AWD versus 4WD for Trucks – What’s the Difference?

December 26, 2021

Truck Talk: Is AWD Better Than 4WD?

By Mike Palmer, Auto Consultant, Tempe

If you’re considering buying a truck, you’re likely weighing the differences between AWD versus 4WD. Or you might be wondering what AWD means, as it’s a less familiar term than 4WD. Let’s start by defining different types of drive systems: 

  1. Front-wheel-drive (FWD): FWD accounts for the majority of everyday cars on the road.      
  2. Rear-wheel-drive (RWD): Rear-wheel-drive systems are most often found on sports cars, older SUVs, pickup trucks, and high-performance luxury sedan models.  
  3. All-wheel-drive (AWD): Think vehicles like smaller trucks, midsize SUVs, and vans. The best thing about AWD is that the driver doesn’t have to make any decisions about using the system — AWD is always engaged, so it’s a great option if you live in or visit snow country. The AWD system sends power to different tires as needed to increase traction, which comes in handy when you’re navigating potentially hazardous winter road conditions such as ice, snow, and sleet. 
  4. Four-wheel drive (4WD): These vehicles tend to be more robust and are built for off-road driving. Large trucks and SUVs are perfect for getting out to see Arizona, exploring some of the paths less traveled. You’ll find 4WDs going through mud, navigating rocky terrain, and steep hills. 4WD trucks are frequently seen towing things like work trailers, horse trailers, boats, jet skis, dirt bikes, dune buggies, and various manners of equipment, so they’re real workhorses. 4WD lowers the gear ratio of the vehicle, so it’s easier to pull yourself out of rough terrain/snow if you get stuck.

Is AWD better than 4WD? It depends on your specific daily needs, how you use the vehicle and your driving habits. Like AWD systems, 4WD is designed to send torque to all four of a vehicle’s wheels to increase traction when needed. But as mentioned, 4WD systems tend to be more robust than AWD ones and can generally handle more rugged terrain. They come in two types: full-time (always engaged) and part-time, which adjust to the specific road conditions or terrain. 

If you live in rocky or snowy areas, it’s probably worth thinking about AWD or 4WD options, but most people driving around the Valley and the city won’t need 4WD, even if you’re towing a trailer. You might be surprised to find that most landscaping, construction, and business trucks are 2WD! 

Finally, opting for AWD or 4WD systems can significantly increase the cost of a truck or other vehicle. AWD and 4WD systems also add hundreds of pounds to the weight of the vehicle, so the option will affect the fuel efficiency, meaning you’ll be filling up more often.

Still debating between AWD versus 4WD? Looking for a new truck or vehicle? Search the Auto House inventory, or get in touch and let us know what you’re looking for – we’ll find it for you!



Read More Blogs