AWD vs FWD – What Are Pros and Cons?


Drivers have many choices of vehicles to buy today and one of those is all-wheel-drive vehicles. An AWD vehicle can provide power and traction no matter what kind of road you are driving on or the weather you are driving in. 

Есть преимущества и недостатки AWD по сравнению с FWD, включая более высокую стоимость покупки AWD по сравнению с автомобилем с передним приводом, лучшую управляемость AWD в погодных условиях и расходы на владение AWD над FWD в течение длительного времени. 

Looking at all the pros and cons will help you decide which option is best for you and your lifestyle.

Understanding the Differences in AWD and FWD

Drivers looking at the two types of cars need to understand the dynamics of an AWD vehicle versus an FWD vehicle. 

The best way to describe the difference is how power is distributed to the wheels. In an AWD vehicle, all four wheels get torque all the time. There are three types of full-time AWD systems. One type of system allows for both front and rear axles to get the same amount of torque using a center differential. 

Other systems allow the power to be changed from front to rear depending on the situation and the traction. 

The third type of system is a fixed torque split but these are systems that are fading from the market in favor of those where AWD kicks in automatically whenever it’s needed.

The automatic full-time AWD is called “on-demand AWD.” Torque is passed to one axle and wheels under normal conditions but more is sent to the second axle when the system senses slippage. These are the most common AWD systems on the market. 

An advantage of on-demand AWD is it has better fuel savings than a full-time AWD. There are some systems that can be switched to sport mode to engage AWD for better handing. These systems can be found mostly on sedans. 

There are also new systems where the driver can select the driving mode, allowing them to disengage the AWD option when it is unnecessary. This option is on select models and isn’t standard.

While many vehicles are now offering standard AWD, there are some that offer it as an option. Be sure to price both because the cost of the AWD is built into the price of vehicles where it is standard, where the cost is added when you select it as an option.

You will need to look at both and compare all of them to FWD car prices to understand the bottom line on vehicles with AWD systems.

Related: Check This If Your Car Is Making Noise When Turning

AWD Pros

The most obvious advantage of an AWD vehicle is that it can be driven in all types of weather and on all types of roads. The advantage of today’s AWD is the driver doesn’t have to do anything to turn on AWD. 

Full-time AWD works all the time and part-time AWD will automatically go into the AWD mode when the vehicle sensors detect slippage on the roads. The driver won’t feel any difference in the drive when this happens. 

AWD Reactions in Bad Weather

There is no question as to which vehicle handles better when it comes to comparing the AWD vs FWD in snow. The AWD will beat out the forward-wheel drive every time.

Power will go to all four wheels the second a tire loses traction and that keeps the vehicle from sliding. It is the best vehicle to drive in bad weather. 

Not only does the AWD work well in snow but this type of vehicle is made for driving in the rain, ice, and even mud. It is what you need to pull a buddy’s car out of a ditch.

That is why AWD was first used only on trucks. It was made for work.

Other advantages of owning an AWD vehicle include:

  • AWD vehicles allow you to safely accelerate. These cars can move better than FWD vehicles.
  • AWD vehicles help you turn corners easier even at higher speeds. This can make driving fun and safe.

Related: 5 Reasons Why A Car Engine Knocks On Startup Then Goes Away

FWD Pros

An FWD vehicle also has advantages. The foremost advantage of a forward-drive vehicle is its purchase price. An FWD vehicle is going to be between $2,000 to $3,000 cheaper to buy than a vehicle with AWD. 

Many vehicles come with AWD optional and the cost of adding the option can be anywhere from $500 to $2500. Sticking with an FWD vehicle will save that cost. 

Other advantages of an FWD car include:

  • They are more gas efficient. An FWD is lighter weight than an AWD vehicle and that amounts to better fuel economy. Their systems are also less complicated which adds to fuel savings since power is driven to only one axle.
  • Will have less expensive repairs when it comes to the drivetrain. An FWD car is more simple than an AWD vehicle so it is going to be easier to repair when those are needed on differentials. There are fewer parts and the parts that are needed are easier to find and typically are cheaper.

AWD Cons

Taking a page from the FWD pros, one disadvantage of an AWD vehicle is that it is a gas hog. That will cost you more money yearly for gas and the extra cost could total hundreds more a year with rising gas prices. 

Here are some other disadvantages of an AWD vehicle.

  • It can give you a false sense of security. AWD vehicles don’t help you stop sooner in adverse conditions. They also don’t help you turn better in bad weather but people think that they can.
  • All-season tires have less traction than winter tires that can be put on an FWD vehicle. However, winter tires could cost more than all-season tires and winter tires need to be changed out and stored when spring arrives, so that is an extra cost.

However, there is another option if you are looking for superior traction in winter. You can put winter tires on an AWD vehicle for the harsh winter months. That way, you get all the power of the AWD plus the traction performance of a winter tire. It is safety plus acceleration power.

FWD Cons

The FWD vehicles can’t always handle the road, especially in adverse conditions. You will never have power to all four wheels so there will be a chance of sliding on ice and snow. You could hydroplane in areas where there is standing water from rain. 

This would be a supreme disadvantage for those who may have emergency jobs or who want to be sure to be able to pick up the kids at school if they let out early because of bad weather.

Here are some other disadvantages of FWD vehicles:

  • FWD vehicles can’t tow like the FWD and AWD vehicles can. They have a lower towing capacity drivetrain. You aren’t going to be able to do any serious towing of boats, trailers or a friend’s vehicle stuck in the mud.
  • FWD vehicles can’t accelerate like those AWD and 4WD vehicles that put power to the back wheels also. They also don’t move as fast as rear-wheel-drive cars. This is the reason most sports cars use the rear-wheel drive. If power and speed are what you are seeking, it won’t be in an FWD vehicle.

What About Maintenance Cost?

The AWD vs FWD maintenance cost is a double-edged sword. The average maintenance cost on both cars is relatively the same. Both will need regular oil changes, tune-ups, tire rotations, and other basic needs. The AWD doesn’t require any more regular maintenance than an FWD vehicle. The difference in cost over a five-year period is minimal and can be as low as $600.

However, higher expenses will come your way when the AWD vehicle reaches higher mileage. Car experts state that the more complicated AWD systems will require more care as the car ages. Eventually, parts on it will fail and need to be replaced. 

Some of those parts may be more expensive than parts on an FWD vehicle and most will need to be ordered, depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

The labor cost will be higher too since mechanics will need to take more time to fix AWD systems than FWD on a vehicle.


There are clear pros and cons to both choices. The final choice depends on your priorities and willingness to put out a little more cost upfront to get an AWD vehicle, more cost for gas, and a little more cost down the road if you keep the car for years. 

For some, the extra cost is not that much considering the safety and handling an AWD will give you on the road and in bad weather. Those who live in areas with chronic snow, rain, and ice will appreciate all the AWD has to offer. 

Those who also need or want a solid towing capacity will also see the extra cost as a minimal investment for such features. 

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