Difference between 4-Wheel-Drive and All-Wheel-Drive
By Rebecca Rodriguez - July 5, 2023

Many modern cars are available with all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD), making them more competent and enticing to a larger audience. The terminology of AWD vs. 4WD can sometimes be confusing, especially since AWD systems have become more robust and 4WD has become more complex, obscuring the line between the two.


Four-wheel drive is a more traditional method of controlling all four wheels. 4WD systems are often mechanically connected and employ a series of front, center, and rear differentials, transfer cases, and couplings to supply torque to all four wheels. These systems have evolved through time, allowing for the connection and disconnection of 4WD via buttons and knobs. However, many classic 4WD systems are controlled by a floor-mounted lever that resembles a second gear changer.

All-wheel-drive cars employ systems that power both the front and back wheels, as the name implies. There are two types of all-wheel-drive systems to be aware of. The first technology is known as all-wheel drive (AWD). It continually drives all four wheels. The second technology, part-time all-wheel-drive or automated AWD, employs AWD only when necessary.


All-wheel drive is typically available on all sizes of cars, trucks, and SUVs. If you pick AWD, you will have many vehicles to choose from. These cars will give better traction on regular winter roads and, depending on the vehicle, may even be capable of modest off-roading.

A 4-wheel drive vehicle is likely to make some sacrifices regarding ride comfort and fuel efficiency, but it’s an excellent choice for consumers who live in rural places. If you frequently experience harsh weather or prefer demanding off-road activities, 4WD is the system for you.

Comparison Chart
  1. Mostly equipped on large trucks and SUVs
Available with nearly all vehicle type
  1. Likely to cost more to purchase and maintain as a result of fuel consumption
AWD cars usually facilitate smoother rides and are less likely to cost more or consume as much fuel as 4WDs.