close view of lower half of generic car driving on dirt road

What’s the Difference Between All-Wheel, Four-Wheel and Front-Wheel Drive?

If you’re in the middle of the car-buying process and aren’t as familiar with cars as some, you may come across some terms and words that may be confusing to you. For instance, you’ve probably heard about All-Wheel Drive (AWD), Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) and Front-Wheel Drive (FWD). But, what’s the difference between them? We can answer that and more, right here! 

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What Each Drivetrain System Does 

front end of generic silver suv driving on empty country roadLet’s start by explaining what each drivetrain does for a car. The FWD is the most common drivetrain you’ll find in all kinds of vehicles. It’s the standard drivetrain for most, as it only uses the front wheels of the vehicle when it comes to driving, not the rear. There is a Rear-Wheel Drive for some cars, but it’s not as common as FWD. 

AWD, on the other hand, uses a front, rear and center differential to provide power to all four wheels of a vehicle at the same time. This gives the vehicle better traction and capability. A 4WD vehicle employs two differentials and a transfer case to provide power to all four wheels as well. 

Basically, FWD uses two wheels, while AWD and 4WD use four. But, if AWD and 4WD use the same amount of wheels, why are they called something different? 

In most cases, it comes down to part-time vs. full-time. Most of the time, 4WD is part-time, which means it by default only uses two wheels and drivers can switch on the 4WD at their discretion. AWD, meanwhile, is almost always full-time, which means that it can’t be turned on and off by the driver. 

Types of Vehicles AWD and 4WD are Found On 

For the most part, drivers will find AWD on vehicles like cars, SUVs and crossovers, while the 4WD is generally reserved for larger pickup trucks. Drivers can browse Broadway Credit’s inventory of used cars with AWD, here. 

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