Graphic of a family driving in a blue car

What’s the Difference Between AWD and 4WD?

All-Wheel Drive vs 4-Wheel Drive Comparison

As you’re browsing for a vehicle, you will encounter a variety of drivetrains, such as front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive. Two drivetrains that may seem interchangeable are all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD). However, while similar, AWD and 4WD offers various differences that should be considered. With our all-wheel drive vs 4-wheel drive comparison, you can confidently select the drivetrain that’s right for you.

[ COMPARE: Front-Wheel Drive vs All-Wheel Drive ]

Front passenger angle of a blue 2021 Nissan Rogue

Advantages and Disadvantages of AWD

All-wheel drive, or AWD, is a drivetrain in which all four wheels receive engine power to move the vehicle forward. These vehicles can have either full-time AWD or part-time AWD. With full-time AWD, all four wheels are constantly receiving power. Meanwhile, part-time AWD allows the vehicle to regulate when a pair of wheels (more often the rear wheels) receive power while the other pair will always receive power. For example, a vehicle with part-time AWD could drive like a front-wheel drive car under normal road conditions but can also send power to the rear wheels when needed.

So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of AWD? AWD has grown to be incredibly popular due to its performance on the roads. In rain or snow, AWD gives the driver more traction and control to handle slippery conditions. This also applies to light off-roading, such as driving on a trail. Another benefit of AWD is that the system automatically decides when to divert engine power, allowing the driver to focus on the road. The downsides of AWD is that it is not suitable for serious off-roading, will increase the price of the vehicle a bit, and may even lower fuel economy.

[ Browse Our Pre-Owned AWD Vehicle Inventory ]

Green 2021 Toyota Tacoma driving in sand

Advantages and Disadvantages of 4WD

Four-wheel drive (4WD or 4×4 in some cases) is similar to AWD in that all four wheels receive power. The difference between AWD and 4WD is that 4WD is more robust, allowing the vehicle to handle more challenging terrains. 4WD also offers both full-time and part-time variants, with part-time 4WD vehicles more often giving constant power to the rear wheels.

Commonly found in SUVs and trucks, 4WD is chosen by drivers due to its ability to do some serious off-roading, making it a top pick among adventurers that wish to cross diverse environments. However, 4WD will cost more and can have a significant drop in fuel economy. 4WD vehicles may also feel rather stiff behind the wheel due to the heavy-duty suspension they are often paired with.

[ Browse Our Pre-Owned 4WD Vehicle Inventory ]

Can’t decide which drivetrain you should pick? Contact us at U.S. Auto Sales and we will help you select the drivetrain that is right for your driving needs.