All-Wheel Drive or Front Wheel Drive: Which One Should I Choose?

All-Wheel Drive or Front Wheel Drive: Which One Should I Choose?

All-Wheel Drive or Front Wheel Drive: Which One Should I Choose?

All-wheel drive has become common, especially with the rise of the SUV as the de facto family car. Most drivers feel AWD is the better option, sometimes without knowing what it does exactly and not being aware of its drawbacks. So what exactly is all-wheel drive, do you need it, and how does it compare to front-wheel drive vehicles?

The Price Tag

First of all, all-wheel drive costs more. There’s often a $2000 or $3000 difference, depending on transmission, in the sale price. All-wheel drive costs more. But, the good news is that AWD vehicles also have a higher resale value than their front-wheel drive counterparts. You’ll need to consider the upfront difference, though, when you’re planning your budget.

Heavyweight vs. Lightweight

All-wheel drive is heavy, to the tune of several hundred pounds heavier than a front- or rear-wheel drive car. Not only does the car engine have to work harder, but lugging that extra weight around decreases fuel economy, so you pay more on gasoline annually. That should be another consideration as you’re deciding on whether or not you should opt for the all-wheel drive vehicle over the front-wheel drive version.

Maintenance Costs

That extra weight comes from the doubling of parts since, as the name suggests, power needs to be delivered to all four tires instead of just two. That also generally doubles the amount of maintenance work the transmission will need over its lifetime. Added complexity almost always means additional maintenance. We’re talking, potentially, $10,000 more in repair work for all-wheel drive vehicles versus front-wheel drive.

Better Acceleration, Not Better Handling

One of the oft-cited features of all-wheel drive is their better handling. Unfortunately, that’s a misconception: AWD doesn’t actually provide better handling than FWD. To the point, AWD doesn’t help stopping in snow, so it doesn’t prevent accidents. The only things that can help you stop in snow and ice are the tires and suspension. Good snow tires are better many times over than AWD for accident prevention.

Advantages of All-Wheel Drive

All that being said, there is still good reason for some drivers to buy an all-wheel drive vehicle. But most of those reasons exist in a snowy northern or rural location, since all-wheel drive can help with acceleration in slick conditions and keep you moving in harsh driving conditions, such as on dirt, gravel, and snowy roads.