Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Pros and cons of AWD and 4WD

The pros of AWD and 4WD

Everyone wants a vehicle with AWD or 4WD, but do you REALLY need one? Probably not. This post will cover the pros and cons of AWD and 4WD and fill you in on all the hidden costs of those vehicles.

What does AWD do?

4WD and AWD help you take off from a stop in snow. That’s it. The key here is that neither 4WD nor AWD provide better traction. Only tires provide traction. All 4WD and AWD drive do is split drive motion to all four wheels instead of just two wheels.  If your front wheels are on ice but your rear wheels are on a dry spot, 4WD and AWD will help you move better than 2WD from a dead stop. If all 4 wheels are on ice, all 4 wheels will spin, but the additional movement will likely get you going better than a 2WD vehicle in the same situation. Bottom line; 4WD nor AWD are better than 2WD at getting you going from a dead stop. But there are some considerable downsides to 4WD and AWD.

The two biggest myths of AWD and 4WD

AWD and 4WD don’t help you stop faster on snow or ice

AWD and 4WD don’t help you corner better on snow and ice

The biggest cons of AWD and 4WD

  1. AWD and 4WD vehicles are more expensive to buy
  2. AWD and 4WD vehicles are more expensive to maintain. These vehicles have a transfer case/center differential, a second differential, two more flexible axle shafts, and disconnect hubs (4WD). All of those components require routine service that adds to the overall cost of ownership. When those components fail, they’re expensive to repair.
  3. AWD and 4WD vehicles weigh more and get poorer gas mileage
  4. AWD and 4WD vehicles have major tire issues. The specs vary by carmaker, but most require the tread depth of all four tires to be within about 2/32”. If you damage a tire beyond repair, you’ll most likely have to replace ALL FOUR TIRES because the new tire will be outside the tread depth limitations. This means you’ll be spending $800-$1,200 any time you have a tire that can’t be repaired!
  5. AWD and 4WD help you get going from a dead stop. But they don’t help you in turns or when stopping.

The alternative to AWD and 4WD

If you want to save money all around, consider sticking with 2WD and equipping your vehicle with a good set of winter tires. Winter tires provide more traction in snow and on ice than all-season tires. They help you get going from a dead spot. They help you get “unstuck.” Plus, they provide more traction in turns and stop you faster. See this post on what winter tires do better than all-season tires.

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Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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