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All-Wheel Drive Vs Front-Wheel Drive: Pros & Cons

From maintenance costs to fuel consumption, we're going to take a look at some crucial areas of motoring and see which system performs better.

Cars are often stated to be either rear-wheel drive (RWD), front-wheel drive (FWD), or all-wheel drive (AWD). When looking at cars, one of these terms is sure to pop up, but do you really know what they mean?

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Essentially, these terms refer to which set of wheels gets power from the engine. Depending on what purpose this car will serve, it will matter greatly if they are RWD, FWD, or AWD. In addition to driving differently, they also cause the car to be structurally different and may impact costs as well. Today, we will talk about the pros and cons of FWD vs AWD and see how they perform in ten important categories.

10 Initial costs

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As far as initial costs go, a front-wheel vehicle is certainly the cheapest. This lower cost is typically due to fewer parts being used in the manufacturing of a front-wheel-drive vehicle, versus the production of an AWD car. AWD cars have a pair of differentials at the axles that split the power from the engine to the four wheels.

FWDs don't require this part, and the contrast in prices is stark and noticeable. The good news is, if you see a car you like but don't want the AWD feature, that is completely doable. Most dealerships sell FWD or RWD cars with an option to add on the AWD feature.

9 Maintenance Costs

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After initial costs comes maintenance costs. Maintaining a car, any car, costs a lot of money. You need to buy insurance, do oil changes and engine checks, and of course, you need to replace tires and wiper blades. While AWD vs FWD definitely does not influence how often your wipers need replacing, they do impact things like tire changes and repairs.

Since an AWD weighs more on all the tires, they are prone to more damage than wheels on a FWD. Due to this, tire replacements for AWDs will have to occur more frequently and will cost more. In addition to this, repairs for AWDs are generally higher, and so, FWDs are cheaper to buy and maintain than an all-wheel drive.

8 Traction

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One of the most important functions of a car is the traction it gets. In terms of traction, both AWD and FWD are winners in a sense. It depends on what kind of driving conditions you experience where you live. If you live where you experience severe winter weather then an AWD is right for you.

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Modern AWDs can often adjust the amount of power given to each set of wheels depending on the circumstances, so you have better control. If winter weather is not prevalent in your area, an FWD will do just fine, and if you choose to traverse a hill, an FWD will offer you more power than an AWD.

7 Cabin Space

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If you drive an AWD or RWD automobile, chances are you have noticed the giant hump in the middle of the rear passenger cabin. That bump is the transmission tunnel running underneath your car, and guess what? FWDs don't have it. Since the engine is right over the front wheels, the hump is eliminated.

In addition, due to the mechanics being upfront, the interior in an FWD includes more legroom for the front cabin as well. Nevertheless, FWDs typically tend to be sedans while AWDs tend to be SUVs. Thus, despite the extra legroom, an AWD's larger size gives it a boost in this category.

6 Capability

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This is the ability of a vehicle to overcome obstacles, and AWDs take the prize home for this one. All-wheel drive gives a car the ability to traverse any path it may need to; may it be a snowy road or a mucky path. Since power is distributed to all wheels, an AWD can dig into virtually any surface and not get stuck.

Imagine driving a front-wheel vehicle through a muddy path, and your front wheels get lodged in the muck. Now, if an AWD encountered the exact situation, losing one or two wheels makes no difference. The rear simply powers on and helps clear any path, any obstacle, anywhere.

5 Fuel Consumption

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In addition to maintenance costs mentioned earlier, the most pressing cost for any car is fuel. Now, this does not apply if you own an electric car, but if you are paying for gas, then an AWD might prove to be a little more expensive than a FWD. FWD vehicles are cheaper and lighter. AWD components add weight and drag down the power.

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As a result, AWDs guzzle more gas and get a lower mileage than usual. Take the 2019 MINI Cooper Countryman, an all-wheel-drive vehicle which only gets up to 33 miles to the gallon. Now compare that with the 2019 Toyota RAV4 which is a FWD and gains up to 35 miles to the gallon. If you want to save on gas, a FWD is for you.

4 Resale value

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One might think that FWDs are cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain, and they provide more legroom. How can an AWD ever compare to this? If you plan to resell your car in a decade or so, keep in mind, an AWD holds its resale value for longer than a FWD.

Despite the advantage a forward-wheel drive has over an all-wheel-drive, AWDs are safer, exert more power, and are worth more, especially in colder parts. If you think you may want to sell your car down the road, or even trade it in for a better model, just remember, the high cost of owning an AWD might just pay off.

3 Performance

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While capability tackled a car's ability to adapt to changes in road conditions, performance will tell you which type of car runs better. The answer is, both of them. While the winner of this section relies completely on your personal opinion, both AWDs and FWDs offer an enjoyable experience and function well in most situations.

If the discussion is performance on the highway, the lighter FWD would win. If the discussion of performance is for off-road, the more powerful AWD would win. It all depends on what you're looking for.

2 Physical Toll Incurred on Vehicle

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As far as physical toll goes, this one is a slam dunk. AWDs definitely take more damage than a FWD. Due to the immense weight of the vehicle, AWD tires incur the most noticeable damage and need to be replaced more often than FWD tires.

In addition, an all-wheel engine also takes a bigger beating than a front-wheel one and can be costlier to repair. On the other hand, however, the physical toll incurred by an AWD is significantly less than the toll a FWD could incur if driven in heavy snow and icy conditions.

1 Adaptability to Adverse Weather Conditions

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Finally, let's talk about adaptability to the weather. Like capability, the AWD excels in virtually any weather situation you throw at it. This is the reason AWDs are so popular in areas of the country that experience adverse weather such as heavy snow, icy roads and heavy rain in the summer.

Sure, FWDs can have winter tires and operate just fine through heavy rain and snow. Once the roads are plowed, however, winter tires are noisy and easily damaged, not to mention they require storage space through the other three seasons. As far as adaptability to weather goes, AWDs excel in any situation, and will leave you feeling safe and protected.

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