Is AWD or 4WD Better For Off-Roading?

Many people think that four wheel drive (4WD) and all wheel drive (AWD) are interchangeable. This can be deceiving, especially when people are trying to decide what vehicle to purchase. Although these two drivetrains are very similar and both have very similar car parts working to make the car move, they do differ in some ways. The way to choose which drivetrain is best for you is based on where you live and what terrain you will be exposing the vehicle to frequently.  First let’s briefly go over 4WD and AWD and how they work.

4 Wheel Drive (4WD)

4WD vehicles started off in trucks and vehicles similar to trucks, it was only utilized by those who used them for rougher terrain. Many referred to them as 4×4’s and some still do. An interesting fact about the older 4WD vehicles is you would have to get out of your vehicle and manually lock the hubs on the front wheels to activate the 4WD. 4WD is very good for intense off-roading situations. When a driver wants to go in the woods, charge through water holes, or climb up large dirt piles, this is the system to have.

Now, there are full-time, part-time and automatic 4WD vehicles, although it is usually seen in trucks and SUVs still. In full-time 4WD is always engaged, meaning that some amount of power is always sent to the wheels. Part-time means that you can choose to drive in 2WD or 4WD with the click of a button. Automatic means the vehicle decides when to engage 4WD based on when the wheels begin to slip. 

This drivetrain has low range gearing meaning that the wheels recieve more torque at lower speeds, making it easier to maneuver through rough and loose terrain. Jeeps are a common 4WD vehicle used for severe off-roading they offer climbing power and low speed torque that other AWD vehicles do not have. This does not mean they are indestructible, many people push their vehicles too hard and end up with broken axles and blown motors. These expensive repairs may be cheaper if you do them yourself, which is why used auto part stores are convenient for these types of repairs. My Auto Store is a great car part store to browse used engines for sale, free shipping and six month warranty is offered!  

All Wheel Drive (AWD)

AWD is widely available in many different types of vehicles, even cars! “10 Best AWD Cars to Buy Before Winter” gives you a look at some praised AWD cars. This drivetrain helps the vehicle maintain traction in slippery conditions. Power is sent to the front or rear wheels depending on the driving conditions. Some are even built to improve driving in dry conditions so that corners can be turned smoothly and quickly.  AWD really helps during slippery road conditions, loose surfaces, and mild off-roading. 

They come in full-time or automatic (part-time), it is very similar to 4WD except there is not usually a way to choose AWD manually. Full-time means that some amount of power is sent to the wheels at all times, usually one set more than the other. Part-time stays in 2WD until it feels the wheels slip and it adjusts accordingly. Yet, some AWD vehicles have 4WD features where they can engage 4WD with a button. Others have terrain management systems that let you pick different driving conditions letting you gain more control over the vehicle dynamics based on the conditions you are driving in. Low range gearing is a feature AWD does not have, while 4WD does.

All Wheel Drive or 4 Wheel Drive?

If you want to learn more about how AWD and 4WD work check out this article All Wheel Drive & Four Wheel Drive Explained. Figuring out what vehicle is best for you depends on a few things: what are you using the vehicle for, where do you live and your own personal style. 

AWD is better for slippery conditions and mild off-roading. The driver also doesn’t have to do much work and the fuel economy is better in these vehicles because they usually operate in 2WD until slippage is detected. 4WD vehicles usually require the driver to engage or disengage the 4WD feature. When it is engaged it sucks down fuel and cannot be engaged on flat dry surfaces without ruining the drivetrain. AWD gives you more options when it comes to having a variety of different styles to choose from. This drivetrain is seen in cars, trucks, SUVs and crossovers, so you have more options than 4WD, which is usually seen in trucks and SUVs.  

The main question is: “what vehicle should I get?” Buying a 2WD car would be safe for someone who experiences light snow and rain and wants a daily driver. This is the cheaper option because there are less car-parts used on the drivetrain. To learn more about 2WD What You Need To Know About 2 Wheel Drive is a great place to start. 

AWD and 4WD drivetrains add a significant weight to the vehicle causing them to be more expensive and use more fuel, this also makes any repairs more expensive. My Auto Store is a great place to find car parts online for those repairs, especially those more expensive ones like transmission or engine replacements.

4WD vehicles are best for hauling heavy loads, extreme off-roading and deep snow. AWD is a better daily driver car, especially those who live near unpaved roads or an area that gets a lot of snow. If you want to have an off-roading vehicle, live in an area that requires a lot of off-roading or if you want to haul heavy loads 4WD is good for that. AWD is better for those who want a reliable vehicle in most driving conditions without having to think much about it. Now you can go shopping for the drivetrain type you want, Carvana is a great place to look.