If you’ve shopped for a vehicle within the past 20 years (which we think is safe to assume most, if not all of you, have) then you’ve probably heard the words “all wheel drive, rear wheel drive, front wheel drive, and four wheel drive.” Depending on which car you chose, you probably considered some of these options for yourself. But many shoppers don’t fully understand the meaning, or value, of what these different wheel driving systems can do for you. So let’s take a quick look at the meanings, as well as the pros and cons, behind each one.

All Wheel Drive


AWD basically means what it sounds like. Power is sent to all of the wheels to propel the car forward. It offers a bit of an advanced system to make sure that each wheel receives the appropriate amount of power that each respective wheel needs. AWD can be helpful for traction and driving stabilization and it is always on when the car is in motion. There’s no switch to turn it off or on depending on the conditions. While it doesn’t deliver the same power and control that a four wheel drive does (which we will get to in a moment), it does provide traction through slippery and wet conditions at all times.

Four Wheel Drive


If you’re expecting large amounts of snow or heavy off roading trips, the 4WD option may be a good choice. In this system, all four wheels turn together to power through snow drifts and mud and get you from point A to point B through tough conditions. However, using 4WD in calm and dry conditions, or even mild ice, can damage the vehicle and tires. Therefore, while it’s handy for the use of more extreme conditions, it probably isn’t worth utilizing if you live in milder climates.

Front Wheel Drive


The most common of all the systems is the FWD. It’s helpful in mild climates and stability is and efficiency are key. While it doesn’t offer as much power as the others, it consistently offers dependability and a lighter vehicle. The fuel economy is typically better and more practical for most folks. The majority of the weight of the vehicle is in the front, adding the most traction to pull the rest of the car forward.

Rear Wheel Drive


The RWD vehicles out there are typically your performance ones. They pack a burst of energy and are quicker. The weight of the vehicle is in the back on the axle and makes the car lunge forward quicker. Two wheel drive trucks are almost always rear wheel drive in order to keep the back on the ground. RWD cars, while fun and sporty, can be problematic in wintry conditions. They offer the least amount of traction and have difficulty in snow and ice. So for those Northerners out there, you may want a back-up vehicle as well for the harsher months.

Now that we’ve discussed each of the wheel driving systems, you may be able to consider which is best for you. While all of them can work through the winter and rain and mud, some are better. If you drive in simpler conditions, then you probably don’t need to waste time and gas on a 4WD truck. But if you live in the Denali region of Alaska, a RWD sports car may not be the best option for you either. Each one offers a unique driving experience and helps your vehicle through different conditions. It’s up to you to decide which wheel driving systems will help you the most.

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