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AWD vs 4WD: Difference and Which is Better?

Team AckoFeb 16, 2024

AWD vs 4WD can be a difficult decision to make while purchasing a vehicle, especially an SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). Although both AWD (All-Wheel Drive) and 4WD (Four-Wheel Drive) offer better traction and handling on low-friction terrain, you may choose one of these systems depending on the driving habits and geography of the region where the vehicle will be driven.

Keep reading to understand and make an informed decision in choosing between AWD and 4WD.




All-Wheel Drive (AWD)

All-wheel drive is perfect for travelling on roads as opposed to off-road. And if you live in areas which are frequently flooded by the likes of rain and snow, AWD will make travelling easier on-road for you thanks to its strong traction in severe weather conditions. 

AWD transmits power to not only the back but also the front axles. It operates with the assistance of an in-car computer. First, it determines the wheel which requires traction and power the most; and then makes the required transfer for a smooth journey.

AWD is available in the form of two important systems. 

Full-Time AWD

Full-time AWD makes continuous use of all the axles on the front and back of the car. It enhances the handling of your car on dry roads.

It also provides extra traction and power so that you can handle and drive your car comfortably on snowy, muddy, icy roads, etc. 

Part-Time AWD

Part-time AWD is a bit different from full-time AWD. It works mostly on two wheels - either the back or the front - and uses all four wheels only when the situation calls for it.

It takes the help of electronic sensors to collect data, which then transfer it to the in-car computer. The latter manages the power requirement of each wheel. 

AWD: Pros and Cons

AWD-enabled cars have excellent traction and thus are perfect for travelling in the conditions of hilly areas. The two systems of AWD operate via the assistance of a (much quicker and more precise than human) in-car computer that transmits power and keeps an eye on the traction of all the tyres.

In addition to this, AWD systems help cars fight the wheel slips while travelling on slippery roads. 

However, when there is challenging terrain, constant power distribution between wheels is not optimal, and most AWD systems aren't as reliable or durable as a 4WD setup.

Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)

Four-wheel drive is designed for off-road driving or in harsh conditions where one or more tyres may completely lose grip. 4WD systems are often mechanically connected and distribute torque to all four wheels through a network of the front, centre, and rear differentials, transfer cases, and couplings.

These systems can be connected and disconnected via buttons and knobs and, in some cases, with levers as well.

4WD systems also come in two types: full-time and part-time.

Full-Time 4WD

Similar to an AWD system, all four wheels are continuously powered by a full-time 4WD system. The driver can alter how the power is distributed between the front and rear axles in some designs through selectable modes provided in the system.

Part-Time 4WD

This system is the true four-wheel propulsion traditionalist typically made for work and play in more challenging environments.

In this type, the car is typically propelled by two wheels, usually the rear. When necessary, the driver must decide whether to engage 4WD and then either touch a button or shift a lever.

Some systems also enable the driver to lock the differentials of the vehicle for added traction in challenging off-road situations.

4WD: Pros and Cons

For rocky or uneven terrains, muddy patches and deep snow,, as well as abrupt inclinations or descents, a four-wheel drive is much more suitable.

4WD systems can withstand more abuse and power since these systems are often more durable than AWD systems. The driver can adjust the power and torque delivery to get the best traction possible for the situation by using low and high-range settings.

Having access to a 4WD vehicle is also a smart option for drivers who reside in or frequently travel to remote places.

However, these systems can take a toll on fuel economy and can increase the initial cost of the vehicle.

AWD vs 4WD: Differences

Here are a few differences between AWD and 4WD in terms of fuel consumption, flexibility, and cost.




Fuel Consumption

It consumes more fuel than 4WD.

It consumes less fuel than AWD.


Does not provide you with the option to choose and switch between 4WD and 2WD modes.

Provides you with the option to choose and switch between 4WD and 2WD modes.


Less expensive than 4WD.

Costlier than AWD.

AWD vs 4WD: What's The Verdict? 

Based on your driving habits, geography, budget, and principal use of the vehicle (weekend excursions or daily commuting), you can choose the optimum solution between AWD vs 4WD.

Large SUVs and trucks are excellent for transporting and towing huge items and typically have 4WD instead of AWD. This means that if you need to pull large objects and travel off-road, you should think about getting a 4WD car.

On the other hand, if you want to traverse in hilly areas, getting an AWD car is a better choice than a 4WD car.

The End Note

Now you know what AWD and 4WD mean, their pros and cons, and their differences. While the former is more suited to driving in the winter and monsoon seasons, the latter is more suited to driving in harsh weather conditions and off-roading. 

Considering all the things discussed above, it is now up to you to decide which of the two - AWD vs 4WD - will be more suitable and convenient for you.


Here are some answers to the most following questions related to AWD vs 4WD.


Do all SUVs have either AWD or 4WD? 

No. Only some models of SUVs are equipped with either AWD or 4WD. So, before buying one, you should check out the specifications of that SUV car. 

Is a 4x4 car the same as a 4WD car?

Yes, a 4x4 car is the same as a 4WD car as they both share the same feature - the engine distributes power equally between the four wheels.

Which car is safer: one with AWD/4WD or 2WD?

The safety of a vehicle is influenced by its safety features, the state of the roads, and the way it is driven. Therefore, it is impossible to say that a car with 4WD/AWD is safer than one with two-wheel drive. However, a vehicle with AWD/4WD can escape more perilous circumstances than one with 2WD since it has much better traction.

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Disclaimer: The above content is for informational purposes only. It is recommended to take the help of an expert before making any related decision.


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