FWD vs AWD: Difference Between AWD And FWD?

Choose between front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) when buying an automobile, new or old. It’s good to understand what you’re looking for beforehand to avoid wasting money on things you don’t need.

For example, you can pick the driveline right for you with some knowledge. Let’s take a closer look at FWD vs. AWD before deciding. Also, see our article comparing automobiles beyond specs and pricing for more details on what to consider before purchasing.

FWD vs. AWD: What Are the Differences?

Front-wheel drive is standard on the vast majority of today’s consumer cars. This means that the engine and transmission propel the car’s front wheels. Although front-wheel drive concepts date back to the early days of automobiles, it was not until the 1970s that the front-wheel drivetrain became popular.

Most cars were driven by the back wheels (RWD) until recently. This is because the front wheels are responsible for steering, and there was no cost-effective way for the front wheels to steer and move the car simultaneously.

A black sedan with front-wheel-drive on a concrete road.

Front-wheel drive has the following advantages:

  • More efficient use of fuel.
  • There’s more room inside.
  • Great for year-round driving.
  • It’s simple to use

All-wheel-drive vehicles use all four wheels to propel the car forward. As a result, all-wheel-drive was formerly a rarity and at a comparatively high price. However, AWD soon became a standard drivetrain option once automakers figured out how to make them economical and reliable.

AWD benefits include:

  • The best wet-weather traction and performance.
  • Improved snow and ice traction.
  • Improved capability for driving off-road.
Silver SUV on water.

Consider the fact that many AWD vehicles can also be ordered with FWD as an option. Small crossover SUVs are particularly vulnerable to this. If traction isn’t a concern for you, you can save money by purchasing the same car with front-wheel drive (FWD).

Is All-Wheel Drive The Same As A Four-Wheel Drive?

It is not the same as four-wheel drive. 4WD is a standard feature on pickup trucks and larger sport utility vehicles. With all-wheel drive, you don’t have to do anything. It is always active and happens automatically. The AWD system is activated automatically by the driver. Smaller SUVs and passenger cars are more likely to use AWD than larger vehicles.

Keep in mind that 4WD is better in low-gear and extreme off-road situations. On the other hand, all-wheel drive (AWD) improves performance in all weather conditions.

Is There A Standard For All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) Systems?

This all-wheel-drive system from Subaru is always working. A center differential in the transmission distributes power to all four wheels as needed. In addition, the 2019 Impreza compact sedan to the 2019 Ascent midsize SUV are all equipped with Subaru’s adaptive cruise control.

With its AWD Disconnect system, the 2019 Ford Edge completely decouples the rear axle when it is not required for traction enhancement. The Edge only has front-wheel drive when AWD is not engaged. The Edge’s four-wheel-drive system saves fuel by reducing the effort needed to move the vehicle.

Mazda CX-5 interior view from the driver’s side.

As a result of Mazda’s “predictive” AWD system, the rear wheels are always lightly engaged even when the vehicle is stationary. In addition, the Mazda can make better decisions about when to increase power to the rear wheels thanks to a wide array of sensors positioned all over the vehicle. The 2019 Mazda CX-5 and CX-9 and the all-new 2019 Mazda3 are equipped with this technology.

All-electric all-wheel drive is standard on the 2019 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid and the 2019 Lexus RX450h SUV (AWD). Electric motors in this system power the rear wheels.

This year’s Tesla Model S electric vehicle has electric motors on both ends.

Does All-Wheel-Drive Have Any Drawbacks?

When looking for an AWD vehicle, keep the following in mind:

  • Pricey compared to an FWD.
  • The price difference can be in the tens of thousands.
  • Many times, the cost of insurance is higher.
  • Fuel costs are expected to rise.

As a reminder, AWD helps get your car moving and keeps it under control. AWD cars stop the same as any other vehicle. Unfortunately, some drivers become overconfident with AWD and skidding when using the brakes.

Which Is Better Off-Pavement: AWD or FWD?

Unpaved surfaces are better handled by vehicles equipped with all-wheel drive. It’s more difficult to maintain traction when driving on gravel, grass, or other soft surfaces. It is possible to find traction on any surface with an all-wheel-drive system.

Road trip in mountains.

On the other hand, a front-wheel-drive vehicle can still handle moderate off-roading. There’s nothing that a new FWD car or SUV can’t control: a few miles of dirt. AWD isn’t magical, so keep this in mind: There is still the possibility of getting stuck in the muck.

What’s the Difference Between AWD and FWD in the Rain?

