Updated January 4, 2022 . AmFam Team
You’re ready to shop for the vehicle that’ll drive your dreams, but the choices are endless. When comparing AWD vs. 4WD, the decision comes down to the drive system — do you need all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD)?
We’ll fill you in on the difference between the two, and highlight pros and cons for each to help you decide which vehicle is right for you.
The simplest way to tell the two driving systems apart is to remember that all-wheel drive systems are always on, while four-wheel drive is typically disengaged and needs to be turned on. But there’s more behind these two systems to understand before you decide which is right for you.
All-wheel drive is a vehicle that sends power to all four of its wheels when driving. This is done automatically through the vehicle’s computer. As a whole, AWD is one of the safest and most capable type of vehicle on the market. Most cars and crossovers are equipped with AWD.
Four-wheel drive is a vehicle that can also send power to all four wheels, like AWD, but the key difference is 4WD vehicles are pure mechanical systems. That means the driver operates a lever or switch to determine which wheels receive power, instead of a computer operated AWD system.
With the driver in charge, 4WD vehicles can have superior control in off-road conditions to help overcome tough obstacles, like mud and other rugged conditions. For example, if one wheel gets stuck in snow, the other three wheels can be engaged to help pull the vehicle out.
Hopefully, these pros and cons helped clear up some things. But before you go out and buy one or the other, consider what you’re looking for in a car, along with your driving style. If you’re looking for an everyday vehicle that handles well in most conditions, an AWD car is right for you.
Do you drive on rough and rugged terrain? Are you interested in vehicles with off-road capabilities like trucks, Jeeps or Range Rovers? If you answered “yes” to these questions, a 4WD drive car may be your ideal ride. Keep in mind, for the inexperienced, that 4WD comes with a learning curve.
If you’re wondering whether AWD or 4WD is better in snow, AWD is better for most winter weather conditions. With all four wheels engaged, your car can have greater traction on slippery, snowy roads. For off-road situations, 4WD is better equipped to handle uneven snowbanks.
Whichever vehicle system you decide — AWD or 4WD — it’s important to have the right protection. Connect with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to make sure your car insurance coverage meets your new and changing needs.
Looking for an easy choice when it comes to shopping for a new car? Check out these tips and resources to make car shopping a smooth ride.
This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.