AWD vs 4WD

Written by Chloe Harwood

If you are looking to buy a vehicle, new or used, you find yourself deciding between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. What’s the difference between ? They certainly sound similar but there are some differences between the two that can affect how a car drives.

Lets start with All-Wheel Drive (AWD). AWD is a technology whereby all four wheels are driven. It relies on a series of viscous couplings and differentials to distribute power to all the wheels for optimized traction. There are two forms of all-wheel drive, full- and part-time. Full-time, as its name implies, continuosly sends power to all four wheels while part-time only sends power to the certain wheels until conditions require extra traction and control.

So if that’s what AWD is, then what’s Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)? Well, according to the folks at Maxx Drive Auto (Glen Burnie, MD) while 4WD does send power and torque to all four wheels like AWD, 4WD is designed to deal with more rugged terrain. Typically, 4WD vehicles are switiched into different 4WD ranges via buttons or shift levers. These ranges come in low, which provides the most traction and high, which is better suited for slippery conditions. Like AWD, there are also full- and part-time versions of 4WD. Full-time 4WD works much the same as full-time AWD in that they are both sending power to all four wheels all the time, while part-time 4WD leaves it up to the driver when to activate the drive.

So what’s the advantages about AWD and 4WD? Well, all-wheel drive is automatic, requiring no input to work and comes in a wider variety of vehicles from compact sedans to SUVs. On the other hand, 4WD opens up a wider variety of conditions you can travel in. Neither is going to outdo the other by considerable amount when it comes to fuel efficiency or cost either.

So which would be better for you, AWD or 4WD? The answer to that comes down to where you drive. For those with little to no off-roading in mind, who only have to the occasional slick road to deal with, then AWD is probably the best bet for you. This will get you the increased traction you need without comprimising your overall ride experience. For those living in more remote areas, or who can’t let any kind of weather get in the way of things, then a four-wheel drive system is going to be more in your wheelhouse.

About the author

Chloe Harwood