For driving in the rain, an all-wheel-drive vehicle is preferable in most cases. When it rains, the reflective paint marking crosswalks and guidelines becomes slick. Some other factors, such as oil on the road and wet leaves, can also be dangerous. Vehicles with all-wheel drive detect and respond well to wheel slip in wet conditions.

In the rain, AWD is preferable to FWD. Instantly, you’ll see the difference. Remember that AWD helps keep your car stable on wet pavement. When the wheels begin to slip, even part-time AWD engages quickly.

In The Snow And Ice, Which Is Better: AWD Or FWD?

All-wheel-drive vehicles perform better in snow and ice because they provide an equal force on all four wheels to help you move forward. An all-wheel-drive vehicle equipped with current traction and stability controls can handle most snow and ice conditions. Due to the engine’s placement above the wheels, front-wheel-drive cars perform well in the snow. In addition, traction is improved by the additional weight.

Front-wheel-drive vehicles and winter tires can save you money if you reside in a location with mild to moderate winters. An AWD car or SUV is preferable to a 4WD pickup truck or SUV on ice and snow.

Are Winter Tires Necessary?

AWD may not be necessary if you purchase winter tires like the Bridgestone Blizzak or the Yokohama iceGUARD. Snow and ice grip are provided by specific tread patterns and soft rubber compounds in these winter tires. According to traction testing, tires are the essential aspect of traction.

Winter tires on a front-wheel-drive car may outperform all-season tires on an all-wheel-drive vehicle. AWD and a solid pair of winter tires will always provide the most acceptable performance. The finest investment you can make when driving on snow and ice is a good pair of winter tires.

What About Traction And Stability Controls When Comparing AWD With FWD?

It’s also worth noting that today’s vehicles come equipped with high-quality traction and stability systems as standard equipment. These electrical devices constantly monitor your car’s wheel motion. It can maintain traction by transferring torque to other wheels if one starts to slip.

Traction and stability control are standard on all new passenger automobiles. When coupled with suitable tires, this technology has the potential to bridge the gap between front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) cars.

AWD vs. FWD: Does It Matter If It’s A Pre-owned Car?

Consider a pre-owned car or SUV if you’re looking for an AWD vehicle on a budget. The dealership’s service staff has thoroughly inspected and repaired CPO AWD vehicles. When buying a certified pre-owned vehicle, you can save money while still getting the desired features and choices.

AWD vehicles may cost more upfront, but they’re easier to trade in or sell down the road.

Which Is Better For Your Family: AWD Or FWD?

It’s simple to determine whether or not your family requires an all-wheel drive at first. There are a couple of questions to consider:

You probably don’t need an all-wheel drive if the answers to those questions are No. However, you should think about it if you replied Yes to one or two questions. If you meet all of these criteria, AWD is the way to go.

Keep in mind that if you don’t require AWD, there’s little reason to invest the extra cash. You’ll be glad you paid the money for it if you ever need it.

Pros and Cons of All-Wheel Drive vs. Front-Wheel Drive

There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Initial costs

A front-wheel-drive vehicle is the cheapest to buy in the beginning. In addition, front-wheel-drive cars often cost less to produce than AWD vehicles because of the reduced number of parts required. In AWD vehicles, the power from the engine is distributed between the front and rear axles using a pair of differentials.

FWDs don’t need this item, and the price difference is clear. Fortunately, you can still get a car you enjoy, even if it doesn’t come with AWD. In most cases, it can add AWD to FWD or RWD vehicles at the dealerships where they are sold.

Maintenance Costs

After the initial outlay, there are ongoing expenses. Maintaining a car, regardless of make or model, is expensive. Ensuring your vehicle, performing routine oil changes and engine inspections, and purchasing new tires and wiper blades are necessary. While the frequency of wiper replacement is unaffected by AWD vs. FWD, it is affected by factors like tire replacements and repairs.

The wheels on an AWD are more vulnerable to damage than those on an FWD since an AWD has greater weight distributed across its tires. As a result, AWD tire replacements will become more frequent and expensive. On the other hand, all-wheel-drive vehicles are more costly to buy and maintain because of their more significant repair costs.


Traction is one of the most critical characteristics of a car. Both all-wheel-drive (AWD) and front-wheel drive (FWD) are winners for traction. Depending on the situation, modern AWDs may alter the amount of power provided to each set of wheels, giving you more control.

Winter weather isn’t an issue if you reside somewhere that doesn’t experience it. FWD will suffice, and an FWD will provide you more power than an AWD if you decide to climb a hill.

