FWD, RWD, AWD, and 4WD: What’s The Difference and Which Is Best For You?

When shopping for a new vehicle, trying to make sense of the difference between FWD, RWD, AWD, and 4WD is enough to make your head spin. That’s why today we are demystifying the difference between all these drivetrain systems to help you decide which is best for you.

Front-Wheel Drive

Car with FWD driving in the snow

Front-wheel drive simply means the car is being pulled forward by the front wheels. The engine delivers power to the front wheels through the axle shafts and cv joints, moving your vehicle forward. 

FWD cars are typically more fuel efficient than RWD vehicles because it takes less energy to power two wheels than it does to power four. 

For someone who puts a lot of miles on their vehicle on a regular basis, this could mean big savings in fuel costs. Definitely something to take into consideration if you are planning on buying a new vehicle. 

FWD vehicles perform better than RWD cars in rain and light snow. With the weight of the engine over the front wheels in a FWD car, you’ll get more traction helping to control the car in slippery situations. 

A lot of vehicles on the road these days are FWD. The maintenance of FWD vehicles tends to be more affordable than say a 4WD because there are simply less moving parts to care for. 

FWD vehicles are practical, have less maintenance, and are great for folks who live in hilly or mountainous regions. So if you commute more than a few miles a day and want to save money on gas, a FWD vehicle may be the perfect choice for you.

Rear-Wheel Drive

Sports car with rear wheel drive on the road

In rear-wheel drive vehicles the engine is sending the power to the rear wheels. Most cars were RWD up until the end of the 20th century.  So, if you are 40 or over, chances are your first car was RWD. 

Because RWD vehicles spread the weight of its drivetrain more evenly from the front to rear, the stress on the tires is equal, which means you won't be putting all the stress on your front wheels wearing them down quicker. 

Most sports cars, almost all race cars, and some luxury sedans have RWD because it offers more power and control over the car's performance and helps the car maintain traction when going around corners at higher speeds.

RWD vehicles should not be a first choice for your main vehicle if you live in a climate that gets a lot of snow because these cars do not perform well on slippery roads. Rain, ice, or snow...rear-wheel drive cars will have you fishtailing all over the place. 

Other than being challenging in inclement weather, RWD vehicles are also less fuel efficient than FWD cars. 

You’ll most likely find yourself in a RWD vehicle if you are a classic car enthusiast, have a love for speed and sports cars, or are a race car driver. Not necessarily practical for your day to day car if the area you live in is anything but dry...but could be a lot of fun for a second car. 

All-Wheel Drive

AWD Vehicle climbing hill in SUV

If you guessed all-wheel drive means the car is being pulled by all four wheels, you’d be correct. In AWD vehicles the engine sends power to all four tires to move the car forward all the time. It’s a full time system.

If you live in an area that sees a lot of precipitation—be it rain, sleet, snow, or ice—an AWD vehicle may be a smart choice for you. 

Because AWD vehicles power all four wheels, they provide more grip on the road in slippery situations, helping you get to where you need to go without sliding and fishtailing all over the place. 

Although AWD vehicles are less fuel efficient than FWD vehicles because they are powering all four wheels and are heavier than FWD cars, they are still a wise choice if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and rain.

4-Wheel Drive or 4x4

Truck with 4 wheel drive off roading

Four-wheel drive is king when it comes to traction. 4WD, or 4 x 4, vehicles have a drivetrain with 2 axles in the front and 2 in the back, that provide torque to all wheels at once. Some 4WD vehicles are full time, and some are part-time until the driver or the vehicle's computer turns it on to adapt to adverse road conditions. 

Pretty much all trucks are available in 4WD, and a lot of sports utility vehicles are as well. 4WD vehicles provide improved traction in more severe weather situations, like heavy snow and ice.

In addition to 4WD vehicles allowing trucks and suvs to accelerate more in inclement weather, offering better grip on the road, they are built to power through rough terrain like mud and rocks and are power horses meant to work—ideal for hauling a lot of weight, plowing, or towing. 

Are 4WD vehicles the most fuel efficient? No. But they offer the power and stability needed for a lot of truck and suv owners who use their vehicles beyond typical road driving for things like work and off roading, as well as for people who live outside of the city and see more severe weather like heavy snow

If You Need Assistance

If you live in the Kansas City, Missouri area and are in need of a tow truck company or roadside assistance, Roadside Services Towing of Kansas City is the best in the area. 

Our professional drivers are experienced and here to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. From flat tires to totaled vehicles, our drivers know how to transport your vehicle quickly and safely no matter what type of drivetrain your vehicle has. 

We service Kansas City, Belton, Raymore, Raytown, Lee’s Summit, and Grandview MO, and offer roadside assistance, towing, wrecker service, recovery, and long distance towing,

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