Thursday, January 23, 2020
Features 5 Questions About AWD, FWD and RWD Answered

5 Questions About AWD, FWD and RWD Answered

There are a few ways a car can get you to your next destination, and it all starts with the drive wheel, or drive wheels if you prefer.

These are the wheels that receive the engine’s power and therefore move your vehicle. A car can be all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, or rear-wheel drive. These are also known as AWD, FWD or RWD. Now, I know this is very elementary to some people, but hopefully others are learning something here.

As the names imply, a front-wheel drive car has front drive wheels, a rear-wheel drive car has rear drive wheels and an all-wheel drive vehicle is powered by all four wheels, either at the same time or when needed.

We’ve notice quite a few questions on the matter in recent months which coincides with the arrival of winter, and so with that in mind we thought we’d answer your most frequently asked questions about drive wheels. And let’s go.

Which is better: AWD, FWD or RWD?

This is a tough one to start off because it ultimately depends on your needs and what you plan to do with your vehicle. In the spirit of simplicity, we’ll go with the short answers and then expand our answers below.

All-wheel drive is better if you do a lot of off-road driving or you do a lot of winter driving and can’t let a snowstorm stop you from going where you need to go.

Front-wheel drive is better in the city or on clear roads where AWD isn’t needed.

Rear-wheel drive is more performance-oriented and provides sportier dynamics on a track or when cornering. It’s also better for towing.

Again, this is a very simplified set of answers. Keep reading for more specific information.

Which is better in the snow: AWD, FWD or RWD?

AWD is better in the snow, no doubt about it. Having the engine send power to all four wheels means better traction which means it’s easier to get out of heavy snow. It also makes your car more stable when cornering.

FWD is the next best thing. Rear-wheel drive cars tend to be the least stable of the three when taking turns on a slippery road. However, if getting up a slippery hill is your main concern, than RWD is better than FWD because rear-wheel drive works to push the car up, an easier feat than “pulling” it up the hill which is what happens with a FWD vehicle.

Do you need AWD in the snow?

Drive Wheels AWD FWD RWD 1

No. All-wheel drive perform better in the snow and on ice in general and it’s hard to go back to a FWD or RWD vehicle after you’ve experienced AWD in winter, but that doesn’t mean you need it.

What you do need, however, is common sense and good winter tires regardless of your vehicle’s drive wheels. You’ll want to slow down when roads are slippery and check your tires before every season.

You can do just fine with either type of FWD or RWD drive wheels, but you won’t experience the same feeling of overall stability.

Is AWD less fuel-efficient than FWD or RWD?

That used to be the case, but not so much anymore. All-wheel drive does add a lot of weight to the vehicle, sure, but advances in engine efficiency and optimized transmissions reduce the gap in fuel consumption between AWD vehicles and FWD or RWD models.

Which is faster: AWD, FWD or RWD?

AWD will get you off the line faster because of the added grip of having all four wheels pushing you forward, but as an overall rule of thumb RWD vehicles because of their lesser weight tend to be the fastest in a track setting.

Does AWD cost more to maintain?

Drive Wheels AWD FWD RWD 1

That will really depend on the model, but in general all-wheel drive vehicles will cost more to maintain than their FWD counterparts because of their added components and complexity. Is it enough to be a deterrent? Not really.

What’s better for towing: AWD or RWD?

AWD systems add weight which the truck or SUV needs to tow along with whatever you have hitched to the back. Therefore, when it comes to towing, you can pull more with a RWD truck or utility vehicle.

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Charles Jolicoeur
Charles Jolicoeur
Charles Jolicoeur was studying to be a CPA when he decided to drop everything and launch a car website in 2012. Don't ask. The journey has been an interesting one, but today he has co-founded and manages 8 websites including EcoloAuto.com and MotorIllustrated.com as General Manager of NetMedia360. He also sits on the board of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada. Send me an email

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