AWD vs 4WD

AWD vs 4WD

If you're searching for a capable used car, you'll want to choose something that either has all-wheel drive (AWD) or 4-wheel drive (4WD). Both drivetrain options are designed to optimize traction and help your car produce a stable performance on slippery streets and off-road terrain. So, what's the difference between AWD and 4WD?

To help you learn more about both drivetrain options, check out our AWD vs. 4WD comparison below!

AWD vs 4WD: How They Work

Both systems are great for ensuring stability in less-than-perfect road conditions. However, the biggest difference between AWD and 4WD is how they operate.


AWD vs 4WD

An AWD system provides power to the wheels to optimize traction, stability, and overall performance in all road conditions. Often available for SUVs and even a few sedans, AWD typically works by transferring power to the front two wheels when traveling through smooth streets or cruising down a highway. If the terrain changes and you find yourself driving through off-road trails and slippery streets, the system will automatically adjust to the changing road conditions for optimum performance.

Overall, AWD cars make driving a bit more convenient since it can quickly modify performance once it senses a change in terrain to ensure a controlled and safe ride. Also, since it only provides power to all four wheels as needed, AWD can make your commutes more efficient, too.


This drivetrain ensures optimum performance in all types of terrain, but unlike AWD, 4WD delivers power to all four wheels at all times-and that means 4WD trucks and SUVs may not be as efficient as AWD cars. However, this powertrain typically offers better capabilities, especially in extreme off-road conditions.

With a 4WD system, drivers can have access to additional options that manually adjust performance for more stability in harsher road conditions. Also, the 4WD vehicles can enhance towing capabilities as well as crawl features for a more controlled ride when hauling cargo or driving through the roughest off-road terrain.

AWD vs 4WD in Snow

AWD vs 4WD

It's clear that AWD and 4WD systems are made to offer a smooth ride in rough terrain, but how do they compare when you're driving through snow-covered streets?

If you're traveling in the city through a light to moderate snowstorm, AWD may be the best option. Since AWD can automatically adjust power sent to the wheels, the system can work to ensure you have the control you need, no matter if the roads are slippery, icy, or covered with snow.

The best 4WD cars can get you through icy streets, too. However, compared to AWD, 4WD can offer more stability in more extreme winter conditions. It provides more traction in deeper snow and can help you climb up icy and slippery hills with ease.

AWD vs 4WD: Which Is Best for You?

When it comes to AWD vs. 4WD, the best drivetrain will depend on the specific performance you need. For an efficient and capable performance both on city streets and less-than-perfect road conditions, choose an SUV or sedan with AWD. If you need something that's more rugged and offers more control, especially in extreme off-road terrain, a 4WD truck or SUV may be your best bet.

At Val-U-Line®, our used car dealerships offer a wide array of AWD and 4WD used cars for you to choose from. To learn more about the difference between AWD and 4WD and which pre-owned vehicles offer the performance capabilities you need, give us a call or visit any one of our used car dealerships nationwide!