AWD vs 4WD: Understanding the KEY Differences

All-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) systems are similar in that both power each wheel or a combination of wheels for extra grip on challenging terrain. AWD sends engine power to all four wheels for improved traction and handling. It is designed for everyday use and is usually automatic.

4WD offers a more manual system, allowing drivers to choose when they want extra traction while off-roading. It can also be disengaged to save fuel consumption.

Pros and cons of both systems exist, so decide which is best suited to you.

What are AWD and 4WD?

Choosing between AWD and 4WD for your car? It’s important to know the difference. AWD is a drivetrain that makes all four wheels go at the same time. It’s usually in crossovers and SUVs. 4WD has two drive wheels and two trailing wheels. Pickup trucks and SUVs usually have this type. Both AWD and 4WD have their positives and negatives. Let’s learn more about them!

All-Wheel Drive (AWD)

All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is a drivetrain system made for better traction in any season or terrain. It’s often used when extra grip is needed in slippery or off-road conditions, like heavy rain, snow, and ice.

AWD works by powering all four wheels at once, usually from the same engine. Sensors check traction and change power output based on where friction is needed. Some AWD systems have a lock mode that makes all wheels spin together at the same speed, which helps when going over tough terrain.

AWD vehicles are better than two-wheel drive vehicles in challenging conditions, with more stability on hills and curves. The downside is that AWD systems take longer to activate due to their complex design. But this disadvantage is small compared to the better performance you get with an AWD vehicle.

Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)

Four-wheel drive (4WD) is the most popular type of vehicle. It uses all four wheels for power, and is seen in almost all pickup trucks, SUVs, and some crossovers.

The powertrain works on both on- and off-road surfaces. It powers all four wheels equally, either through gears or an electronically controlled transfer case. Low range gearing is sometimes included, allowing for increased control on steep inclines or rough terrain. On roads, 4WD does not provide extra grip, only enhanced control during slippery or wet driving.

Comparison of AWD and 4WD

AWD and 4WD are two types of drivetrain systems that give power to all four wheels. What’s the difference? Cost, power and fuel economy vary. Let’s figure it out!

Similarities and differences between these two? Here we go!

Traction and Control

All-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles have similarities. But they have different purposes. Both systems send power to all four wheels. But, the way it’s delivered is different. In AWD, all four wheels get the same power. 4WD needs the driver to manually select it.

4WD gives more control in off-road and rough terrain driving than AWD. AWD has more ground clearance than 4WD. And it is good in slippery conditions. It sends power to all four tires. This stops wheel spin as it climbs wet or icy surfaces. With 4WD, there is more weight at each wheel. This helps with grip on slippery surfaces or when going up hills.

4WD is also able to go over trails and areas too rough for AWD. It does this because its low gear ratios let it handle steep obstacles with more control and less wheel spin.

Fuel Efficiency

When it comes to fuel efficiency, AWD cars usually have better output than 4WD. But, due to the added weight of the AWD Subsystem, acceleration performance is often worse.

AWD systems send power from all four wheels. This improves grip and traction on surfaces such as gravel, muddy terrain and snow. These are especially beneficial during winter months. They also help performance on slippery conditions like ice or wet roads.

4WD systems mainly aim at improving off-roading capabilities. This is because they can scatter engine power over all four wheels which increases grip and handling. This contributes to higher fuel efficiency. Finally, 4WD helps with manoeuvring in tight spaces. This can save fuel in the long run.


AWD and 4WD vehicles are priced differently. Generally, AWD vehicles are cheaper. This is because they use one driving system. In comparison, 4WD vehicles have two drive systems, making them more expensive. They also need a transfer case, extra universal joints, and control mechanisms.

The cost of 4WD varies depending on the car or truck. A pickup could be as low as $2K, but an SUV with all wheel drive could be $80K or more.


The main distinction between All-Wheel Drive (AWD) and Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) is how they’re utilized. Both types of vehicles are created to give improved traction, control, and stability on slippery surfaces. However, the way in which they power their wheels is what really makes them different.

AWD is a great pick for those who live in regions with harsh weather. It gives you the extra grip to cross snow, ice, and muddy terrains easily and safely. Four-Wheel Drive, on the other hand, is meant for those who need more torque for activities like rock crawling and off-roading, or those needing more powerful towing capabilities.

Whether you go with an AWD or 4WD vehicle depends on your needs and budget. Both systems are great when used in the right context, but if you often drive in various environments, a 4WD vehicle might be better for your lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between AWD and 4WD?

A: AWD or All-Wheel Drive and 4WD or Four-Wheel Drive are both vehicle drivetrain systems that provide increased traction on slippery surfaces. The main difference between the two is that AWD is a permanently engaged system, while 4WD is a part-time system that requires the driver to manually engage it when needed.