Cabin Space

There is a significant bump in the center of the rear passenger compartment in most all-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive vehicles. What you’re feeling is the transmission tunnel beneath your car. It’s not there for FWDs. Engine placement over front wheels eliminates hump.

Comfortable front seats inside the car.

In addition, because the engine and transmission are located up front, the front passenger cabin of an FWD has extra room for legroom. On the other hand, FWDs are often sedans, whereas AWDs are typically SUVs. As a result, even though an AWD offers more inside space, its larger dimensions provide it an advantage over other vehicles in this class.


AWDs are the best at this, as they have the most power to overcome barriers. When a car has all-wheel drive, it can travel across any terrain, whether it’s slick from rain or snow. Likewise, AWDs can dig into nearly any terrain since power is dispersed to all four wheels.

Imagine driving a front-wheel-drive vehicle along a muddy path and getting stuck in the muck with your front wheels. As long as you have an AWD, losing one or two wheels makes no difference. In every situation, the rear powers on and clears the way.

Fuel Consumption

Or any vehicle, the most pressing cost is fuel. When it comes to gas, an AWD might be a little more expensive than an FWD, but this doesn’t apply if you own an electric car. Vehicles with front-wheel drive (FWD) are less costly and lighter than those with rear-wheel drive. AWD components increase overall weight and power output.

As a result, AWD vehicles consume more petrol and have lower fuel economy than other vehicles. For example, it’s hard to get more than 33 miles per gallon out of a 2019 MINI Cooper Countryman. On the other hand, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 is an FWD vehicle that can get up to 35 miles per gallon. So with an FWD, you’ll be able to save money on gas.

Resale value

FWDs may appear less expensive to purchase, less costly to maintain, and provide more legroom. When compared to this, an AWD does not come close. In addition, the resale value is more stable than that of an FWD in the long run if you plan on selling your vehicle in the future.

All-wheel-drive vehicles are more powerful, safer, and more valuable in colder climates than front-wheel-drive vehicles. Just remember that if you ever plan to trade in your automobile or sell your current one, the high expense of owning an AWD can pay off.


While capability focuses on a car’s capacity to adapt to changing road circumstances, performance reveals what kind of automobile performs best on a given day. Both of them are correct. AWDs and FWDs offer an excellent driving experience and perform well in most conditions. Therefore, the victor of this segment is entirely up to you.

The lighter FWD would be the winner if the discussion were based on-highway performance. The more powerful AWD would prevail in an off­road performance debate. Ultimately, it’s all up to you.

Physical Toll Incurred on Vehicle

This one is a slam dunk when it comes to the physical toll. AWDs are far more vulnerable to damage than FWDs. In addition, AWD tires take the brunt of the car’s weight. As a result, they wear out faster and need to be replaced more often than FWD tires.

Close-up of a burst car tire.

Aside from the fact that an all-wheel-drive engine is subject to more wear and tear, it is also more expensive to maintain than a front-wheel-drive engine. On the other hand, driving an AWD in snow and ice puts less strain on the vehicle’s body than driving an FWD.

Weather-Resistant Capabilities

The AWD performs admirably in any weather conditions you can throw at it all-wheel-drive vehicles, such as AWDs, are frequent in areas of the country where winters are harsh, ice on the roads is common, and summers are scorching.

You can install winter tires on front-wheel drive vehicles, and they will still be able to drive in snow and rain. Because of their noise and instability, winter tires are a nuisance when the roads have been cleared. They also have to be stored during the other three seasons. AWDs are unmatched and will leave you feeling secure and protected regarding weather adaptation.

Why Should You Drive AWD Or FWD?

To sum up, the best reasons to pick AWD or FWD are as follows. At this point, you know enough to make the best selection for your needs.

First, all-wheel-drive:

  • On ice and snow, improved traction.
  • Resale will be more accessible, and the value will be higher.
  • Off-pavement, more competent.

Front-wheel drive:

  • Buying is cheaper.
  • More efficient fuel use.
  • Insurance rates will be lower.
  • There is a big difference between winter and summer tires.


Modern vehicles have never been better in terms of safety and all-season traction. There are good options from every manufacturer and at almost every price point when picking AWD vs. FWD.

Finding the ideal car, truck, or SUV to fit your needs with today’s new vehicle choices is simple. With all the information, you can make a rational decision regarding the best car for your family.

If you have any questions/concerns when choosing between AWD and FWD, please comment, and we are happy to help you out.

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About Brock Rangel

Hi, I am Brock, and I am the lead editor/photographer for TheCarColony. I have been a mechanic for over 14 years now, and I am here to spread my car knowledge across the web!

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