Front Wheel, Rear Wheel, or All Wheel Drive: Which One is Best for You?

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Many car buyers are confused by the matter of which kind of drive is the best choice. The answer might depend on what kind of driver you are, conditions you typically drive in and what you want to do with the vehicle. Each has its advantages and no single decision is the best for all situations. There are four main choices to pick from: front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel and all-wheel drive. Based on how much you use your car, where you are located, and the kind of driving you do, it’s possible to select the best type of drive. Understanding your usage of the vehicle can help you get the best car that suits your needs while maximizing efficiency.

The number of vehicles in the USA on all-wheel-drive (AWD) and four-wheel-drive (4WD) has grown exponentially since 2013. The number suggests that two-wheel drive isn’t enough for most Americans. The front-wheel drive (FWD) has become commonplace since the late 1970s, though SUVs and trucks still use rear-wheel-drive (RWD) systems. Trends have changed over the past few decades regarding which type of drive is preferred by vehicle owners and operators throughout the country.

Rear Wheel drive

Rear-wheel drive used to be the best system of choice because it is simple, reliable, robust and easy to manufacture. Almost all trucks except for a few light-duty trucks have rear-wheel axles. There are a couple benefits of having a car that is RWD. This type of vehicle can endure and is also very simple. This is the case even more so if there is a design involving solid axle support. This kind of vehicle may also be cheaper to repair in the long run. For instance, if you hit a curb in an RWD vehicle it will probably be fine. If you meet with a deep pothole or a curb in a FWD and the odds are that something expensive will be broken.

That’s why many service vehicles and cop cars are overwhelmingly RWD.  Another advantage is that RWD cars have better balancing features. A Front Wheel Drive vehicle has much of its weight to bear above the wheels in front, RWD cars spread weight more evenly to the rear, and therefore RWD is the style of choice when it comes to race cars. One con is that RWD vehicles are incredibly weak when it comes to turbulent weather. They are also easily prone to lose traction in rain and snow. These are not issues experienced frequently when the vehicle is not used daily. That’s why they make for good sports or racing vehicles.

Front wheel drive

Just like RWD, FWD has both pros and cons. The first advantage is that it is more economical to work with technology used in FWD cars. The car has fewer parts, so it more cost effective to make. FWD has reduced weight compared to RWD designs due to elimination of separate assemblies for transmission and axles. This also increases the car’s gas mileage, that’s why FWD vehicles are described as cars that cost less.

The FWD also has a better stability and ability for traction in bad weather. The front wheels mechanisms are responsible for pulling the car. This is contrary to rear wheeling having to push. This makes it easier to pull through mud and snow.

Cons?  FWD cars are heavy in the front, or nose. It doesn’t make it any easier for high-speed, or managing loads. It may also be difficult to keep the car on a straight path, so that when the car speeds up there may be some jerky motion amongst the front wheels.

All-wheel drive

To solve the limitations of four-wheel drive, there is an all-wheel drive capacity for vehicles. They are made with various design details but in general they are similar to a four-wheel layout. There is a slight variation with this type of vehicle; all-wheel drive has a certain level of slip between the front and rear wheels. All-wheel drive has good traction because the system sends power to all four wheels, all the time. The advantage of all-wheel drive is that it’s always on time, so the driver doesn’t have to do anything. The driver doesn’t have to move a lever or engage the transfer case in these circumstances.

The downside includes affordability and total weight.  All wheel vehicles can range to be a few hundred pounds larger than comparable FWD or RWD car. Such a scenario reduces acceleration similar versions of different drive. Added weight also means increased gas usage.  The last con of the all-wheel drive setup is the cost. An AWD car attracts a very significant price increase. That is why AWD may cost more than other types of cars. There will be a need for more servicing due to increased numbers of components.

You don’t need a 10-percent car

People sometimes make the mistakes of buying a AWD or 4WD car for the occasional off-road outing or ski trip even though they spend 90 percent of the time stuck in a traffic jam on well paved roads to and from work. Such people would be better served by a two-wheel drive car for their daily use and renting an AWD or 4WD truck for off-road outings. This would save money on the price as well overall maintenance and fuel costs.

Picking one

Choosing between AWD and 4WD used to be very simple. One was for sporty cars on well paved roads and one for trucks on mountain trails. But today there is not a clear distinction between all-wheel and four-wheel drive from a usage perspective.

Both 4WD and AWD car systems have substantial weight, complexity and costs. They may also experience reduced gas mileage. There is no perfect layout because the traction control is now more common for both front and rear wheel drive cars. A good car dealer can work with you to help find the car that best meets your needs. Nothing can be more exciting than going into the dealership knowing the differences and what you want. That’s what will help you decide which type of drive system works best in your circumstances. This will also enable you to avoid making mistakes such as buying a four-wheel-drive car for your daily commute in downtown Los Angeles or a rear-wheel-drive sports car for exploring ski areas in Vermont.

These are some tips to help select the kind of drive that will best suit your lifestyle and needs. It’s important to understand your usage of the vehicle in advance to get the best results. No matter what your situation, there is likely one type of drive that will help you over another. Keeping weather, frequency of use and other aspects in mind will also help to develop the best plan when purchasing a vehicle.