vehicle is most suitable for you. Subaru is well known for it’s all-weather capable cars, including AWD and 4WD. Toyota, Ford, and Chevrolet dealers are also known for its knowledgeable employees who can also help figure which is best for each buyer. Check out these companies vehicles at the links below:

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