Last winter was brutal, no doubt about that. So you might be thinking of getting into a four wheel drive or all wheel drive vehicle before the next polar express comes screaming out of the great white north. Before you do, you should ask yourself some questions so that you understanding the difference between wanting a 4×4 and needing a 4×4.
Driving habits and location have a lot to do with whether you should buy an all-wheel drive vehicle (AWD) or a 4-wheel drive (4×4) vehicle. If you’re driving mostly around town and on the highways, you probably don’t need an AWD vehicle, but to help answer your question, it is important to understand the difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive and what that actually does.
All-Wheel Drive— AWD is designed to provide power to all four wheels of a vehicle at the same time. AWD is generally found on more car-like vehicles and smaller SUVs like the Toyota Rav-4. I own one of those myself.
Four-Wheel Drive– 4WD or 4 x4 is designed to transfer power to all four wheels of a vehicle. 4WD is predominantly on trucks and SUVs based on trucks platforms and is great for off-road situations where one or more wheels might loose traction or even lift off the ground completely in rugged terrain.
While AWD and 4X4 can help a vehicle accelerate in slippery conditions, they don’t help with braking and rarely improve overall handling. Neither option will help in a skid where all four tires loose traction such as in black-ice conditions. I can attest to that. My Rav-4 is AWD, but I spun out twice last winter in spite of that. Often just making sure you have the right tires and they are properly inflated will do as much or more as a 4X4.
Four wheel drive vehicles are great if you travel on dirt on unpaved roads, but if you’re driving is on paved roads and highways driving. If you tow a boat or a camper, a truck with four-wheel drive will prove useful on sandy ground or dirt roads, but for towing on dry roads, four-wheel drive is not necessary.
You should also look at the cost of ownership. AWD and 4WD vehicles generally have a higher resale value, but tend to be heavier and less fuel efficient —a big consideration with the current price of gas. If you live or travel frequently to an area where you are driving on dirt roads, an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle may be the best option to avoid getting stuck on muddy or snowy roads.
So think about your needs. Express Auto has dozens of great 4X4 and AWD vehicles, you might do just as well without and save yourself some money in the bargain.