When looking at buying a new car, you may hear a lot of acronyms being thrown around. 4WD, AWD, FWD, RWD may get brought up. But what do these all mean? These are all related to the vehicles drivetrain, the system in a motor vehicle which connects the transmission to the drive axles. You may be wondering which of these is right for you, and it is really based on your needs and driving habits. Learn more about how to choose which drivetrain to buy.

How-to Choose Which Drivetrain to Buy: Car Buying Decisions

4WD and AWD

Four-wheel drive (4WD) is sometimes used interchangeably with with all-wheel drive (AWD). While they are similar, there is actually a difference. 4WD can handle extreme off-road driving situations. Examples of these are climbing over boulders, fording deep water, and climbing steep hills with loose, low-traction surfaces. Aside from serious off-road enthusiasts, most drivers never need the capabilities that a 4WD system provides over and above AWD systems.

AWD can provide maximum forward traction during acceleration. It is extra helpful in messy road conditions, or when driving over moderate off-road terrain. It can be useful in sand, mud, and other loose surfaces. AWD helps when weather conditions are rapidly changing or when driving in on-and-off snow and ice. Keep this in mind when deciding which drivetrain to buy.

2WD, FWD, and RWD

Most vehicles are front-wheel drive (FWD). This is when the engines’s power goes to the front wheels. FWD systems are cheaper to manufacture and more space-efficient than rear-wheel drive (RWD) systems. In addition, FWD is better for climbing hills because it has more traction due to the distribution of the weight of the engine.

Trucks and sports cars often have RWD. In a truck, RWD provides better traction with a large, heavy load. On a performance car, rear-wheel drive improves handling because it balances the car’s weight more evenly across the car. Plus, in RWD cars, the front wheels don’t have to handle both driving and steering. This allows the cars to have better suspension and handling. However, RWD does provide less traction on slippery roads. These are also things you need to consider when you decide which drivetrain to buy.