If there are two terms that most car buyers mistake as the same or similar thing, it’s the all-wheel drive (AWD) and the 4-wheel drive (4WD). And why shouldn’t they? They’re the same, right?
Wrong. AWD and 4WD are two completely different terms, and their differences are in fact massive. AWDs have a front, rear, and center gear differential to power all four wheels, while 4WDs employ two gear differentials and a special transfer case to do the same job. And it’s not only in the mechanics that these drivetrains differ.
First, the AWD. Vehicles with this configuration harbor a number of pros. One is the extra traction: the assembly of the AWD drivetrain allows all four wheels to spin at the same time, which allow the vehicle to move forward if two wheels get stuck on a slick surface or in some other capacity.
4WDs on the other hand have wheels that spin independently of each other and are automatically powered in accordance to road conditions, which gives it a distinctive advantage over AWDs. The way power is distributed among all four wheels make 4WDs the perfect choice for incredibly low-traction situations including deep snow.
There is one common ground between the two after all. While AWD or 4WD vehicles are costlier, owners can get a bit more out of a resale given the right conditions. People are willing to pay more for AWDs/4WD, and that can be reason enough to own them.