16 Things You Must Know About All-Wheel-Drives Before Going Car Hunting

Are you in the market for a new or used vehicle this year? If so, the drivetrain is one thing to consider. Many drivers want an all-wheel-drive (AWD) system even though it comes at a premium.

Front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive — also known as two-wheel drive — vehicles will meet the needs of most car owners. Swapping all-season for winter tires may be enough. But an AWD car makes sense if you live in an area with difficult terrain or get lots of snow in the winter.

But before you go out and spend more for an AWD over a two-wheel-drive vehicle, here are 16 things you must know about AWD. Number nine might catch you by surprise.

More Traction

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A vehicle with an AWD drivetrain distributes power and torque between the tires depending on traction needs. AWD will increase traction and reduce the odds of getting stuck in snow or mud.

Peace of Mind

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If driving when it’s raining cats and dogs stress you out, an AWD car will give you more confidence. No, it won’t compensate for bad driving habits. However, it will offer better traction in slippery driving conditions since the drivetrain will send power to the appropriate tires.

Higher Cost

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While the price premium for an AWD drivetrain over a 2WD vehicle might not be a dealbreaker, a responsible consumer will balk at spending more for something they don’t need. A previous report notes that the extra cost for an AWD or four-wheel-drive vehicle can range from $1,300 for a Honda CRV to around $3,500 for a Ford F-150. You can decide if the extra cost is worth it. 

Better Resale Value

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Whether looking for a new or used car, you’ll see that AWD vehicles cost more than 2WD vehicles. What that means, however, is AWD vehicles command a bigger premium than 2WD vehicles. That’s especially true if you live in a region where AWD is a must.

Higher Maintainance Expenses

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It costs more to maintain a vehicle with AWD versus 2WD. For one thing, you’ll have four brake calipers rather than two, so getting brake service or replacement will cost you more. You’ll want to factor in the extra costs to maintain your vehicle to see if AWD is worth the investment.

Lower Fuel Efficiency 

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An AWD vehicle is heavier than a comparable 2WD vehicle. That means you’ll take a hit in the fuel-efficiency department. If fuel economy is a primary consideration, you’ll have to determine whether or not it’s worth purchasing a vehicle with an AWD drivetrain.

Better Acceleration

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Buying a vehicle with AWD will allow for improved acceleration in inclement weather. So, if you want more get-up-and-go momentum, AWD is a good option.

Better Towing

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Do you plan to tow with your vehicle? Whether towing a utility trailer, boat, or camper, it’s worth considering AWD since it can reduce the risks of getting stuck. Getting stuck when not towing is bad enough. But you’ll compound things even more if you get stuck while towing something. 

False Sense of Security

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AWD can be a double-edged sword if you believe it’ll compensate for bad driving habits. Having an AWD car doesn’t mean you can drive the same way regardless of the road conditions. Many AWD owners find this out the hard way when they end up on the side of the road or shoulder of the highway.

Different Kinds of AWD Systems

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There are four kinds of AWD systems, namely part-time AWD, selectable AWD, full-time AWD, and automatic AWD. You’ll want to take time to check out the different kinds of AWD drivetrains available.

Won’t Stop Faster Than 2WD Vehicle

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An AWD vehicle will accelerate faster than a 2WD vehicle. But it won’t stop faster than one. So, it’s vital to avoid overconfidence when driving an AWD vehicle.

Avoid Accidents

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Because of the increased traction an AWD drivetrain offers, you’ll better be able to swerve to avoid collisions while maintaining control over your vehicle. Even so, that doesn’t mean you can drive like a maniac and expect the AWD feature to compensate for behind-the-wheel lunacy. 

Insurance Higher for AWD Vehicles

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While an AWD vehicle can keep you safer on the roads and highways, you’ll pay more for car insurance. That’s because repairing or replacing a damaged AWD vehicle can cost more than doing the same for a 2WD vehicle. That translates to higher insurance premiums.

Winter Tires Still Needed

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While AWD will outperform 2WD during the winter, you’ll still want to consider getting winter tires for the cold weather months. All-season tires offer less traction when the temperatures dip below a certain point in the fall and winter seasons. 

So, unless you live in a state with moderate or mild winters, buy winter tires for your vehicle.

15. Always On

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If you get 4WD, you can select when to use 4WD and when to use 2WD. That can be great when you don’t need 4WD. But if you’d rather have superior traction all the time without human intervention, an AWD vehicle is the way to go.

AWD and Four-Wheel Drive Are Not the Same

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Some people think AWD and 4WD are the same. But they are two different drivetrain categories. A 4WD vehicle is usually more powerful than an AWD vehicle. If you live in or frequently visit places where off-road driving is necessary, 4WD is a good choice. 

While AWD is always locked in, a 4WD vehicle allows you to switch between 4WD and 2WD. That can be the best of both worlds.

AWD Is a Great Option — But Not Everyone Needs It

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Consider these 16 points if you’re in the market for a car and wonder if AWD is the way to go. You might not need it. It’ll make a big difference to your driving experience if you do.

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